EPISODE 658: Handling Objections with Joe Marcoux, the Sales Sensei

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Today’s show featured an interview with Joe Marcoux, the Sales Sensei. Find his “Overcoming Objection Mastery” guide here. Contact Joe on LinkedIn to get your copy.

Find Joe on LinkedIn.

JOE’S ADVICE:  “Step one is, we acknowledge what we’ve heard from the person so that they understand that they’re heard. Then we ask a question. It’s so simple. Simplicity is elegance. Acknowledge and ask a question. If I’m a sales leader, I want to be able to audit calls, and then I want to be able to practice. You have to train. Even if it was just an hour a week, the difference is massive. A lot of people, especially at enterprise levels, the belief is, “Hey, I’m here to talk to you about your numbers. Your numbers are off. Listen, if you’re supporting them and providing them the support they need and be able to do course corrections with them, that’s where their numbers are going to grow.”


Fred Diamond: We’re talking to Joe Marcoux, who is known as the Sales Sensei.

Joe Marcoux: Yeah, it is funny. I was dubbed this by many of the members of the Dojo, and so I accept it with great honor. And I’m honored to be here, Fred. It’s great to see you.

Fred Diamond: I’m excited to talk to you today. Joe’s the founder of the SOS, a Sales Objection System Dojo. It’s a training ground where individuals and businesses learn the art of overcoming objections. Joe, I’m excited to talk to you for a couple reasons. One is I haven’t really dealt with the concept of sales objections in a while. Again, we’re doing today’s interview in the early stages of 2024, and that’s something that we used to cover a lot, but we really haven’t covered it too much. Tell us a little bit, first of all, how’d you get to become the Sales Sensei? Then let’s get deep into objections that the sales professionals listening to the show may come across, and your suggestions on how to overcome them.

Joe Marcoux: Let’s begin with starting in a long time ago, in a galaxy far away, there was this young lad named Joe Marcoux, who started in exercise equipment retail, and by the age of 20, opened up his own exercise equipment, high ticket retail store. What ended up happening, Fred, is I had to learn very quickly how to sell and sell quick, sell quickly in terms of the transactional style, and then learned how to also sell from a perspective in the commercial market, selling to health clubs, selling to businesses and insurance companies for their corporate wellness. Those are two different types of sales. You’ve got a sale where it’s more transactional and somebody’s coming in and they’re interested, and then there’s the sale where it’s a year and a half to two years to be able to create a purchase order to be able to help people live a better quality of life through the benefits of health and exercise.

How did the Dojo come about? It was after I had started this business and I sold it, I wrote a book way back in 2007 called Boutique Thinking in a Big Box World. What ended up happening was I was hired by different companies to go and do sales training for a day, or a weekend, or a workshop, and I traveled extensively. Well, fast forward to the pandemic. It’s a timeline of a history that we all have in our lives, “Was that pre-pandemic or post-pandemic?” Pre-pandemic 2020, I was in Washington, DC. Here I am, this guy from Canada, and I’m in DC, and I’m about to go do a workshop, and the border closes because of the pandemic, and they’re like, “Hey, Mr. Canada, you got to go home.”

I’m heading back and for about three months, because I had 144 days of travel booked for 2020, I didn’t have any gigs lined up, and therefore, cash was dwindling, and I was an army of one back then. With the help of a coach, which I’m a big believer in coaching, so I have a business coach, we brainstormed and we came up with, “Hey, we got to go online.” This was one of the biggest problems that I had anyways with my business at the time, which was, I can go in, do a workshop for two days and people would love it, and there was always a sales spike. Then invariably, people got back to their old habits.

What we ended up developing, thanks to Zoom, was the acceptance of coming in weekly, just like as if you were going to the gym, except now you’re coming into the Dojo, and you get to practice live. Instead of watching a video and not being able to get the interaction where somebody can, “We’re going to correct you,” and quick course corrections, because what we like to tell people is it’s a safe place to make mistakes. Fred, let’s face it, if there’s one thing that I wish I could go back in time and just be able to redo is get a mentor earlier where I could actually live role play with somebody who’s got experience, and that’s exactly what we do.

Fred Diamond: We talk a lot about mentoring and coaching on the Sales Game Changers Podcast. I’m glad you brought that up. You talk about the two ingredients required to have people buy every time. What are those two ingredients?

