How your small business can overcome sales objections

Steven Timberlake demystifies the sales process for small business owners and gives some tips on making sales easier to approach.

It goes without saying that sales is one of the toughest jobs a person can take on. The office manager, support staff and many others in an organisation can get away for a while performing below par, but when members of the sales team aren’t performing it’s soon picked up.

Sales is all about targets, how to find the right customers and so on, so it’s a job for those who have a high level of determination and ambition that many just wouldn’t take on.

In small businesses, where the business owner is often the salesman things can get even more complicated and stressful.

As many a small business owner knows, if the sales dry up then the organisation can quickly find itself in trouble, and we doubt there are many entrepreneurs out there who have not gone through many a sleepless night when their organisation isn’t making the level of sales needed to keep them feeling safe.

For those directly involved in sales, ask yourself how many times when you have told someone what you do they have said: ‘I couldn’t do what you’re doing. I just couldn’t bear the rejection.’

We expect you have heard this many times and this fear of rejection is probably the number one reason why so many avoid sales as an occupation. However the simple truth, as we say to all those we come across in our business dealings, is rejection is simply part of the sales process.

Sales is a numbers game

Every salesperson will tell you, sales is a numbers game. It’s all about shots on target. The best salespeople who make the most sales are usually the ones who have had the most rejections and also the ones who build relationships best; keeping this is mind is important. This is an essential part of the sales processes in all organisations especially in owner-managed SMEs.

However, even with soul searching, it is worth realising that failure to make sales is something every salesperson and business owner has experienced at one time or another, and it has affected their ego.

So, the first thing we say is, don’t take it personally. Please remember this. It’ll help you take the rejection, dust yourself of and go after the next prospect.

Dr David Burns in his book, Feeling Good – The New Mood Therapy, says the underperforming sales person can assume the prospect isn’t interested based on no particular reason whatsoever.

Salespeople are using some kind of negative crystal ball gazing, assuming noone is interested, so they never pick up the phone again. However, the reality is, it doesn’t have to be like that.

You need to deconstruct these sales myths and build self-esteem to carry on going after prospects. For instance, we often quote a myth, which was deconstructed in an almost comedic way. Ron Willingham, in his book The New Psychology of Selling told how he was hugely intimidated by a sales meeting with Maxwell Maltz, the influential cosmetic surgeon and author.
However, as he was waiting for Dr Maltz the eminent surgeon’s wife made small talk in which she said the day was so beautiful, she had put her husband’s long johns on the line to dry. This very image transplanted into the young salesman’s head instantly made this intimidating character very human again. This is well worth elaborating on because whoever we are dealing with they are just like you and me, rather than some God-like deity.

Schedule time to call potential clients

Mark Carlson, a hugely successful software engineer, in the US told Entrepreneur magazine how he had been crippled by fear when sales started dropping alarmingly at the insurance firm he bought in Colorado. He explained how he used a somewhat unconventional tool he called a thought zapper, which was a thick yellow rubber band around his wrist. Every time he looked at the phone and felt anxious, he snapped the band and thought of something positive. He also made the wise move of scheduling time each day to call potential clients. Fairly quickly, his negative thoughts disappeared, and sales rebounded.

Stories like this are well worth imprinting in the mind. After all, the likes of Mr Carlson appear to many of us to be super successful businessmen, which we could never aspire to. Yet, tales like this shows this fragility exists in all of us regardless of where we are in the success stakes.

Feeding your mind with positive stuff and listening to tales of other successful business people overcoming rejection is certainly something we advocate. However, of course even if you have the resolve to keep going there can be other issues like not closing as many deals as you’d like.

Sometimes sales objections are often not in the objection itself, but what the salesman does with it. The excellent sales guru Brian Tracy says objections are good. They indicate interest and successful sales people have twice as many objections as unsuccessful ones, which reiterates our view.

He says that we should listen intently to all our objections and ask more open ended questions. Questions like – How do you mean? Do you have a good reason?

Also, more interestingly when objectors use cost as a reason this is often not the case. He says virtually every objection on the basis of price is made for a reason other than price and it is a good salesperson’s job to find the real reason. He looks at closing techniques as the solution and it is hard to argue. Ask if they would be willing to give it a try. Come out with other solutions about how you can make it easy for them.

Having the humility to look at one’s own performance and commitment to being excellent at sales is probably the best tonic to overcome rejection. Those who get to the top for anything in life have suffered rejection along the way. It’s what makes getting to the summit all the more satisfying.

Steven Timberlake is co-founder of SalesRadar.

Further reading on sales

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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