How to spot and cut through Phantom Objections

Phantom objections: Sometimes an objection seems to  relate to one issue, but in fact that issue is cover for a deeper, “phantom” objection.
For example, an objection might seem to focus on price, but  in reality is a phantom objection, disguising the fact that the Prospect does not feel any strong need for what you offer.  Or it could be a cover story because the person with whom you have been meeting is embarrassed to admit that he or she really doesn’t have the level of buying authority they led you to believe.
How to deal with this?  Sometimes, the simplest approach is to get the prospect talking about what is preventing the sale from taking place. Some methods:
— “Tell me, what would it take to make this sale happen?”
— Or, “What could be change to make it more helpful to you?”
— Or, “I’d appreciate your input: If you were in my position, what modifications would you make to the product (pricing, etc.) to make it more useful to an organization like yours?”
Key point: When you encounter what seem to be phantom objections, listen not just to the response, but through it as well to what the prospect is telling you about the selling points you have failed to make, clearly enough. Maybe your product already provides something equivalent to the “modifications” he suggests, which points you to an area to develop in more detail–either with this or future prospects.Adapted from SELLING 101, Chapter 20.

Buying signals to be alert for –from the prospect’s “gatekeeper” or “screen”

Buying signals from the gatekeeper or screen: What kinds of cues should you be alert for? (“Gatekeeper” and “screen” may apply to anyone from the guard at the gate to the secretary to the personal assistant to the Decision Maker.)

Sales closing tip: Why it pays to complete the order blank BEFORE you meet with the prospect

Sales closing tip: It’s a good investment of time and effort to complete the order form BEFORE you go into the meeting with the prospect.

Granted, it takes a little time, and you may waste some order blanks, but the benefits make it worth the while.

For one thing, you don’t have to stop the sales momentum in the call to collect basic data on things such as address, billing address and the like.

Even more importantly, by completing the order form before you go into the call, you project to the Prospect your confidence that the sale will, naturally, happen. Expectations are infectious, and a large part of selling is projecting positive expectations.

How do you get the information you need to complete the order blank that early, before the sale is set?

You probably already got most of that as you set up the call on this prospect: company name, individual’s name and title, and so forth.

For the rest? Ask the secretary or other gate-keeper while you’re on-site waiting for the meeting. If they ask why you’re asking, simply say, “I need it for my records. Paperwork! You know how it is, I’m sure.”


The content in this and  other posts on this site has been adapted from my books, which you will find in the sidebar, along with how to order as both ebooks and pbooks. Hope you find them helpful.

Decision influencers: who they are, and how to work with them

Decision influencers: who are they, and how can you work effectively with them?

Even if the user, or the person in charge of an area, does not have the level of Authority, Need, and Dollars to be the actual Decision Maker, they may nonetheless be an important “Decision Influencer.”

That is, even though this person at this time may be considered a Decision Influencer (because they currently lack some elements of the proper Authority, Need, or Budget Dollars, their ideas, advice and suggestions are listened to with respect.

For example, while they may be the actual users, and hence may have the Need and Authority to sign, nonetheless the necessary budget Dollars (or “sign-off”) reside with their boss, or boss’ boss.

You don’t want to offend them by first seeing them, then appearing to skip over their head.

For instance, if you are selling printers, you may find that the head of the graphics department has the Need for what you offer, but not the Authority or Dollars to allow them to sign the order.

Still, they will be very significant to your maiking that sale, as they are perhaps a key shaper of how that decision goes.

Decision Influencers may include,

Those who will be the actual users of your product or service. That is, the CEO may make the decision on which new “Widget Engine” to buy, but the key influencer of that decision may be Old Joe down on the factory floor who’s worked with every Widget Engine ever sold. Get to Old Joe, win him over, and he can influence the decision your way.

Financial advisors such as the firm’s accountant or Chief Financial Officer: they may say whether or not the firm can afford what you offer, and may also have input on finance alternatives, such as leasing versus purchasing, and the like.

The Decision Maker’s Mentor may play a crucial role in the making of that decision. That is, the person who has Decision Making Authority, Need, and Dollars, may still want to check it with the “old hand” in the company who has helped him along the way. Chances are, you won’t know who that Mentor (or other kinds of covert decision influencers) are, and may never meet them; just be aware there may be one, feeding suggestions, questions and other concerns to the Decision Maker.

