Objections can derail even the most Seasoned Entrepreneurial Leader
Like you, I’m very busy. I am a nuclear engineering officer recruiter for the US Navy, a high school varsity lacrosse coach, an aspiring entrepreneur and a husband.
As a naval officer recruiter, I naturally must be able to sell people on the Navy. My target market is highly educated college students or recent graduates up to the age of 27. I’m not slick, shady, or slimy in the way I broadcast my message about what the Navy can do for someone.
Rather, I’m strikingly aware that most college students (like a lot of us that have already graduated) may not possess a “what’s next” in life. In other words, they are not sure of what is to come after graduation or may be looking for greater fulfillment in their life.
As a recruiter, you see all types of interest levels for those interested in the military. They range from “Where do I sign?!” to “Get the hell away from me” and all have preconceived ideas of what the military is.
I have been trained to look for objections in people when speaking openly and honestly with them about the possibility of joining our team. In recruiting, we look for four main objections – Skepticism, Apathy, Confusion, and Obstacles – when identifying their personal barriers to entry.
Consistent with leadership, people are not always going to be “all in” on you. To achieve full “buy in” from the people around you, you must be able to aggressively observe, identify, and alleviate these same barriers people have that restricts them from putting full faith and trust in you.
In doing so, it with allow them to sign on the dotted line that they are willing to take the hill with you.
Skepticism – “I don’t believe”
Feeling is believing. The greatest challenge to overcoming skepticism is to avoid sounding defensive, evasive, or dismissive. This only exacerbates the feelings of the skeptic.
Your Response: Verbiage matters. Matt Abrahams of Stanford Business School puts it best, “How you position your topic can guide the way people see it. For example, to short-circuit an audience’s suspicion of new ideas, whenever possible use language that highlights the positive aspects of your subject, such as the potential benefits and successes. Think of how auto dealers frame a car someone else owned as “certified previously owned” rather than “used” in order to get people to pay more for the car. The simple word choice and framing affects perception, which in turn affects attitudes and behaviors.”
Apathy – “I don’t care”
To understand what apathy, we must take a step back and understand what motivation is. Motivation propels behavior and to participate in goal-directed behavior, one has to be “motivated” to initiate, follow through, and finish a task. In our case, they must be motivated to follow you.
Your Response: Back to Abrahams, “To produce a credible response, think of logic as water to emotion’s fire — it’s imperative that you bring logic into your response to defuse the objection [and spur motivation]. Using an emotional response to an emotional objection does nothing to resolve the issue and can actually fan the flames of objection, in the process reducing your credibility in your audience’s eyes.” Provide clear reasoning and tangible evidence(with humility) to erase apathy while stimulating motivation in your leadership ability.
Confusion – “I don’t know”
Ignorance is bliss and what you do not know cannot hurt you. A common stance taken by many people, confronting this type confusion as a leader can be a challenging exercise. Frustrating at times, it helps to be curious, rather than questioning.
Your Response: “Tell me more about what is confusing you” rather than “Why do you think that?” The former sounds far less daring than the latter and actually encourages one’s mind to expound upon an idea without fear of reprisal. Once the person explains their thought process or level of knowledge, make a leadership decision on how to enlighten them (or not enlighten them) with your pertinent information.
Obstacle – “I don’t like”
People have every right not to like something. Whether it is a person, place, or idea, we all have the inherent right to choose what we like. There are always going to be people that don’t like you and your way of doing business. This, of course, is not too be scoffed at, but looked upon as an opportunity to enhance your own process.
Your Response: “What would you like to change?” With honest conversation, take a real-time assessment of what they want to see changed. Two things are going to happen: You are going to get educated and they are going to get educated. Understand what their perspective is. You need to get ready to uncover some potentially unpleasant perspectives of you. It may be hard, but actively listen to these viewpoints. Encourage them to be forthcoming on what is holding them back from becoming a stakeholder in your leadership.
Foster a strong relationship by offering them the opportunity to discuss what they would do if they were leading the charge. They may offer great solutions, or realize that their proposals are not plausible.
Objections are not the end of the road for a leader. In most cases, they are merely the beginning.