What an Astonishing Thing a Book is
1st February 2016
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Six-and-two-half reasons why people don’t buy

Beautiful young lady thinking with question marks overhead

We’ve all been there. You present your offer to an ideal client, and yet, at the end of the meeting, you walk out without the sale. So, what went wrong?

Well, first we need to start by thinking about a sales conversation as a battle of conviction. What do I mean by that? Simple. In any conversation, two (or more) people are “selling” their version of reality. Whoever has the strongest conviction that their reality if right (and all others are wrong) will ultimately win. If that’s you, then the buyer “gets” your point of view and buys. If it’s the buyer whose convictions are strongest, however, then they will successfully “sell” you their objections, and they won’t buy.

So, if you didn’t get the sale, the buyer sold you their reality: they sold you their objection. That’s why they didn’t buy.

Which leads us to the next point to consider: what was their objection?

Depending on what you are selling, there is an almost infinite range of objections you could encounter. However, all objections really come down to a single core set. These are the real objections the buyer is selling you.

  1. “I don’t need this.” Now, I’m going to make an assumption that your buyer actually does need what you’re selling. I think that’s a safe assumption for two reasons. First, if you’re the kind of person who would try to sell someone something you don’t need, I would hope you wouldn’t be following me. The ONLY ethical reason to sell someone something is because they need it and it will make their life better in some way. If that’s not the case, then you shouldn’t have been in the sales meeting. So, assuming that you are ethical, my second assumption is that you did your research (and qualification) to make sure that the prospect actually did need your prospect. If you don’t do that, then you risk wasting a lot of time in sales meetings that won’t go anywhere. So, if those are both true, what this objection REALLY means is “you haven’t convinced me I need this”. That’s very different
  2. “This won’t work.” In this case, the prospect does believe they have a problem. They just don’t believe that what you’re selling is a solution to that problem. Again, I’m going to assume that you believe your solution works, otherwise why would you be selling it at all?
  3. “This works, but it won’t work for me.” Here. the prospect accepts that you have a solution for the problem they face, but they believe that their case is somehow special, and therefore the solution works for everyone else but not them.
  4. “This works, but not with you/your company.” Here, the prospect has no confidence in you as a supplier: you’ve failed to convey your confidence in your own ability to deliver the solution.
  5. “Now is not the right time.” This objection really means that you haven’t established urgency. The prospect simply can’t see a downside to waiting.
  6. “I can’t afford this.” I’ve deliberately left this until last, even though most people assume this is the most frequent objection. First, let’s just start with the case that they really can’t afford your solution. Why were you talking to them in the first place? A simple principle of targeting is that your ideal client has to be able to afford your solution. If they can’t, then they’re not your ideal client, and the time to find that out is as part of a preliminary triage call or qualification process, not as part of the sales meeting. Better yet, make sure your positioning and brand communicates the kind of people who should be coming in or getting in touch. So, assuming that if you are talking to them then they can, in fact, afford your solution, what this objection really means is that other ways of spending their money are a higher priority for them. So, once again, you’ve failed to connect them to the downsides of waiting.

Try an exercise the next time someone turns you down in a sales meeting. Ask them what their reasons for not buying are. Whatever they say, see which of the six “buckets’ above it fits into, because I can assure you, it will.

Now, that leaves two ‘semi-objections’ that I haven’t addressed.

“I can’t say yes or no right now”

First, all of the above are reasons why a client says no. But, of course, sometimes they don’t say no. What do they say instead? “Let me think about it” or “I need to talk it through with my board/boss/partner/etc.” In other words, it’s some variation on “I can’t give you an answer right now.”

This can mean one of two things.

Often, it means that they’ve got one or more of the above objections going round  their head. Unless you can find out what those objections are, you’re not going to get past them. So you need to ask what they’re going to think about, or what aspects they need to discuss with someone else.”

The other possibility–and it happens far more than it should–is that they are simply confused. Either you have given them too much to think about, or you haven’t explained aspects of your solution clearly. However it happens, one thing is, unfortunately, absolutely certain: a confused mind doesn’t buy.

Here’s the thing though. Confusing the prospect is just bad selling. Often, it’s actually lazy selling. Take the situation where you’ve given them too many choices and they can’t decide. Guess what: they shouldn’t have to! Your job as a seller is to help them decide. You know your solutions; they don’t. If you’ve got twenty possible solutions for them, you should be able to whittle it down to at most three for them to select from. If you can’t do that then you may as well give up now.

“I’m not authorised to make the decision”

The second–and the final reason why people don’t buy–is that they don’t have authority to buy. That begs the question, why were you talking to someone who couldn’t make the decision?

Sales 101: always try to get the decision maker into the sales meeting. If they’re not available, reschedule for when they are!

Now, I get it: sometimes you have to meet with someone else before you can get to the decision maker. Well, guess what? They ARE a decision maker. But the decision they are making is whether or not to allow you through. They’re a gatekeeper. The mistake 90% of sales people make in that situation is that they sell the solution. So, what happens then? The gatekeeper gets co-opted into becoming your unpaid and untrained sales rep. They take their memory of your pitch back to their boss and try to replay it. Can you see why that might be a terrible idea?

What should you be doing instead? Sell them on why they need to let you meet the decision maker. That’s a very different meeting, and probably a much shorter one!

Overcoming objections

As I explain in my bestselling book Just Sign Here, the best time to address objections is before they arise. Your entire marketing process should be built around answering objections before the sales meeting. It’s one of the reasons I push all my clients to write a book: because a book is a great way to put into your prospect’s hands the answers to all the objections people give you. You let the book answer the objections so that you don’t have to.

If you can’t do that, then the next best time to address them is before the close. Build your offer presentation (and there’s always a presentation, even if you don’t have a projector and a laptop!) around the objections a prospect is likely to come up with: “people often tell us that they think X, however here’s why that’s not the case…”

The worst time to answer objections is after the prospect has allowed those objections to turn into “no”. Why? Because now you’re trying to change their mind. In other words, you’re trying to convince them that they’re wrong. That’s never easy!

So, get the objections out of the way as early in the process as you can.

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