All the NCAA Tourney buzz this morning reminds me how objections are like single elimination tournament games. If you win you stay alive for another round, but if you screw up you’re done. It’s also a time in the sales process where what the salesperson says, and not what the solution has to offer, will be the deciding factor.

And there’s this. Educators, particularly teachers and curriculum coordinators, and particularly in a group sales presentation, have a tendency to cloak their objections in gotcha questions. I can’t say why, but they ask seemingly innocuous questions that are intended to draw out a hidden negative about the product. B2B prospects are more direct as in, “Convince me your service and support are as good as my current supplier’s.” B2E prospects will ask the same thing but will say it like this, “What are the hours of your help desk?”

Do you see the difference? You can proudly list the long hours of your help desk and think you did a fine job answering this question. But after you leave, the prospect will tell the group, “See? They aren’t even open at night when everyone’s going to call! Forget those guys!”

Scary, isn’t it?

There’s an entire playbook on how to work through objections, but today we’re going to look at just one page, which is really pertinent to dealing with those pesky “gotcha” questions teachers love to ask. Our goal is to uncover the objection behind the objection before we answer.

The first thing to do is listen closely to the objection. Don’t respond yet. Ask them to explain further. It’s in that restatement of the objection where you’ll hear what their REAL objection is.

In the example above you’d say, “Great question! We’re really proud of our support tools and our recent customer survey shows our users are extremely happy with our service. Tell me about the kinds of support your teachers are most comfortable with.” Start with “great” and ask a “tell me.” Always.

Our example teacher would probably respond, “Well, our teachers don’t have time during the day to sit on a help line. They would probably be calling at night, and I want to make sure their call wouldn’t go to a voicemail right when we need the help.”

Now you know the real concern. You’d emphasize the care your company has taken to make sure users can get support when they need it. Don’t point out that no teacher has literally ever once called your company after 7 pm, just explain how seriously you take their needs.

“Of course, that is incredibly important and we agree! We’ve done several things to ensure teachers aren’t frustrated when they need support. First of all, we’ve [list the things]. Our customers report they are highly satisfied with our availability, but I understand your needs might be different and if you feel your users need support in the evening I will make sure they have a dedicated on call line they can use after 7 pm.”

That response alone won’t win the sale for you but it will keep you alive.  Oh, and that phone number you’ll give out will be yours, but it will be worth it.

Sit down with your team and come up with a list of land mine questions that feel like gotchas for your company. Think about common misconceptions first time viewers have about your product or the headline advantages your competition lists. Have everyone take a question or two and write a good response using the “great…” and “tell me…” format.

Nothing a prospect says should be taken as a throwaway statement, so always listen carefully, and with a little paranoia to prevent you from taking their stated questions at face value. Be routine about always getting them to open up a little more. Educators may be “gotcha artists” but they aren’t hardened espionage agents. They will usually spill the beans if you simply take the time to ask.

For more on objections, try “Objections Vanishing Act.”

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