Sell to Win

Beating the ‘I’ve never heard of you’ objection: 5 sales experts share their best strategies

Audrey Braun
Contributor, Sell to Win
Audrey Braun
Contributor, Sell to Win
Business person with a question mark I've never heard of you objection

“Your product sounds great, but why should I try a company that isn’t on my radar?”

Objections are a completely normal part of the sales process. We know this, we accept this, and yet they still have the power to derail a sales conversation.

When you’re competing in a saturated industry with well-established leaders, the “I’ve never heard of you” objection can be particularly tough to knock down. We asked five sales professionals their experiences with this objection and their go-to responses to overcome it.

Related: How to beat the 'I have no budget' objection

1. Offer what your competitors can’t

Chad Johnson, VP of Sales & Business Development in the Automotive Industry

When it comes to selling for a small business, self-awareness is your best friend. Chad Johnson, VP and mentor of Sales & Business Development, suggests clearly knowing the strengths and weaknesses faced by your company. Johnson suggests the following rough outlines to help your small business navigate these calls: 

“We are able to customize solutions specifically to your business.  Unlike larger companies that offer Take It or Leave It packages, we are more flexible and able to dial in specifically to your needs.”

“Yes our larger competitors offer similar solutions, however they aren't able to match the level of customer service we provide. We are more available and provide service and solution training on your schedule rather than when we can fit you in like our competitors.”

“Being a smaller company means we don't have the overhead costs of many of our competitors. Where they will charge you for training sessions, or set up fees for their solutions, we won't, and where there are items with fixed costs, we are going to be less expensive as we don't mark up our services as steeply as they might.”

2. Focus on building trust

Martin Lamberti, B2B Sales Coach

Without trust, your sales process would pretty much halt at the first call. Martin Lamberti, a B2B sales coach, says, “Honesty upfront helps to build rapport.” This approach to sales allows for business relationships to emerge from these otherwise one-off calls. Lamberti says:

"In the objection of 'I've never heard of you before,' it's all about trust, right? In any cold call, the prospect doesn't trust the salesperson...So one of the biggest remedies to trust is doing business with a company that's well known, it eliminates risk.

That said, the salesperson could try to get to the bottom of the trust thing. For example, you could say '[You've never heard of us] because we're the new kid on the block and we invest all our money into our clients, rather than marketing. Would you mind sharing with me why you mention that?...So if I understand you correctly, it's about trust, is that correct? I totally understand that...Given that we are new on the block, what else could we do to establish trust?'”

3. The PERTA (Press/Empathize/Respond/ Test/Appointment) Framework and the Endless Chain of Referral

Jack Ducanis, Senior Sales Executive at Wells Fargo

“Every salesperson is their own small business, in a way.”

According to Senior Sales Executive, Jack Ducanis, you’ve got to understand that no matter what you do, objections are coming. It’s just a part of the job. His recommendations for heading off the “I’ve never heard of you objection” are:

  • Start the call by introducing yourself and exactly who you’re calling for—being unsure of this dilutes the call and shows you haven’t really done your research
  • Explain why they’re a good fit for your company and try to alleviate objections before they’re stated. Most objections start with “why are you calling me?” This is where the endless chain of referral comes into play. The prospect is going to be much more open to hearing your pitch if you’ve been referred through a mutual connection. So, to do this, Ducanis encourages getting testimonial letters, reviews, or survey results to “create your own good news.” In doing so, you convince the prospect that you are worth giving a chance.

If you do encounter an objection, use the PERTA Framework. Ducanis says, “When you’re new, you have to earn all of these to get an appointment.” The steps of the PERTA Framework are...

  1. Press for specifics — The more detailed they get in their justification of the objection, the better you can address their concerns
  2. Empathize — Understand that this objection is a valid concern to prospective customers who have historically opted for the “tried and true” category leader
  3. Respond with appropriate facts — Explain that you’ve done great work and have results to show for it. Give them relevant information about why your company can compete despite your size.
  4. Test for a reaction — See if they’re open to your services
  5. Set an appointment
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4. The EIHC Framework (Empathy/Isolate/ Handle/Close)

Emil Ivan, Global Development Lead at Ascensos

When it comes to calls with leads that aren’t familiar with your company, Emil Ivan, Global Development Lead at Ascensos, recommends the Empathy/Isolate/Handle/Close framework. Similar to the PERTA method, Ivan suggests taking your time to listen and understand your prospect. However, Ivan also suggests closing the deal by reiterating your ask.

As he told Nutshell:

Empathy. Show your prospect you understand their perspective and they’re not alone in their hesitancy. This step will relieve the stress of the context and will bring the client back into the conversation.

Isolate. Clearly identify the hesitation and make sure there are no other hidden objections (e.g.: “Just to ensure I’ve got this right, the only thing that makes you hesitate is  …”; “Is there anything else other than …, that makes you hesitate?”)

Handle objections. Overcome hesitations by presenting the product/meeting’s benefits from a different perspective, or in a different way. It is important to focus on product benefits and not features (e.g.: “a sharpened pencil writes with a thin line which allows you to write more text before your hand gets tired” vs. “this pencil has a 0.5mm lead”)

Close. