What are the two most common objections you face, and how do you deal with them?

Why Ask This Question?

Role-playing maintains a critical part in the sales interview. Because there are typically no more than two or three major objections that any account executive faces, it's important to hear how the candidate rebuts common rejections. This is an opportunity for the two of you to match wits. Therefore, this role-play will provide you with insights into the individual's sophistication and creativity as the two of you measure each other up.

Analyzing the Response

What are the most typical objections in your industry? Here are some common ones:

''We don't have any needs for your product.'' ''We're happy with our current provider.''

''We've got a long list of vendors who have already sent in sales materials. If you'd like to add your public relations material to our list, then when we open up for bids next January, we'll consider your proposal.''

Red Flags

No matter what field of sales you're in, these stonewalling show-stoppers typically throw salespeople off. So the first thing you want to observe is how confidently the candidate attacks the objection. Persuasion plays a big role, after all, in establishing rapport with new accounts. The second issue lies in the creativity of the individual's response. If her rebuttals sound like everyone else's in town, there's a chance that she hasn't given much thought to what makes her product or service unique.

Therefore, beware of candidates who regurgitate hackneyed responses like: ''Well, what would you do if you suddenly needed a . . . ,'' ''I bet we could offer more competitive rates than your current provider . . . ,'' or ''Change is good. I'm sure that's how you found your current vendor in the first place. Why not give me a chance to show you what I could do?'' Such trite and overused comebacks typically result in very little new business.

Good Answers. Look for responses, instead, that reveal creative insights and go beyond the obvious. For example, a stockbroker who possesses a CPA license might respond to an objection like ''I've been working with my current broker for fourteen years'' with this rebuttal:

''Nancy, I respect the relationship you have with your current provider. My only suggestion to you is that I might be able to provide you with financial advice under certain circumstances where your current broker can't. I'm a CPA, and my niche in the investment field is to help clients plan their portfolios with an eye toward the tax ramifications of fairly complex investment setups. I wouldn't expect you to jettison a personal relationship that you have with a friend just because I happened to phone you today. But I'd like your permission to send you information about my practice since I go where most brokers fear to tread. A number of attorneys depend on me to provide them with timely tax and estate planning advice, and I've been successful at tying that back-end knowledge into front-end investing. Does that sound like something that could eventually benefit you?''

Similarly, a copier salesperson might respond to the objection ''I have no plans to purchase new machinery'' like this:

''Doris, copiers and fax machines are only the products I sell, not the reason why I'm in business. I think that any vendor worth his salt will try to establish long-term relationships with as many companies as possible. The way I do that is by offering value-added service to people who need help when they're in a pinch. If your systems go down and your current provider is unavailable, call me. I'll be happy to personally walk you through the problem and find quick and practical solutions. Hopefully, if enough of a rapport is established over time, when you need to purchase new machinery, you'll naturally think of me. I know that doesn't sound like the way most copier salespeople develop business, but it's worked exceptionally well for me. I'd like to leave you my name and number in case I could ever be of service.''

What's common to these responses? Creativity and uniqueness! People who leverage their backgrounds or education to a customer's advantage maintain an edge in the client development arena. Similarly, those who put the customer before the sale build goodwill and credibility. After all, not many stockbrokers hold CPA status. Most salespeople, as a matter of fact, do very little to understand what their clients do. So when an executive recruiter, for example, gets a certificate in human resources management in order to learn his clients' business, he'll stand out. Look for such commitment to the industry being serviced.

Salespeople who present their services on a problem-to-solution level and who show patience and goodwill in the sales process turn prospects on. There's no sales pitch and, even more important, the salesperson shows a commitment to building long-term relationships. Sophisticated, relationship-driven salespeople will consistently outperform transaction-driven, buckshot'' types who see no farther than this month's billing log.

How to Get More Mileage out of the Question. Once you've gotten a rebuttal, pose a follow-up query as if you were the customer. Does the candidate respond to questions at face value, or does she try to close each response by setting an appointment? How many questions will she field before gaining some type of commitment from you? How does she respond to your requests for unreasonable discounts or service? On-the-spot role-plays, like pictures, paint a thousand words. Use them to gain valuable insights into the individual's style, character, and business savvy.

 
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