Joe Marcoux: This is in your discovery process, it’s desire and urgency. If we don’t have desire, and a lot of people say, and I love Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why. The fact of the matter is though, and again, take my information like spare ribs, you keep the meat and throw away the bone. In my opinion and experience and digging into the psychology of creating persuasion and influence, asking people why questions is really too personal. Instead of why, I’m going to encourage everybody to switch it to what-based questions. Why questions are great for me personally, to ask myself, “Why am I doing this? Why is this important to me?” Personally, I can ask that. If I’m starting a relationship with someone and I start asking you why questions, it’s intrusive. That’s the desire piece. Following the threads that people leave clues in terms of what’s their challenge and what their goals are, most people do a horrible job of practicing that, and they don’t go deep enough.

Then the other side of it is creating urgency. Once you have desire and urgency, that combination will lead people to want to take a decision. In the end, our goal as sales professionals, we’re simply helping people decide. No is actually a good answer. It’s not the best answer, it’s a good answer. I much prefer no over maybe, I’ll think about it, let me get back to you, those kinds of things.

Fred Diamond: Or silence of course. I agree with you. Give a little perspective here on what some objections might be. The reason I’m saying that is, is we have a lot of senior sales professionals and leaders who listen to the Sales Game Changers Podcast and read the transcript. But give us a little perspective, because a lot of people listening to the show are new in their career, and they may not know what we’re talking about when we say objections. Give us a little perspective on what common objections are and a perspective on that.

Joe Marcoux: Most common objections that everybody hears right off the bat is, it’s too expensive. I can’t afford it. I need to think about it. I need to go speak to my spouse. If I just start with those four objections, they really come into three different categories. The first category are external factors of time and money. I don’t have the time. It’s too expensive. I can’t afford it. It’s not in our budget. We can get into the fact that budgets in and of themselves, even at the government level, budgets aren’t real. If there’s enough desire and urgency, you’ll come up with the money. Therefore, external factors of time and money.

Second category of objections are internal fears, because why do objections come up? The internal fear of, “I’m afraid to make the wrong decision.” People are afraid to make the mistakes. They’re afraid to make the wrong decision. Here’s the crazy part, Fred. People are also afraid to make the right decision. I’ll give you an example. It’s somebody, for example, who wants to hire a fitness coach. “Well, I’m afraid to make the wrong decision and invest in this. What if this doesn’t work?” Then, “I’m afraid to do it because now I’ve got to exercise and I’m going to have to make sacrifices in terms of my foods that I love. I’m going to have to not stay up late and watch late night TV and make some habit changes,” so fear.

Then the third one is giving up your power. Giving up your power is when somebody says, “I have to go speak to the boss. The CFO makes the decision on this.” It’s not just speak to my spouse, because this is applicable in the B2B space, especially when you’re doing a long sales cycle sale. Objections are normal. They are part of what I like to call a buying conversation, because nobody wants to be sold. They want to choose to buy.

Fred Diamond: We could unpack everything you just said there for the rest of the show. You were talking originally about the external factors and the whole concept of budget. I’ve talked about this on the podcast before. I was a marketing director at Compaq Computer at one part of my career. I had a multimillion-dollar budget. Every year, typically it was a year from January through December, typically around September, October, they would come to us and say, “Okay, all budgets are frozen until January.” I remember one of our biggest vendors who I had a million-dollar commitment with, I called him and I said, “Okay, sorry, but we have to stop. I’ll see you in January.” I remember he happened to be in Houston the next week, obviously he made a trip to Houston to come see me.

Joe Marcoux: Yeah. What a surprise.

Fred Diamond: What a surprise. He pitched an idea, it was a $50,000 advertisement. I said to him, “Well, I just told you we have no budget.” He goes, “I really think you want to be in this.” I was like, “Okay. All right. You’re a good vendor of ours. We do want to communicate our product line.” I went to my boss, who was the president of the division, and I said to him, “I know we cut all budgets, but I really think we should be in this.” My boss said, “Okay, no problem. I’ll find the money.” I was like, “Oh.” He goes, “Yeah.” He said, “We’re a $20 billion company. There’s $50,000 laying around.” I went to the vendor and I said, “Okay, we’ll be in there.” I acknowledged what he did. We actually talked about it years later, but at that moment, I said to myself, one of my mantras is, “I may not have budget, but there’s definitely money.”

Some of the companies that people listening to the show are selling to are a hundred-billion-dollar entities. It may be the person that you’re talking to may not have the creativity to go find the 20K, 50K, 100K, whatever it might be, but the money is always there. You may not have budget, but there’s always money. That is fantastic. You talk about the concept of the North Star. How important is that in the business of what you talked about with your customers?

Joe Marcoux: The North Star is interesting because everybody’s got a different North Star. The suggestion that I have as far as North Star is the driver, where some people might say, “What’s your why?” I would say, “What’s the thing that’s going to drive you and your business and have your emotional connection to keep persevering?” Even when things get tough, because they do, this is life. If somebody’s telling me, “I close out 100% of the time,” it’s like, “Well, okay, you’re not from this planet.” The reality of it is, finding a North star isn’t just about the numbers, and we can get caught up in that. Wouldn’t it be great for the numbers to show up because your North Star is powerful? I’ll give you an example of some of mine.

