Frank Bettger was one of the most successful salespeople of the 20th century. This story is adapted from his classic book, “How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling,” which has been reissued by Fireside Books.
J.P. Morgan once said, “A man generally has two reasons for doing a thing – one that sounds good, and the real one.”
The same is true of objections. One sounds reasonable. But that’s unlikely to be the real objection. There’s another one that comes straight from the gut. And often that objection is too sensitive for a prospect to volunteer. That second objection is the one you must identify to get the sale.
Two simple questions can help you get to the real objection: “Why?” and “In addition to that, why?”
The hidden concern
For several years I’d been trying to sell business insurance to a large company owned by three men. Two of the owners favored my proposal. The oldest didn’t want to hear anything about it.
Over breakfast one morning I read that the oldest partner had died suddenly.
Several days later I made an appointment with one of the surviving partners. I thought this sale would be easy. After all, he’d favored getting insurance before. But now it appeared he’d had a change of heart.
“If you’re here about the business insurance, we’re not going to do it after all,” he told me when we met.
“Would you mind telling me why, Bob?” I asked.
Not the real reason
“Because we’re losing money. For now, we can’t afford it.”
Now, I could have given him all sorts of reasons why insurance was even more important in difficult times, when you couldn’t count on strong sales to carry the company through. But something told me his resistance wasn’t about money.
After a few moments of silence, I said: “Bob, I understand. Now, in addition to that, isn’t there something else in the back of your mind?”
Bob half smiled. He almost seemed relieved to be able to unburden himself.
“Well, yes, as a matter of fact there is. You see, my sons are working in the business.” He continued: “I started thinking about insurance after our partner died, of course. But then I realized: If I died, my remaining partner would get the insurance money. There’s nothing in this plan that would protect my children’s interest in the company.”
That was really what was troubling him. Until I pressed him, he didn’t want to bring it up. It was too uncomfortable to talk about. Yet when I invited him to tell me what the matter was, he opened right up.
Once I understood what he was really worried about, it was simple to revise the plan to address his concern. And when I came back with a way to protect his business and his sons, I won the sale.
photo credit: Alpha six
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