Very few salespeople like objections. I’d go as far to say that many salespeople hate them. They’re afraid of saying the wrong thing, they disrupt your flow, they create conflict…the list goes on.
But the truth is that the road to “yes” is often peppered with “no’s.” According to a well-known study, prospects that buy have 58% more objections than those that don’t. It is the way in which you deal—or don’t deal—with objections that can make or break your success as a salesperson.
Here’s the good news: You don’t have to love objections, but you do need to learn to at least shake hands with them. And a simple, successful way to become friendlier with objections comes straight from the world of Improv. Improv’s “Yes and” technique provides a collaborative way to navigate objections and keep the conversation moving forward, ultimately improving your chances for a successful outcome.
The traditional view of objections has been as something you need to ‘handle’, ‘confront’, or even ‘squash’. But who out there likes to be ‘handled,’ ‘confronted, or had their ideas ‘squashed?’ Almost no one. There is a softer, gentler way that starts with acknowledging the objection. In other words saying “yes” to them.
How to Say “Yes” to Objections
The Yes and technique is based on the improv concept of accepting what is given to you.
“Agree with my prospects incorrect perception of our product/price/value? Heresy!” You cry.
Hear me out: Saying “yes” to your customer doesn’t mean you necessarily agree with what they’ve said. You don’t even have to LIKE it. But you do need to acknowledge their perception of reality. It’s a vital foundation for a win-win conversation. Because no one ever really wins by arguing with someone else’s reality! Saying “yes” to your customer makes them look good and feel good. They feel heard. And everyone wants to be heard.
From this starting point of yes, you add ‘and.’ This is your opportunity to offer up a new idea, thought or perspective. This allows the conversation to open up and encourages collaboration and discovery.
An Example of “Yes and:”
Let’s say Jim and I are talking about baseball and Jim makes a statement I disagree with. Here’s an example of how I might use the “Yes and” technique:
Jim: Major League Baseball’s season is too long.
Julie: Yes, they do play a lot of games. And it does end up cutting into football season. What would you spend your free time on if the season was shortened?
Jim: Well I’d probably be able to catch up on some of the projects around the house and yard for starters…
What has happened? We have avoided a debate, or worse, an argument, and the conversation has gone in a new direction. I am learning more about Jim and we have pivoted to other topics.
What typically happens when presented with an objection? Salespeople eagerly jump in to correct ‘wrong’ thinking or beliefs, or defend their product or service from competitive attacks. In improv, this is called Blocking and it is a sure scene-killer as it often brings the conversation to a halt. Most blocking is preceded by the words “but…” or “actually…”
Here’s an example of blocking in the same previous scenario:
Jim: Major League Baseball’s season is too long.
Julie: Actually, Major league baseball is not as long as it seems. Major League Soccer has the longest seasons of any team sport this year.
What has happened? Instead of accepting Jim’s reality, I corrected him and put him on the defensive. I may be absolutely right, but I have basically denied his reality or perception. In other words, I have said “no” to him instead of “yes.”
Jim’s choices here are limited. He is likely to defend, argue, or simply shut down. None of these options are conducive to a successful outcome.
A Sales Example:
You may be thinking “this is all fine and good for the improv stage, but what about in the real world with real customers?” Let’s apply this to a not uncommon scenario where a customer says something that is just plain wrong about your product, for example:
Customer: “I’ve heard your response rates are slow during peak volume times and that concerns me.”
The traditional objection handling approach would be to block, like this:
Seller: “We’re not slow! In fact, we’ve improved our response rate by ten light years…”
The customer is told they are wrong and put on the defensive. Chances of success? Less than average. Here’s how you might approach that same objection using ‘Yes and’:
Seller: You’re right to be concerned about response rates. Research does show that delays in response time can lead to customer’s abandoning web pages. And that’s why we’ve created several checkpoints along the way to proactively alert you to potential capacity problems. Currently we offer some of the fastest response times in the industry. So tell me, when are your peak volume times?
So next time you get an objection, instead of volunteering for a head-butting contest, shake hands with it instead. Say “Yes and” to move the conversation forward and make the customer feel heard. You may find objections aren’t so bad after all.