'You're too expensive!'
'We like what you have to say, but we don't want to change accountants.'
'We will do something with you, but now is not the right time.'
'We need to think about this; we'll come back to you.'
Do any of these sound familiar? They are some of the most commonly used objections when businesses are not completely convinced that they should change from their current CPA firm to yours.
Objections are always a sign of interest and rarely, if ever, do they constitute a final, immovable 'No'. Yet that's how we hear them. We are naturally averse to personal rejection and this business not liking our proposal enough to change their CPA firm on the basis of it feels like personal rejection.
Except it's not -- it's a rejection of the proposition, not the person.
If the potential client really does not want to consider using our firm, there's a big clue that will inform us of this: There will be no further meetings held and any that were already scheduled will be cancelled.
If we have avoided a cancellation, therefore, some level of interest exists within our prospect; it may just not be enough to make them choose our firm.
Objections, therefore, should be met with enthusiasm, as counterintuitive as that may sound. They are a sign of interest, and should be treated not as blockades preventing us from winning a new client, but rather as challenges that, if we can overcome them, will result in a deal.
So the next time you are in that situation, remember the following two-step code for handling objections:
Step 1: What kind of objection am I being given here?
Step 2: When should I deal with it?
For Step 1, there are four main families of objections. They can be categorized as follows:
1. The Unconnected Objection. This is an objection that has nothing to do with the topic of conversation:
If you hear: "Well, yes, your proposal seem to address the main areas of support required in our business, but I'm going on vacation next week."
Think: Next week's vacation has got little to do with today's decision to appoint a new CPA firm.
Best practice: Proceed to closure of the deal as originally intended.
Contingency: Set up an appointment there and then to revisit this proposal upon their return.
2. The Misunderstanding Objection. This is where the prospective client demonstrates that they may not have fully understood the proposal:
If you hear: "Well, what you say is very interesting, but it seems like a lot more money for no extra benefit."
Think: Have we really submitted a like-for-like proposal that's significantly more expensive than they currently pay, or has the prospect not realized what they are getting for the additional investment?
Best practice: Calmly re-explain how the needs and requirements of their business, above and beyond their current service, have been met by your proposal and how all of that benefit is included in this modest monthly fee increase. They are simply investing in a CPA firm that can help the business get to where it wants to go.
Contingency: Know your "walk-away" price - the fee you won't go below - but only negotiate as an absolute last resort.
3. The Polite Objection. People will rarely say "No," even when they mean it in professional situations. "No" will often sound something like this:
If you hear: "Well, thank you very much for all your time and effort. We'll give this some thought and will be in touch when we've made a decision."
Think: Uh-oh, it was going so well. Why can't they make a decision now? Why can't we come back to meet with them so that they can? What have we failed to do that has left them so underwhelmed with our offering?
Best practice: Honesty. What concerns have we not resolved yet?
Contingency: Arrange another meeting when they've had some thinking time - but beware, they are likely to only cool off as time drags on.
4. The True Objection. This is the only one to be concerned about - the one where there is a real, valid, legitimate reason why they can't go ahead.
If you hear: "We love your proposal but the company is not going to make it through the summer" or "We literally cannot source the funding to pay your fee for this service."
Think: This almost never happens but I'm ready for it.
Best practice: Understand as much about this business as you can in your initial meetings to avoid being in this situation in the first place.
Contingency: Collaboration. What would it take to overcome this barrier?
TIMING YOUR RESPONSE
For Step 2, there are three choices for when to handle an objection:
- Right now: For when something is clearly important and we can't progress until it is resolved.
- Later on: If it doesn't seem so important and might even go away by itself if we leave it alone.
- Beforehand: Where we know we are going to meet resistance, we can preface that in our presentation of our proposal document and manage expectations of the prospective client accordingly.
All of these strategies are appropriate for "in the moment" situations and as the old saying goes: "If after a few years you hear a new objection, you haven't been listening properly in the past."
You can also avoid having to use any of these techniques by having better-quality initial meetings with prospective clients and the employment of "objection prevention" strategies, which is the next step in developing this skill set.
Ultimately, however, it pays to remember that if your potential client really wasn't interested in working with you, the meeting you're in with them would never have even taken place to begin with.
Martin Bissett is the managing director of The Upward Spiral Partnership Ltd., a United Kingdom-based consulting firm that specializes in teaching professional selling skills and leadership development to the accounting profession.
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