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Sales Solutions
Selling Around Objections vol 2, issue #21
November 15, 2004
"I'm sorry, Craig. I need to have Feature X and, well, you just don't seem to have it. It looks as if you can't meet our needs."

Have you ever encountered this situation? If so, and if it were true that you didn't have the feature the prospect said he wanted, how did you deal with it? If you're like most salespeople, your response was one of the following:
  1. You got defensive and replied, "Yes, we do" - knowing full well you didn't.

  2. You told the prospect you'd deal with it later, hoping he or she would forget about it.

  3. You told the prospect, or tried to convince him or her, that the feature wasn't important.

Are any of these responses valid? The answer is, "Yes", "No"... and "Maybe!"

Now that I have you thoroughly confused, let me explain.

First, the straightforward answer - response #1 is always "No". Why? Because it's flat-out lying, and that's something we as sales professionals never do. End of conversation. Next, the not-so- straightforward answers. Whether responses #2 and #3 are good strategies depends on:

  • when in the sales cycle it's brought up
  • by whom it's brought up
  • whether you believe it's a legitimate, important concern of the prospect
  • whether the benefit you believe the prospect desires can be realized with another feature (or features) you're offering does have.

In other words, they are situation-specific. An example should help illustrate this.

Let's say you're selling copiers and the prospect says, "I need the machine to be able to make 70 copies per minute." You know your best copier only makes 60 copies per minute. If this is brought up early in the sales cycle - say, in the discovery process - it might be well to use response #2. Often times, as the discussion of needs and wants progresses, and solutions are presented, the importance of the feature the prospect said he "needs" is reduced by the prospect himself. So why risk putting yourself on the defensive early in the game when it may not be necessary? You might also sense that the prospect is "blowing smoke", and that the "need" really isn't set in stone. However, if it's brought up by a decision-maker or strong influencer whom you sense would be put off by what he perceives as a delay tactic - whether you sense that the concern is legitimate or not - you might want to go ahead and address it head-on (but follow up by probing on why he needs it).

How about response #3? I think we can agree that telling your prospect that a feature he tells you is important is not important is a recipe for disaster. Because by doing so, you're both showing disrespect for his opinion and coming across as arrogant. Neither of these is likely to endear you to the prospect; in fact, it will likely have the opposite effect. But is it OK, is it ethical, to try to get the prospect to reconsider how important the feature is? Absolutely! In fact, that's what the most successful sales people do, and do well. Your job as a professional sales person is to help your prospect make a purchase decision that is best for him and best for your company. In our first example, delaying your response to the prospect's objection allowed him to view this one feature in the proper context - as one of many other features he should consider. As a result, he convinced himself that he really didn't need the feature he said he needed, and was thus able to make a more well-informed decision. In many cases, though, the prospect will not come to this realization on his own. Or he may become fixated on the one feature. You help him make the best decision for him (and for your company) by telling him he'd be well-advised to consider features a, b, and c of your offering (which provide the same benefits as feature X, which we lack), as many other customers did. Features a, b, and c, of course, are features/capabilities that you offer that the competitors don't, or in which you are superior. This is known as getting the prospect to "change his base" - his perspective. Once the prospect is shown (as above) how to view this one feature in the proper context, he'll convince himself (again, as above) that he really didn't need the feature he said he needed. And you're off the hook with that objection.


Examine a deal you're currently working where you face a situation such as this. How can you assist the prospect in "changing his base"? What benefit does the prospect expect to get from the feature you don't offer? What other aspects of your offering could provide the prospect with those benefits? Once you have the answers to these questions, schedule a meeting with this prospect, review what he likes about your offering, and help him view this one feature in the proper context. You'll be surprised how often prospects who are seriously interested in your solutions will come around and see the light - the light you want them to see. Your light!

Good Selling!

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