DAVE Mills gave himself the nickname of “Mr Truck” when he started selling trucks in 1963.

Since then, he has become a professional sales trainer and says he owns the registered trademark for “value-added selling.” He says that although he hasn't been able to enforce that trademark, he has developed some methods for creating value during the sales process.

Mills says that companies have figured out that the cheapest, fastest, and best way to produce quality products and deal with customer complaints and problems is to prevent defects from occurring. When a company's sales people are encountering objections — and Mills has identified 85 of the most common ones — a pattern emerges.

“Those are indicators that there's something that's being missed by the salesmen or the company in the selling process,” says Mills, president of Twenty-First Century Marketing in East Peoria, Illinois. “So if I have a customer who says, ‘I'm really not interested,’ studies say the reason is that there's a buyer belief that's missing. There's something in what that buyer believes that's either missing or is not strong enough. One of the beliefs is that maybe they don't see a need for the product at this particular time. Maybe they're satisfied with their existing supplier. Maybe you're calling on the wrong person. So it's not as simple as black and white.

“I've seen a lot of changes over the years, and I truly believe the best way to be good at selling is to understand how people buy. One of the most fundamental things is to ask questions. But how many salesmen start to talk before they know what they need to say? Happens all the time.

“As a professional sales trainer working with thousands not just in the US but around the world, I keep hearing a lot of the same thing: ‘Customers all say my price is too high.’ Well, what did you expect them to say? In all my years, I've never heard people say, ‘Your price is too low.’ Or, ‘Dave, are you sure you're making enough money on this deal? Why don't you add a little more gross profit?’”

Prevent objections

He says everybody wants to know how to respond, but he's more concerned about helping them understand how they can pre-empt the objections or prevent them from coming up.

Says Mills, “Close your eyes and visualize this: What would happen if your salesmen could get more business, identify more prospects, and go through their sales presentation in such a professional way that the customer never objected? So when a salesman said, ‘When would you like us to deliver it?’ they said, ‘Right away.’ What would happen to your sales? You might say, ‘We cannot make that happen.’ But can you make it a little better? Small improvements will make a big difference.”

Mills describes conditions versus objections:

  • Conditions are a set of customer circumstances a seller cannot influence.

    “Right after 9/11, there were a lot of business decisions that were put off for a period of time. Anybody who had anything quoted said, ‘Maybe we'd better wait.’ That's a set of conditions. Sometimes I've been talking to a company, and they're going to hire me to do something, and then they're acquired by another company. Then there's a management transition, and there's nothing I can do to influence a sale. Those are circumstances.”

  • Objections are legitimate questions and concerns buyers might have regarding your product, services, and support.

“When somebody says, ‘Your price is too high,’ what I hear them saying is, ‘Why should I buy from you?’ Remember the old, ‘Where's the beef?’ I believe gross profit and pricing are a state of mind. I work with some salesmen where price is never an issue with them. They come in and work with customers and solve problems, they sell the company and themselves. Price is really not an issue with their customers, and their gross profits and commissions are higher. There are other salesmen who are preoccupied with price. And when you're preoccupied with price, you forget to do what you need to do. Which is find the customer with a need and help him.”

Mills lists these 10 buyer beliefs:

  • Need exists.

    “They may have a need and not know it, especially if you're selling any kind of innovative new products.”

  • Authority.

    “I called on a guy and entertained him and he never bought anything. Finally I said, ‘You've never bought anything from me. Why?’ He said, ‘I don't have any authority.’ ‘Why didn't you tell me?’ ‘I was enjoying the lunches.’”

  • Responsibility.
  • Discomfort.

    “Maybe there's a need but no discomfort. ‘I do really need to replace that truck and dump body, but I have to repave this lot, so I'm going to deter that.’”

  • Need has priority.
  • Solution will work.

    “Will what you're going to do for me really take care of me?

  • Capability/credibility.

    “And you, as a distributor or manufacturer, what's your capability and credibility, and how are you going to support me?”

  • Best solution.
  • Return on investment.

