Sales are part of almost every aspect of life. People sell everything you can make money from. Although the number of products sold is always growing, sales are getting more and more difficult. Why is that?

Ways clients make our work difficult

Sales are everywhere, all the time. We sell something every minute of our lives. At a meeting with a client, we sell our product or services. At social events, we sell ourselves. At job interviews, we sell our skills and experience. It’s always accompanied by the desire to achieve a specific goal - achieving a sales target, creating a network of business or social contacts, getting a job.

The sales model has radically changed over the past dozen or so years. Not even 10 years ago, salespeople successfully used aggressive sales techniques, which worked perfectly and generated high sales results. Put ‘up against the wall’ under pressure from the salesperson, customers agreed to buy. However, over the years, customers have become much more demanding, and as a result of the ever-growing market of products and services, they’ve started to dictate the terms.

These days, sales are based primarily on building relationships with customers, ‘taking a walk in their shoes’, all to choose the offer that best suits their needs. Today, the customer is treated as a partner, and they’re given the opportunity to make an independent, unconstrained purchasing decision.

The fact that the number of products and services available on the market is constantly growing - and that the customer is king - isn’t the only thing worrying today’s salespeople. Over the years, they’ve worked out different methods to continually increase their sales. Thousands of sales techniques used in a thousand different ways. They’re constantly modified and improved, with new, more innovative ways to conquer the market popping up. But the more the sales techniques are used, the more customers learn to politely but firmly refuse.

They’ve learned from experience that the more information they give about themselves, the harder it will be to say ‘No’. This leads them to refuse as soon as possible, before either party can get involved in the conversation and before the reciprocity mechanism starts working in the sales dance.

The first rule of softening the salesman - generate objections!

Just as salespeople have spent years working out better and better ways to improve their sales and to cope with customer resistance, so too have customers banded together on Internet forums, exchanging experiences on how to effectively ward off salespeople or refuse to talk. Surely you’ve heard an adult on the other end of the phone say: ‘Oh, I’m not an adult,’ or ‘I’m abroad right now’. Below, I discuss the most common softening techniques that customers use against salespeople, as well as how to respond to them.

Refusing to buy is nothing more than an objection. In sales conversations, objections usually appear at two moments: at the beginning of the conversation (i.e. initial objections) and after the product presentation (i.e. specific objections). Before we discuss which objections are meant to ‘soften the salesman’, to knock him off his sales rhythm, let’s consider the division of objections into ‘explicit’ and ‘hidden’. What does that mean?

Exercise 1

How do you understand explicit and hidden objections? Enter the examples in the table below.

Explicit objections Hidden objections
   

Example

Introduction to the conversation
Explicit Hidden
  • ‘I don’t have time to talk, please call back in an hour.’

The customer indicated a specific reason why they can’t talk and set a time for the next call.

  • ‘No thank you, I’m not interested.’

We have no idea why they’re not interested. Is it about the price, or does the competition offer better conditions?

 

After presenting the offer
Explicit Hidden
  • ‘I can’t accept your offer because it’s 75 euros more expensive than the competition’s offer.’

The customer specifies why they won’t make the purchase.

  • ‘Thank you, but I’d rather not. This option doesn’t meet my expectations.”

The customer doesn’t say what their expectations are, therefore this objection is hidden.

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