Research conducted with thousands of salespeople in nearly every industry reveals that top performers use a key approach that their less successful counterparts don’t. In one study, salespeople who were trained on this approach won 27% more sales than those who weren’t trained.
How’s that again?
Surprisingly, this approach runs contrary to how most salespeople are taught to sell.
The most successful salespeople, the research showed, gave customers fewer reasons to buy.
Salespeople are taught to focus on benefits – and rightly so. But here’s the twist: Top salespeople zeroed in only on the key benefits for each customer. Specifically, they discussed only the benefits that were related to an explicit need expressed by the customer.
More benefits = fewer sales
Less successful people used a shotgun approach to benefits, assuming that more benefits created higher value. But studies by the sales consulting firm Huthwaite, Inc., found that irrelevant benefits didn’t create more value. They did create more objections – primarily about price. When buyers saw things they didn’t want or need, they assumed they were paying too much.
Many sales experts contend that objections are good, because they show the buyer is engaged. Some call them “sales opportunities in disguise.”
Huthwaite’s research found the opposite. The more objections a buyer raises, the less likely the sale will actually be successful. Specifically:
- In successful calls, the objection rate was 6.5%.
- In continuations (where the buying decision was postponed), the figure was 9.3%.
- In calls that resulted in a definite no, the objection rate was 13.4% – twice as high as for successful calls.
How failure might sound
Consider this exchange, based on a transcript from one of the studies:
Seller: A big plus [of our equipment] is that it saves you money by making your people more efficient.
Buyer: We’re very efficient right now – and if I wanted better efficiency I can think of 16 ways to do it without new machines. Nobody knows how to use them. They give trouble.
Seller: We can really help you there. Our machines have a screen that makes them easier to use.
Buyer: Screens would just confuse people. I’d get even more mistakes.
Seller: So you’re getting too many mistakes?
Buyer: Some. More than I’d like.
Seller: Tests show our machines would cut your error rate by up to 20%.
Buyer: But it’s not worth the hassle just to get rid of a few mistakes….
Every time this seller pitches a benefit, it leads to another objection. This is a sale that slipped away.
It’s up to you
Salespeople, not customers, have the most control over how many objections are raised. Top performers faced up to 10 times fewer objections than others, even though they were selling the same products and services to the same types of buyers. Instead of handling objections, they prevent objections.
How? Successful sellers spent more time with customers up front to identify their explicit needs. Once they truly understood what the customer needed, wanted and was willing to pay for, they focused on those issues, and those issues alone.
Note: Huthwaite found one exception to these rules. For simple sales such as retail sales, the shotgun approach often works better.
Source: Huthwaite, Inc. For more information, please visit www.huthwaite.com
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