    “How long is it going to take me to get this back?”

  • Plan will succeed.

Battle the objections

Mills says price objections can be prevented:

  • Customers buy based on “perceived” value.

    “If they think it's a good deal, it's a good deal. It has nothing to do with sale price or gross profit margins. In their mind, they made a good deal. One of my clients is Caterpillar in Peoria. Everybody knows that generally speaking, they aren't the lowest-priced product. And yet who has the market share? They do. Part of that is based on perceived value and the other part is belief in the product-support side.”

  • The “value” of your products and services must be presented and sold by presenting FABs (Features, Benefits, Advantages).

    “Ninety-five percent of salesmen don't know how to translate features and advantages into benefits for customers. Therefore, they're not creating value.”

  • Features are facts or characteristics of your products and services.

  • Advantages explain why your offer is better.

  • Benefits are what the customer receives and really cares about.

  • Only benefits create value.

    Mills lists these reasons why a customer should buy from you:

  • Unique Selling Points (USPs) are the FABs and capabilities only your product or your organization can provide.

    “I saw a salesman on the floor at a convention who was talking to a customer about a heavy-duty tri-axle trailer, front hoist, with weight being a major factor. He said, ‘One of the things we have that nobody else has is an option that will save you about 1000 lb in weight, and therefore increase your revenue on every load you handle. How long are you planning to use your trailer?’ He created a unique selling point, and the guy says, ‘Boy, that isn't going to take long to get that money back.’”

  • USPs are what makes you different.

“When I started in the truck business, I was in Quad Cities, Illinois. Moline Body Company provided me with my utility bodies. I had another person call me from Mutual Wheel Company. I wasn't giving my business to them. Their salesman found out I was selling tractors. He said, ‘I don't want to disturb your relationship with Moline Body, but I need to stress something to you: We specialize in upfitting tractors. Would you just do one thing? Let me take you to my shop and show you why I think we do tractors better.’

“So he took me down there and introduced me to his two experts. The first tractor they delivered to me, the grease on the fifth wheel was a rose — the most beautiful rose you'd ever want to see. I took it out to the fleets to deliver and the guy said, ‘That's a rose! I don't want to hook that up. I want to take it home and show it to my wife!’”

The strategy

Here are some of the most common sales-stopping objections, followed by Mills' suggestions:

  • “We don't need it.”

    “It means you haven't identified your customers well enough or there may be a need there and you haven't discovered it yet.”

  • “Just send me your literature.”

    “You know how you get around that? Pre-empt it. Introduce yourself and say, ‘We're introducing a new product and I'd like to get some information from you and send you some literature.’ After that, they're generally very interested in giving you more information and confirming addresses. So I've pre-empted that and taken it away from them. Highlight a few of the things about the product. Do some homework. Ask an operator or truck driver. Then take a yellow tab and put it on the pages you've highlighted. What happens when you hand somebody something with a little yellow tab? They go to the little yellow tab.”

  • “We're cutting back.”

    “I don't back off when I hear that — if I've got something truly valuable to sell. Because of the value in there, a lot of things can get changed.”

  • “Not a priority now.”

    “What do I have to do as a salesperson? I have to find some way to create added value and added urgency. It could be that this is the last piece of equipment that is going to be part of an extended warranty program. Or the tax benefits and appreciation.”

  • “Your lead times are too long.”

    “Tell them, ‘Help me understand what your situation is. When do you have to have this?’ I've found that if their truck is down, I'll say, ‘Let me tell you what I will do: If this would help us make the deal and start doing business together, I will contact the factory and tell them about your situation and see if that lead time can be cut back.’”

  • “Never heard of you.”

    “Say, ‘I can understand that. We're new. But you're going to hear a whole lot more about us, and let me share a few reasons why.”

  • “Had a bad experience with your company.”

    “Tell them, ‘I apologize for what happened in the past. All I'm asking for is a fresh start. I'll do anything in my power to see that something like that never happens again.’ If they can sense you're sincere, that'll go a long way.”