Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Objections And Questions And Answers .. And Sales Engineers

I've always had a problem with the skill of "Objection Handling". Let me clarify that - not with personally handling whatever a client may ask me, but in the actual labelling of the task. Here's why.

I think "Objection Handling" is a salesperson activity. As in "I just gave a great pitch, and if I can hammer through these last few objections I'll get the deal!" It sets up the entire activity as something that is a little confrontational, maybe defensive and certainly becoming "us" (vendor) against "them" (client with money).

Sales Engineers Don't Handle Objections, They Answer Questions

What I've come to realize over the years, based on listening in to thousands of sales calls plus my own experiences in selling MTS services, is nearly 90% of the issues a customer may raise are ...  simply raised because they want an answer to a question. In fact you can turn any objection into an implicit question. Even the classic your solution costs too much (nicely handled in this Visualize Blog Post) can be reframed as "help me to understand the value of your solution and why I should care?"

I feel this approach has a few benefits.

  1. It ensures that in the customer conversation you listen to understand, instead of listening to respond. A crucial part of active listening.
  2. It reminds you that you have to understand why a customer is asking the question. And if you don't know - bounce it back and find out!
  3. It positions you as the customers advocate and a step closer to that "Trusted Advisor" status.
  4. You'd be amazed at what you can learn about a person and the company based on the questions they ask. (Hmm - think about that during your next Discovery call.)
There are some warnings too.

  1. See point #2 above. If you don't know why a question is being asked - that is a danger signal in itself.
  2. Make sure that you share just enough to answer the question. For many technical SE's it is viewed as an opportunity to show how smart you are. Not the purpose of the meeting! It really isn't.
  3. Don't stray into other areas. Stay away from sales-type responses (for example, the standard SE response for pricing is "I Know Nothing")

So give it a try. Think "Answering Questions" (with Short Amazing Answers) instead of "Handling Objections" and see the difference it can make.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Micro-Resolutions And The February Newsletter

So much for the good intentions about blogging more in 2014. So .. I decided to follow the advice of the latest business book I read and reviewed .. Small Move, Big Change By Christine Arnold. She says that New Year Resolutions (or any kind of resolutions) are mostly destined to fail and proposes an alternate approach in which the resolutions are made on a smaller and more measurable scale. So instead of saying "I will do a better job of blogging in 2014" I instead created a micro-resolution which states "I will blog the day before the monthly newsletter comes out and two weeks after that."

Its measurable, very achievable, and may well turn into a habit. I like it!

The February Newsletter - which will now go out to almost 20,000 SE's across the globe, features two interesting articles. The first "Why Do Bad Sales Calls Happen" looks at poor sales calls from the SE point of view. You'll discover that although the effect is very measurable, your view of success is different from that of the salespersons. The good news is that if you decide to take action, instead of complaining, there is a lot you can do to lower the percentage of bad calls to participate it. It's not that hard!

Maybe to get those calls fixed you need to improve your email communications. That is what "BLUF: Bottom Line Up Front - for Email" examines. You'll get seven practical tips for improving email and shortening your reading and processing time. This months "Ask John" deals with the problem of reps scheduling sales calls during presales training - and how to lessen the impact.

All good stuff - thanks for reading. And we will see how my micro-resolution turns out!