Eliciting Objections

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In a blog, Sales Consultant Tanja Parsley recommends eliciting objections from your prospects. Parsley argues that “objections are not barriers or obstacles – they are clues to understanding client needs.”

While this seems counterintuitive, it makes a lot of sense. Your customers and prospects have concerns. Pretending that they don’t is simply wishful thinking.

Parsley recommends the following phrasing for eliciting objections:

“If there was one thing that might get in the way of moving forward with us what might that be?”

Her wording is positive and contains the assumption that you will be closing the deal (“moving forward with us”). Furthermore, it asks for the primary objection, not a list of minor nits. This phrasing allows you to focus on their top concern instead of giving them a reason to dump on your product or service.

So what are the benefits of eliciting objections?

  • It provides you with an opportunity to address their main concern. It may be that the concern is an area you’ve failed to address during your previous meetings. In that case, you can work to ameliorate their concerns.
  • It highlights a potential pain that your firm may be in a position to address. Perhaps they need strong SLA wording or additional support services. Maybe they are concerned about a gap in your product features that will be resolved in the coming months. Unless you know about their concerns, you can’t address them.
  • The concern may be a landmine left by one of your competitors. Based on the wording, it could give you a clue about an unknown competitor or provide you with the opportunity to leave behind a few of your own traps. Keep in mind that you can only defuse the landmines that you spot.
  • You come across as forthright and willing to solicit uncomfortable questions. This puts you in a stronger position for addressing the concern as you are not caught off guard at an inopportune moment.
  • It provides you with a more realistic assessment of the probability of closing or potential delays in the decision making process. Your pipeline forecasts will be more accurate and you won’t be caught with egg on your face when your 80% probability of closing opportunity is won by your competition. It also provides an early warning of potential signing delays.

So, given all of these benefits, why wouldn’t you ask about objections? I think it comes down to simple human nature. Asking about objections makes us vulnerable. But it is through honest discussions that we gain the most.

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