I like to get Google reviews, and granted, I get a lot of reviews, and yet I don’t necessarily, if you don’t have a Gmail account, Google doesn’t post it. They’ll get your reviews, and not everybody’s using Gmail. Another North Star, testimonials. The more testimonials you get, then obviously you’re doing something right. It says a lot about your product, your service, your program, and then referrals. The nice thing about reviews, testimonials, and referrals is they’re measurable. You can measure those metrics, and here’s what’s interesting, if you can grow those three metrics as an example of a North Star, what do you think happens to your sales? What do you think happens to your profits? That to me is powerful.

Fred Diamond: You talk about how scripts are also killing sales results. Talk a little bit about that.

Joe Marcoux: I am a big believer in having a script as a foundational piece. I think especially if we’re learning the process, then sure, you can use a script. The thing is, is that people want to be able to have a conversation. As such, in a conversation, it goes both ways. I want to ask you some questions, and I want to listen. Ultimately, it’s authenticity. To be able to cajole, like before we started recording, we’re talking about rock music and which bands should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and what are your favorites? We’re just having a conversation between two people. You can still have these types of conversations put into place while having a blueprint.

It starts with the idea of here’s the script, and like music, I’ll go with it this way, Fred. Music in and of itself, there are notes. If you’re playing All Along the Watchtower, I would mention to you, I’m a guitar player. Well, Bob Dylan wrote the song, and yet most people think All Along the Watchtower, Jimi Hendrix owns it. Why? Because he learned the notes, but he plays the music. That’s the difference. If you do a really good job, you could start with a script, and then you can get rid of it and play the music from your heart and be so authentic, because now you own the idea and the concept of that blueprint. You can follow the steps and yet be yourself within that process, and suddenly you’re Hendrix.

Fred Diamond: Talk to the sales professionals listening to today’s show about why they need to become skilled at overcoming objections. In life, all day long we’re coming across objections. In sales, like we talked to before, there’s big obvious ones where the customer, they say, “We just don’t have budget. I’m sorry,” type of a thing. You gave an example of how you can overcome some of that, but there’s objections all along the way. Most of the people, Joe, listening to today’s Sales Game Changers Podcast, are in some type of enterprise sales where, like you mentioned before, it’s not a one phone call type of a thing. There’s maybe six or seven people that need to be interacted with. There is a budget process. We’re not minimizing the fact that budget needs to be there, but there are ways around it. Talk about why you need to really get skilled at this if you want to have a successful career in sales.

Joe Marcoux: Fred, I love the question, and this is what’s interesting. People will say, “Well, if I do a great discovery and I nurture this, I never run into objections.” I think that’s fantastic if people want to go down that path. I think it’s important to have an excellent discovery. The quote I’m going to say is, you’re better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war. Because I would want you to be prepared to be able to overcome objections when they happen, as opposed to not be prepared, and then you have this spiral that affects you mentally and emotionally.

Salespeople are human beings. What we know is when emotions go up, intelligence goes down. Then things such as your body language completely shifts, your tone shifts, and then you’re using filler words during conversations and you lose authority. What I mean by filler words are like, like, like, and uh, uh, and you start stuttering, and then all of a sudden you’re perspiring, and things fall apart. The idea is, seasoned sales professionals require the practice, not necessarily because they need to know what to say, it’s more important to know how to say it, because what does that do? It builds your confidence. Confidence is key when you’re looking at being able to be authentic and ultimately get to the close.

Fred Diamond: I want to talk about two more things before we talk about a gift that you have and your final action step. First is, what is your advice for the sales leaders? A lot of people listening to today’s show, they manage 5, 10 sales professionals. I’ve been in sales meetings where I knew more information than the sales rep did, because I just happened to know the customer that they were targeting. I remember what they would say in the meetings was just very ignorant. It’s things like, “We had a great meeting. They’re definitely going to buy before the end of the year,” but I knew that they weren’t going to. Give some advice for the sales leaders on how to help their people overcome the objections that they may not even realize are truly objections.

Joe Marcoux: This is where it comes down to, are you actually putting in the practice? Because you can have seasoned sales reps, and there’s a few things to unpackage here, Fred, in a very short period of time. Number one is, are you recording your calls? Now with Zoom, more than anything, it’s a great opportunity for you to be able to see, “Hey, you know what? I missed an opportunity to ask a question here.” There’s a two-step process I want to share with everyone in terms of overcoming any objection.

