An objection by a client is often a good thing.
It gives you an opportunity to address the client’s issue and can be the basis on which a great relationship is formed.
I think there are three broad principles to successfully handing an objection:
- It’s important for the relationship – if you try to plough through the objection without addressing it fully, the underlying reason for the objection will usually come back to haunt you.
- Objections often have merit – your purpose is to understand the objection fully, isolate it, and respond to it appropriately.
- Many objections require a process not a quick answer – you may need to build a case for overcoming an objection instead of answering quickly on the fly.
How you handle an objection will generally create a binary outcome. Handle it well and you have a basis for a great relationship. Poorly done will often mean no sale and a damaged relationship going forward.
We all know that listening is one of the keys to building relationships and winning work. But do we really listen?
Here are 5 tips to listening that will help:
- Ditch the distractions – you cannot multitask. If you try to multitask the other person will most likely feel insulted and you certainly won’t hear and observe everything you should
- Use your whole body, lean towards the speaker – even on the phone. Use facial expressions, shake your head, and use “non-verbal” verbalisms. It improves your listening – and indicates you are listening
- Keep it about them, not you. Use open-ended questions and let them tell their story. Don’t use them as foils for your hypotheses
- Acknowledge frequently – paraphrase their data and empathise with their emotions. Make sure you are hearing both correctly
- Think out loud. The biggest obstacle to listening is your own thinking. Think out loud – with the client. Doing so role-models collaboration and transparency. It says, I hear you, I value you and I respond to you with no hidden agenda.
About 17 years ago I moved to Sydney from Perth. I knew very few people in Sydney and worked for my own company which was unknown in the Sydney market.
Day 2 in my new office, I was flicking through some annual reports (we are talking pre online, LinkedIn etc) to see who I would approach. One of the key execs at a major financial institution was a guy named Brian Smith (named changed). I knew Brian from years before so I rang him and confidently suggested that I come to his office for a coffee at 10.30 the next morning.
The next morning I was sitting in a plush reception and Brian came out to greet me – the only issue was that the Brian I knew was about 5ft 6in tall; this Brian was about 6ft 5in. We had a great conversation and later he became a significant client.
The great lesson for me was that if you approach someone with confidence, they are more likely to meet with you; in this case I had no doubt Brian would meet with me when I called because of our previous interaction.
Recently I went to a meeting with a colleague and had a great conversation with a potential client.
Afterwards we did a debrief and we had completely different views on the key take outs from the meeting and the opportunities that we should go back on; it was like we had attended different meetings. The issue was that we had both taken different frames into the meeting and had been listening for cues that met our frame, rather than just engaging in the conversation.
The reflection on this meeting led me to think about a number of statements I have heard recently where a frame of thinking is skewing the result:
- “This is the way our business responds to the economic cycle” – I hear a number of senior executives say this, generally based on a historical paradigm rather than a true analysis of what the linkages and correlations truly are.
- “The client only wants to spend $75,000”. Very often we havent asked what the client’s budget is or the budget has been derived by the client without really understanding the size of the problem or opportunity
- “There is no opportunity for xx”. This was the statement made by my colleague from the meeting mentioned above, as her listening was skewed by the frame of her service offerings rather than truly listening to the client’s need.
To me, if you look for something, you will probably find it. That is, if I go into a conversation to talk about risk, risk opportunities are probably what I will find. If I go in to a meeting looking for a $50,000 opportunity, that’s what I am likely to find – even though there may have been a $250,000 opportunity there if my mind was open to explore all the client’s needs
Leading Harvard Professor Boris Groysberg has written books on what makes people ‘stars’.
His study over 25 years has led him to one conclusion; the difference between someone who is talented and someone who is a star is the quality of their network.
Having a network within an organisation is seen by Groysberg as critical for success. Having a network that extends beyond the organisation means that success can be replicated by the ‘star’ even if they move organisations.
Despite the overwhelming evidence from Groysberg and others, so few people prioritise the building of a network. Instead they continue to focus on the development of technical skills and leave the network to chance. Thier are a number of simple steps you can take to build and foster a network, but they do all take an allocation of time.
Are you building a network that will make you shine?
When meeting with a client, I believe you should have four key objectives:
1. Build a lasting relationship
2. Help the client uncover an affliction and/or an aspiration
3. Always bring value to the person and the organisation
4. Leave them wanting more
Do these four things and the client will have a great impression of you and your organisation.
Years ago Boss Magazine ran an article on the ‘Seven things a CEO should know’. I have forgotten the first six but the seventh has always stuck with me – “you can have all the power in the world, but the minute you use it, you lose it”.
In essence, it was saying that the key to engaging and motivating people was influence. In your role, you may have the power to order a staff member to do something, but the minute you do you have lost their ongoing support and input of discretionary effort.
So how do you influence someone to do something, particularly if it is difficult assignment or something that they would rather not do? I apply four key filters to ensure that I am exercising influence rather than control:
- Can I make the task or assignment a learning experience and one that they will feel that it would be good for their career?
- Is there a goal or outcome that we can ‘co-create’ that will ensure a personal sense of achievement in completing the task?
- Do they feel that they will be recognised by me and the organisation for undertaking the role?
- Is the task or assignment framed in a way that allows them to see how it fits into the bigger picture or strategy of the division or company?
To me, you know when you have been successful in influencing when an employee sees:
- that the task or assignment is something that they believe in
- that they, and the organisation, believe that they are the best person to undertake the assignment
- that the task is worth putting discretionary effort into.
Most people are nervous about networking and find it difficult to walk into a crowded room of strangers.
The keys to networking are to be yourself, be friendly, engage with the other person and show interest in what they have to say and their role. The other people in the room may look confident and may seem to know everybody else, but I can assure you they are, or have been, in your position.
There are some bad ‘networking personas’ we can all recognise. They provide great insights into what not to do:
- Wallflower – don’t stand on the sidelines; get involved and walk up to someone on their own or in a small group.
- Leech – attach yourself to the first person you meet and stay with them all night; particularly don’t hang around only with other people from your organisation
- Eye- darter – someone who talks to you but is always on the lookout for someone else to meet; eye contact is the way you show someone you are interested in them
- Business card thrower – gathering and giving out as many cards as possible without having a true conversation
- Name-dropper – starting a conversation as to who you know to impress the other person
- One night stand – make a positive connection but never follow-up; until you have had a cup of coffee and exchanged emails you haven’t turned the introduction into a contact
- Buddy – getting to personal too quickly
Confidence in networking is gained over time with practice.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if it is a struggle the first half a dozen times. Congratulate yourself on making the effort and treat it as a learning experience. At the end of the day, even the most senior executive is a person – who has the same needs for connection, information and to be valued as you do
Everyone tells you that you must ask the client what their needs are and then carefully listen. This is important (and infinitely better than not asking them and not listening); but the problem is that in a sale situation the client can tell that you are in ‘transactional’ listening mode – listening to enable you to get information as you want to sell them something.
The best way to sell is in the context of a relationship and the best way to build a relationship is to genuinely listen and engage with the client. When a client knows that you are listening to them because you are genuinely interested in them, their issues and their business, the client engages with you differently. You will find out a lot more information and the client will become far more disposed to buy from you. So next time you are with a client, check yourself and decide which of 3 potential behaviours are you exhibiting:
- talking (selling) rather than listening
- transactional listening
- active listening due to a genuine interest in them