When an experienced salesperson hears an objection to a proposal in the midst of a client meeting, it’s a positive sign. 

“What that suggests is your prospect is interested in what you’re talking about,” said Jerry Wells of Mason City.

In fact, learning to deal with objections and rejection can lead you to making the sale, according to North Iowa experts.

Wells formerly led recruiting and sales training for the Metal Products Division of Armco Steel based in Ohio. He worked his way up there and has been president of four manufacturing firms including Advanced Component Technologies in Northwood.

Now involved in business consulting, Wells and Tom Guerdet of Ames are partners in Enterprise Performance Solutions.

Guerdet was formerly director of sales training at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa and taught business classes to adults seeking further education at Simpson College.

“An objection many times will walk you right into the sale,” Guerdet said. ”I get very upset when people don’t ask for the sale. If you’re a professional, I expect you to ask for it.”

Wells and Guerdet also own the Ultimate Sales Academy along with the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at North Iowa Area Community College. They offer three- or five-day sales training sessions.

“We formed that joint venture five or six years ago for the purpose of providing professional sales training to business folks,” Wells said.

They helped NIACC start its Lean enterprise efforts about a dozen years ago and have developed a product known as Diamond Point Analysis to analyze, manage and improve administrative and operational processes through Enterprise Performance Solutions, Wells said.

This fall, they’re speaking at a series of meetings held by a network of community bank executives from across the nation.

Those working in sales need to be able to qualify their prospects to be sure they have an interest or need for a product or service, Wells said.

“Everybody fears rejection -- particularly in Iowa because we’re Iowa nice people,” he said.

One of the precepts that salespeople talk about is how many times they will hear no before they get a yes, said Jamie Zanios, director of the Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center and Institutional Advancement at NIACC, where he also serves as vice president.

Negative responses require a salesperson to get refreshed and to restore their smile, Zanios said, recalling how when he worked in sales in New York City he might go walk around the block or call someone who would be positive.

Fear of rejection starts early and gets “ingrained in us as kids,” said Andy O’Brien, who provides business coaching through his Action Coach office in Mason City, one of eight such offices in Iowa.

O’Brien said he seeks to find out why someone would say no. Use it as a tool to continue the conversation. While responding to no can be difficult, it’s when people need to ask, “What’s next? How do we move on from here?”

“No is just a word. It’s not like people are shooing you out with a gun,” he said. “It’s not like a ‘Get out of my office, don’t ever come back' type thing."

Tenacity and persistence are valuable. Yet if people are “telling you no … you haven’t given them enough value to say yes,” O’Brien said.

Whether coaching an orthodontist, accountant or auto mechanic, he focuses on business aspects of their enterprise, O’Brien said.

Trust and rapport take time to develop but their importance cannot be overstated, especially in the Midwest.

“People do business with people they know, like and trust,” O’Brien said.

Selling is like a funnel, Wells said. It starts out with a thousand open-ended questions to discover if there’s a fit. Sometimes there is and sometimes there isn’t.

If a competitor already supplies a similar product, find out what the business manager likes or dislikes about them, Wells suggests. What if it’s possible to offer a 10 percent lower price or to carry the company’s inventory for them?

“There’s no fear in the selling process when I really uncover your needs,” Wells said.

At Moorman Clothiers in Mason City and Ames, salespeople do not ask close-ended questions like the often heard “Can I help you?” That only invites a response like, “No, I’m just looking,” said Scott Moorman, who opened his store 21 years ago. “What can I show you today?” or “How may I help you” are better.

“It’s a fine line to get people to open up. You’ve got to be able to probe just enough to get them to open up and not upset them,” Moorman said.

Salespeople often tout the features of a product but don’t point out the benefits, Wells said. Air conditioning is one feature a car might have but keeping cool and comfortable is the benefit, he said. 

Recognizing benefits leads to purchases, Guerdet said.

As a part of Ultimate Sales Academy sessions, participants practice interacting with prospective clients and selling their company’s product or service, Guerdet said. The goal is for them to leave each session with tangible ideas or skills they can put to use the next day.

“The closer you can come from the point of learning to the point of application, the better chance you have of that continuing to be applied,” he said.

Video recording those exchanges is important.

“People need to see themselves. We want to make it real,” Guerdet said.

There are days in a salesperson’s life when everything seems to be positive, they seem to be in the zone, Zanios said. That’s related more to the salesperson’s state of mind than it is the customer.

Assuming the salesperson has the product that fits the prospect and has done the homework, they should have the right mentality.

“There’s a lot of exploration that goes into this,” Zanios said.

Listening closely to what the client has to say and asking questions is crucial, he said.

“In the end, it’s up to the salesperson," Zanios said. "Nobody likes to be told no but that may happen and you just pick yourself up and find a way to get your confidence back and go on to the next one."

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