The Purchasing Manager may also have a say, though typically more on the technical aspects of how to make the purchase happen within the organization’s policies on purchasing. The fact that the Purchasing Manager may have this kind of influence is a good reason not to antagonize him or her. Go around them to get to the real Decision Maker, but do it quietly and in a nice, unobtrusive way.

Continue reading Decision influencers: who they are, and how to work with them

Active listening: Communicating well in the sales call, in person and on the phone

The most successful sales people  have developed listening skills–not just a passive listening, but active listening skills as well

 We’ll be examining the how-to of active listening in much more detail later in this site, but here are some starting points to give you a quick sense of what active listening means in sales.

Active listening is a topic in itself, but means, among other things, not just sitting there, but becoming actively and visibly involved with the speaker.

Depending on the situation, that might mean giving clear feedback that you are understanding correctly, nodding, taking notes on items that are particularly relevant — as all of these are signals to the speaker that this is what you’re really looking for.

Thus “active listening” may not be just listening: it could be saying encouraging words—like “I understand,” or “Interesting,” or “Mmm, I see,” or whatever helps to the speaker realized that he or she is on-course to what you need to know.

Active listening may also mean asking follow-up questions as needed.

Yet active listening also means knowing when to be silent, and when to let the speaker “roam free.”


The content in this and  other posts on this site has been adapted from my books, which you will find in the sidebar, along with how to order as both ebooks and pbooks. Hope you find them helpful.


Consultative selling: Why and how to set the context before asking questions

Consultative selling is selling by asking the questions that prompt the prospect to recognize needs for what you offer.

Key point to bear in mind:  In using a consultative sales approach, ask questions, but shape the meeting as a conversation, not an interrogation. Good consultative sales skills means projecting that you want to learn all you can about the situation, so you can help, NOT that you are there to cross-examine . . . and DEFINITELY NOT that you are seeking to learn their sensitive proprietary information.

Continue reading Consultative selling: Why and how to set the context before asking questions

5 steps in responding to sales objections and questions

Here’s a five-step model approach in responding to objections and questions: Explore, Listen Well, Restate (if appropriate), Respond, then Move on.

1.    Explore. Ask questions to get the person talking about what they really mean by the objection, and why it’s important to them.  (Why do you feel that way? will do if nothing better comes to mind.)

2.    Listen well to their response.  You may have heard this objection a dozen times already this week, but this person may put a different twist on it.  Don’t be too quick in cutting off the Prospect’s response in order to interject your response.  The more you know about the Prospect’s needs and mindset the better you can target your response.  Sometimes, the Prospect will actually respond to her own concern, and say something like, Never mind, I think I’ve answered myself. That’s really not so important, after all.

Continue reading 5 steps in responding to sales objections and questions

Cold call prospecting: What if the prospect pushes you for more detail, too soon?

Cold call prospecting: your basic strategy on this first introductory phone call, when you are phoning to get an appointment with the prospect or decision maker, is simple: Avoid getting drawn into too much detail, since you can not make the sale over the phone, but can lose it.

But what if, on this introductory phone call the prospect pushes you for more detail on just what it is you do, or how your approach differs from that of your competition? You can’t very well refuse to answer the question, as this prospect would likely then refuse to see you.


Keep in mind that at this point your objective is cold calling prospecting, not to try to make the sale over the phone.


In cold call prospecting, and in every aspect of the initial pre-meeting phone contacts with the prospect, the key is to speak in terms of overall concepts — especially end-results — without getting into the technical details.

Continue reading Cold call prospecting: What if the prospect pushes you for more detail, too soon?

Your “Elevator Pitch”–how to refine and focus it

The “Elevator Pitch,” or “Elevator Speech,” is not just a key tool in your selling activities, it’s a must-have. Even if you never ride an elevator, you still need to be able to “net-out” who you are and what you or your product/service can do for prospects in a concise, intriguing way.

In this post, I’ll be doing two things: First, citing an article bearing the Imprimatur of the Wall Street Journal on the need for a good elevator pitch.

Second, I’ll be including an excerpt from one of my own sales books on how to develop an effective, to-the-point elevator speech.
Continue reading Your “Elevator Pitch”–how to refine and focus it