Step one is, we acknowledge what we’ve heard from the person, we simply acknowledge them so that they understand that they’re heard. Then we ask a question. It’s so simple. Tom Peters, who’s the writer of In Search of Excellence, would say, simplicity is elegance. The simplicity of the SOS is exactly that. Acknowledge and ask a question. If I’m a sales leader, I want to be able to audit calls, and then I want to be able to practice. You have to train. Even if it was just an hour a week, the difference is massive. A lot of people, especially at enterprise levels, the belief is, “Hey, I’m here to talk to you about your numbers. Your numbers are off.”

Listen, if you’re supporting them and providing them the support they need and be able to do course corrections with them, that’s where their numbers are going to grow. Because then the team feels indebted, especially from a management perspective, I’ve had people where they’ve worked for me and I’ve worked for people in my career where, “I just don’t want to let my manager down. I’m working for this person. She’s awesome, and I want to really take care of her, because she’s taking care of me by giving me her time.”

Fred Diamond: One thing that I’m really impressed by as we’re talking here is we talk about a couple of key things on the Sales Game Changers Podcast. We talked about the concept that sales is a profession. We talked about rock music before. Some of the bands that we talked about, they just didn’t pick up a guitar and become Led Zeppelin in the first sitting. It’s the tens of thousands of hours. Just to use Zeppelin, Jimmy Page sat in his room probably for thousands, tens of thousands of hours, to become Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, all the rock and roll stars. To get on stage, even as a basic band, you’re talking like thousands of hours.

The same thing with sales. The great sales professionals, even the good ones that we talk about, they view it as a profession. What does a professional do? A professional practices their calls, they do research, they prepare, is another major theme here, spending time in the Dojo, as you call it. Are you preparing because your competition, who’s going to win the business, probably is, and they’re thinking about the objections that may come, they already have answers. If they’ve gotten the objection one time, then they’re like, “Well, gee, that’s something that might be coming up from other customers, so I better have an answer for that.” It’s not just a worded answer. Sometimes it’s a process improvement. I’ll tell a quick story here.

At the Institute for Excellence in Sales, we had a target for us. It was a large company with a large sales organization, and we wanted them to become, we call our customers partners. We had a champion, someone who loved us. They went through one of our programs and they wanted their company to participate. They then brought it to the next level to become a partner of ours. The person who’s the leader did some research and said, “I don’t like their website.” I don’t want to get into all the detail, but, “I don’t understand what they do because it wasn’t very clear on their website.” This was fed back to us. It was clearly an objection. You know what we did, Joe? We fixed the website. It’s not like they’re wrong, the website’s great. We fixed the website.

Joe, this has been great. You and I have known each other for a little bit here. We’re members of an organization together called the JVMM. I appreciate your insights. We did some strategy calls about my business not too long ago. You participated in, I was grateful for that, and very impressed on what you’re doing, how you’ve responded to how the world has changed over the last couple of years, and how you’re going about making the careers of sales professionals better. Also impressed on how you’re living your life. Before I ask you for your final action step, you’ve given us so many great ideas. I know that you have a gift that you want to share with the Sales Game Changers Podcast audience as well.

Joe Marcoux: Yeah. I have something that’s called Overcoming Objection Mastery. It’s how to overcome the 26 Toughest Objections in Sales. It’s a guide. It’s literally made for anybody at any age. It’s color coded. It’s super easy to follow, so you’ll be able to find the objection, and at least it gives you the blueprint of the two-step process of the SOS. I’m giving that away. I want to be able to help people do a better job of communicating. If we help you become a confident communicator, I can promise you this is the first step. You’re going to get the words, which represent 7% of the way that we communicate. The other 93% are 38% is tone, and 55% is body language, which need to be practiced. This is a great start. I want to give that to you, and I’m sure you’ll be able to forward that in your show notes.

Fred Diamond: Absolutely. We’ll have that in the show notes. By the way, go reach out to Joe Marcoux on LinkedIn, tell him that you heard the show. Joe, you’ve given us so many great ideas, like I said, give us one final action step, something specific that sales professionals should do right now after listening to the show or reading the transcript, to take their sales career to the next level.

Joe Marcoux: The thing to do is find a mentor and practice with them as little as 30 minutes a week. That’s all it takes. Literally do the practice. You’re not going to get fit by going to the gym once and then, “Hey, I’m suddenly fit.” This requires practice, this is a skill, and sales is a perishable skill. Get out there, practice with somebody who’s better than you, because they get something out of it too.

Fred Diamond: We talk about sales mentoring a lot on the Sales Game Changers Podcast. Once again, I want to thank Joe Marcoux. My name is Fred Diamond, and this was the Sales Game Changers Podcast.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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