As a trusted advisor your client wants your opinion and advice. To provide honest, impartial counsel which is also well received is often difficult. Most people don’t want to be told what they are doing wrong, nor what you think they should do about it. Continuing to look at 'The Trusted Advisor' by David H Maister, Charles H Green & Robert M Galford here are some ideas about providing advice as your client's trusted advisor.
When people ask for advice they are looking for help. Try to understand the issues at stake, maybe reputations and promotion opportunities. Don't only suggest ways to improve, it implies things are being done wrong and won't be welcomed. The trick is to understand the politics of the situation, to be sensitive to individual personalities and to be tactful.
Your client wants you to remove their concerns and provide support and confidence. As their advisor, by default, the risk is that you appear arrogant, something your client will resent. Your role is to diffuse any defensiveness by showing that you are trying to help not criticize.
Create a dialogue, a conversation
To show that you sincerely what to provide helpful advice try to create a dialogue. This requires sensitivity and a careful use of words, replacing: 'You should do X' with something like: 'Let's explore the possibilities together.' When you make a suggestion, invite a contribution: ‘This is what I am thinking, what about you?’. Keep the conversation alive, replacing questions such as 'what are your problems?' with: 'What areas do you think need improvement?' Try to turn assertions into questions.
Create the right atmosphere
Think for a moment about a classroom instructor. Often they will ask the class whether they have understood, but they rarely get an honest response. This is because they have created an atmosphere where to respond is to admit weakness. To create the right atmosphere and get the desired response a better question would be: 'Have I made myself clear?' or 'Shall we stay on this point or move to the next?' This avoids individuals admitting confusion but the instructor clarifies comprehension!
For advice to be accepted, and be really effective two skills are essential:
(i) The ability to ask good questions and listen
You need a clear grasp of where your client is starting from; their view of the situation, what they believe, what they are currently doing and why. Asking the right questions and being an attentive listener will achieve this and help determine what messages the client is ready for.
(ii) The ability to develop a reasoning process
Next a step-by-step reasoning process is needed to influence understanding. This helps your solutions to now resonate but allows the client to feel they made the decision. This is Socratic reasoning and it requires patience and practice to perfect.
The client as the decision maker
Your goal is to always to help the client feel that they have made the decision for themselves. You can make them aware of all the options, explore all the pros and cons and suggest recommendations, but let the client make the final decision. When confronted with a group and several individuals’ perspectives thorough prior research is essential, together with a concise summary of what has been achieved.
There is a never a one-size fits all solution. The essence of providing advice is to design a process to fit each situation and to be flexible in your consulting style.
What have your experiences taught you and what suggestions do you have? We are always interested to learn from you.
Customers’ objections are a normal part of the sales process. Here are Integratis’ 8 tips to develop the skills and strategies to handle objections effectively and be more successful in selling.
Confidence is critical in all aspects of the sales process but especially when handling objections. People assess your confidence by your body language in 3 ways:
Your Manner: remain calm, welcoming the concern.
Your Expression: don’t panic or look alarmed but equally don’t be dismissive or overconfident.
Your Tone of Voice: remain serious and unwavering, conveying your wish to resolve the customer’s concerns.
2. Listening skills
Never respond to an objection until you are sure you understand it. Listen attentively, it will show your sincerity and desire to understand the concern. Let the customer do the talking! Make eye contact; be aware of your facial expression, posture, and stance. Take notes and refer to them. Stay focused on the customer; be sensitive to their feelings, noting their body language, and facial expressions. Don’t interrupt but try to summarize when appropriate using your notes to show you were listening.
3. Acknowledge the customer’s concern
Never ignore the objection always acknowledge it. Be sincere and empathize, go with the flow, not against it. Mentally walk with the customer. If applicable use reference stories and validate the concern.
Ask questions to clarify your grasp of the customer’s concern. Make this dialogue two-way, verifying you both share and understand the objection and its’ root cause. Use open questions to help you to explore and probe. For example: “Who else do you think would be concerned about this?” Use closed questions to help you get straight to the point: For example: “This sounds as though it’s a big issue for you right now, am I right?”
Restating often uncovers a hidden objection because it shows you care and encourages customers to talk further, revealing other concerns. First paraphrase the initial objection to reinforce your sincerity. Then summarise the subsequent dialogue focusing on how you have clarified the concern. Finally state the real objection, as agreed to by the customer during the discussion reconfirming your understanding of the issue. At this point consider a ‘trial close’ - “if I was able to put your mind at ease on this issue, would that mean that you are comfortable with the remainder of what we have discussed?”
Responding is especially critical if the objection is linked to a competitive comparison. A good response can demonstrate that you can do all that the competition can do….and more! Be confident and positive in your response or agree to return to the issue later; either later in the meeting (whenever possible), or in a later meeting (in which case you should set this meeting up before closing the call. Then confirm that the customer is satisfied and comfortable with your response.
7. Appropriate responses
If the customer is sceptical provide proof regarding what you have told them and always answer any misunderstandings. If there are product concerns, emphasize product benefits and value. If it appears that a decision is not going to be made create a sense of urgency, stress the business benefits and always check you are talking to the right person!
8. Know when not to respond
Don’t respond if you don’t fully understand the objection, keep asking questions until you do. If you realize that you will need to address the concern later in the meeting, seek the customer’s agreement to do so. When you don’t have a convincing response agree a plan with the customer to address the issue later, checking you have grasped the main objection and have addressed all other concerns. If you have to adopt this approach, make sure you make an appointment to get back to the customer.
Maybe you have further sales objection handling techniques you would like to share? We would love to hear from you!