Overcoming sales objections means research, listening, and providing solutions

By Jason Velazquez | Oct. 28, 2017

Eleanor Cippel, sales trainer and CEO at Life RE — Karen Kring photo for LION Publishers

Every media sales rep is going to hear his or her share of variants of “no" on the appointed rounds.

Thankfully, attendees at the Lion 2017 conference were able to hear advice from some veteran sales pros assembled for the Friday breakout session, “Overcoming Sales Objections.” Eleanor Cippel, sales trainer and CEO at Life RE; Kim Clark; vice president of business development for Noozhawk; and Scott Brodbeck, founder and CEO of Local News Now, unpacked the most common objections salespeople face.

What do those “no’s”  all have in common? They’re deflections. Business owners often offer up these reasons why they don’t need what you're selling before they’ve heard about the product.

“They’re just a way to get rid of you,” advised Kim Clark. Overcoming objections is a skill, she said, and one that can be learned.

Eleanor Cippel agreed, and suggested that through empathy, dialogue and preparation, a sales professional can demonstrate to business owners the value of the opening up a relationship with the publication. Here are five of the most common sales objections, what they represent, and how to work through them.

“We don't have a budget.” This excuse was accepted as the most challenging, persistent and ubiquitous, based on audience reaction.

Clark said that when a salesperson hears that, he or she should keep in mind that it is usually not the reason. Scott Brodbeck addressed this rebuttal head on: “If they were convinced that it would create a return, they'd  absolutely find it in the budget.

“There's always enough money for a great idea,” Cippel said, recallig the great advice of a mentor. She said that by asking a prospect how much of their budget is committed, it encourages them to think about the real room they have for advertising spend. Alternately, she noted, finding ways to talk about helping them reach their own sales goals before ever breaching the subject of money may be beneficial to framing the conversation around a solution.

Clark said that talking about value rather than dollars creates better opportunities to leave the door open for further discussion. Additionally, breaking the potential spend down into smaller increments can make the conversation less  intimidating for the prospect. “Can you afford $100 a week, rather than this is going to cost you $800,” goes a long way toward demonstrating that you're in the business of providing solutions for them, she said.

Brodbeck claims that finding the right price point for each customer is key. “I try to find the product they can afford that gets them the results that they are looking for,” he explained.

“i don’t see the need for your service.”

This objection really highlights the need to continue the dialogue with a prospective client. All panelists agreed that the salesperson’s goal is to find out how to help the business market its  products to its own customers. And, because the salesperson is in a position to understand that market, the message to get across may surprise some salespeople.

Don’t throw numbers at a prospect.

Brodbeck says that he never goes into a sales call with the mindset that he is going to sell them something. In fact, the marketing kit ideally shouldn’t contain a laundry list of packages and pricing. It should tell the publisher’s story, how the sales team can help the business achieve its goals, and what the publisher adds to the community.

Cippel agrees that you should almost never provide a prospect with a kitchen sink of prices. Also she notes that you should never tell a business owner you’re there to learn their business. That just proves that you didn’t do your pre-sales call homework. “You should already know,” she warned.

Brodbeck added a caveat to the approach of not providing costs in the sales materials. What may be confusing or overwhelming to the owner of a small business is exactly what a marketing coordinator or agency for a larger company needs to make a decision quickly. Additionally, if the salesperson senses that the prospective buyer has unrealistic cost expectations, a standard rate sheet can get the message across that the services they are looking for are beyond what they’re willing to spend.

One objection that is in some ways new to the ad sales world is similar to the “I can get that for less money from your competition” rebuttal. It is “I can get the same thing cheaper by using social media platforms like Facebook.” In this instance, the salesperson may not want to attempt actually overcome this objection. In fact, explaining how Facebook sponsored and promoted posts do work very well for a highly segmented audience can help educate the prospect about the need to reach a broader audience in their community. Clark said that asking what is working for them right now with Facebook can provide openings to explain the benefits of a multi-pronged approach.

“I can’t make a decision alone about this.”

This is a particularly thorny objection, since it could be perfectly true or it could be a flat deflection. In the former case, it can be translated as “you’re going to have to impress me a whole lot in order to get through to the next person who can actually make the final decision.”

Cippel says that this is a perfect opportunity to make an ally out of your first contact. “Ask them, ‘What can I provide you with to help you communicate the value of this?’” she instructed.

Clark agreed, and said, “Get the gatekeeper excited for you!” Then, make that gatekeeper commit to a time when the two of you can follow up to decide one way or another. If the person stalls and hedges, suggest a date and time. Don’t say “no" for them—keep offering dates until they accept a future meeting or tell you that they aren’t interested.

“Don’t give up until they buy or die,” quipped Cippel.

Brodbeck admitted that sometimes your time is better spent pursuing other prospects. At that point you can tell your prospective customer, “Okay, it sounds like you’re not interested.” That doesn’t mean that you’ve closed the door on further conversation. In fact, you can use it to create a sense of urgency by letting them know that there really is a time limit on what you are offering and that you will be moving on to other potential customers, even potential competitors.

“Things are fine the way they are.”

This deflection indicates a certain cocksure attitude in a prospective ad buyer. Clark noted that it would be the rare owner indeed that said “we have all the business we could ever need.” You are in a good position then to provide a reality check. Clark explained that bringing up what other businesses are doing can encourage them to think about the ecosystem they inhabit.

Brodbeck went further by suggesting the sales rep might ask “Are you so sure that things are going to stay that way?”

Cippel pointed out that a rep can turn the objection around into an opportunity to leave them data “cookies" about the market that reveal good reasons the owner should reassess their confidence.

“I can't make a decision right now.”

This sales objection is similar to number 3, although with even more vagueness. It has the same source, in that many business owners feel beset by salespeople who are trying to lighten their purses. Both Clark and Brodbeck suggest that this is an appropriate situation in which to stress both urgency and scarcity. Clark added that any objection is an opportunity to ask more questions. If you can continue the conversation, you may be able to figure out what it is that they don’t understand about the value you can provide.

Audience member Kelly Gilfillan from home page Media Group in Brentwood, Tenn. helped close the session with a tip that can keep a sales call that  didn’t result in a contract from becoming a total wash. She suggests asking, “Would you please let me sign you up for our newsletter?” By giving the prospective client a chance to see what a publisher does, the comfort level, familiarity, and receptiveness can all be increased. On the next visit, that business owner may be clamoring to talk about advertising with you.

Jason Velázquez is publisher of the Greylock Glass.

Check out more entries in our 2017 conference blog »