WHY IS OBJECTION HANDLING IMPORTANT?
Because it’s rarely the case that a prospect becomes and remains a customer permanently without voicing some concerns, Objection Handling is a vital skill for both sales and any account management role. As it relates to Customer Success Management, Objection Handling is as much about proactively identifying potential objections and mitigating them, as it is about handling them when they arise, and even converting potential detractors into promoters.
WHO NEEDS TO KNOW HOW TO HANDLE OBJECTIONS?
Everyone who deals with customers needs to know how to handle objections. Those who are directly involved in assuring customer success, retention and growth are the ones who need to be able to identify and divert potential objections, handle them when they arise and even convert them into growth opportunities.
PUTTING OBJECTION HANDLING IN CONTEXT
Objection Handling is a skill that can be tapped throughout the customer lifecycle. Customers can get cold feet early in the relationship as easily as they can become frustrated or concerned throughout the adoption stage. Being able to mitigate potential objections, identify the root causes of a customer’s objections and then “handle” their concerns in such a way that they go from potentially disillusioned or frustrated to loyal is a skill worth practicing.
GUIDELINES FOR OBJECTION HANDLING
Objection Handling incorporates objection identification, mitigation, and conversion. Here are some basic guidelines for Objection Handling in your Customer Success role:
- Listen between the lines. The best way to handle a true objection is to prevent it from ever happening. In order to do this, you must always be listening. Listen to what your customers say, and what they don’t say. It’s easy to identify an objection when it’s explicitly articulated. It’s better to hear what customers aren’t saying that could result in a justifiable concern if not preemptively addressed.
- Seek to understand the underlying concerns behind the objection. Ask lots of questions. Actively seek to understand the objections and underlying issues. Their initial objection may be the tip of the iceberg, or it may just be a small thing that is easily resolved. Use open-ended questions that allow your customers to expound upon their concerns. Specifically, try to unpack how their objections are connected to their original expectations. This will require revisiting their stated goals and asking them to articulate if and how their current state misaligns with those goals.
- Review what was sold. Without sounding condescending, go back to the notes from your Kickoff meeting or from the contract, and review what your mutual goals were when they purchased. Then review what has already been done. Even if the history includes some outcomes that weren’t exactly what they expected, it’s good for everyone to be reminded of what’s been done and why it was done. This gives you the information you need to mitigate their objection with an actual solution.
- Empathize without devaluing your product. Assure your customers that you hear them and understand their concerns. At the same time, be careful not to throw your product under the bus. It’s ok to say that other customers have had similar objections, but then follow up by explaining how you were able to address those concerns.
- Convey confidence in yourself and your solution. Establish yourself as a problem-solver who wants their business and has the ability to solve problems for them. Also, believe in your solution. Before seeking to handle any objections that have to do with the capabilities/functionality of your product, be sure you understand the possibilities of addressing them. Do your homework to know how to help resolve their concerns, and then present a path toward better value attainment.
- Be the fixer. You are the quarterback for your organization when it comes to retaining your customers. Figure out what to do to save the account, if it warrants saving (some accounts are simply more valuable than others). Do you need to talk work with R & D to see when and how certain functionality is roadmapped? Do you need to talk with Finance about possibilities for contract renegotiations? Take responsibility for brainstorming ideas to handle customers’ objections by fixing things that may actually be “broken” and can be fixed. Don’t leave this to someone else.
- When handled properly, objections can become opportunities for improvement. Once you’ve resolved the situation such that your customer is no longer at risk of churning, take time to reflect upon what you learned. Are there things you can operationalize for other customers to avoid similar objections? Are there approaches you can re-use to either preemptively identify potential objections or handle them quickly?
- Objection handling can also provide insights into strategic growth opportunities. If you listen throughout the process, you may learn more about your customers through their objections than you knew prior. Once those objections are mitigated, there may actually be an opportunity for advocacy or growth. Customers respect when their objections are heard and resolved. They sometimes even become more loyal.
WHAT DO WE LEARN THROUGH HANDLING OBJECTIONS?
Relationships that are never challenged are often weaker than ones that are. Just because your customers have reservations or objections about working with your organization doesn’t mean they can’t become a true loyalist one day. It’s not about the challenges you face with your customers. Rather, it’s about how you deal with those challenges. The truth is that if you overcome your customers’ objections by listening, asking, and doing something to help them in the long run, they will likely appreciate you even more than they did from day one.