I had an interesting consulting assignment a few years back, in which a B2E company asked me to help them create a better territory map for their inside sales team.  It seemed performance was all over the map and they hoped to level out achievement by better distributing opportunity.  The founder felt badly that the hardest working reps were also some of the lowest performers – he was convinced they needed more “good territory” to make goal.  This is a harmless enough assignment and a typical maintenance exercise done as sales teams and market penetration grow.   

I started by measuring the amount of market opportunity available for each rep.  Once I assessed where the company should be performing well and where it should be growing more slowly, I created a plan from scratch how territories should be divided to come up with fairly even sales goals.  Then I pulled out the existing map to view changes.  My new map was nearly identical.  How awkward.  I had been assured, and observed myself that the four reps with the most activity and opportunity development had the lowest close rates of the team of six.  But that’s quantity, isn’t it.  What was missing in the weak spots was quality.

In working more closely with their reps and hearing them interacting with prospects it was easy to see there was a big and to me cringe-worthy difference between the high and low performers.  The two high performers asked key questions near the beginning of their sales meetings that would test out the client on the product’s biggest objection. It was a reporting system for a specific classroom management function that — dun, dun, dunnnn — didn’t integrate with any major platforms.  It was a total one off.  A good one, but that’s kind of a tough place to start from. 

The high performers altered the state of mind of the prospect by hitting integrations where it hurts – in their complexity.  They would ask, “What complications have you had in managing data in your CMS?” or “Is there any staff concern about complexity in reporting on [their area]?”  They were fishing for evidence that high integration can come with the bad as well as the good.   And I would think the prospect knew where they were going with it.  Most genuinely admitted at least a couple of issues with their main CMS or LMS, and some gushed a floodgate of issues.

The lower performing reps also asked questions at the start of meetings, but they got nowhere near the subject of integration, probably hoping to avoid the bad news until prospects were already committed to the things they liked about the product.  And they had a tendency to apologize about the lack of integration by saying things like, “We are hoping to add that in soon.”  Hence my cringe moments.  My internal client monologue would be, “How about getting back to me then?”   

As sales conversations progressed, it was clear how much better the ones hitting the integration objection head on were set up to address it. These reps had turned their biggest weakness into a slam dunk positive with something like, “And as to our conversation earlier about the complexity of integrations, you are going to love that our system is designed to standalone.  The biggest enemy of tracking [their area] is that teachers find it too complicated to report on.  They wait until the end of day or find reasons not to make the reports at all, completely undermining the reason you invested in the system.” 

The moral to the story, and one that was luckily correctable for these reps, is that hiding an objection or apologizing for it is a red flag for your prospects.  Be the first to deal the objection card on the table and whether you have a silver lining to unveil such as these reps did, or it’s just a matter of confidently saying, “Here’s why we take that approach…” create a dialog on it rather than hope they don’t notice. Because even if the prospect doesn’t notice, there are salespeople for your competition gunning for our weakness and ready to point it out to them.  Get the best version of your story on record.

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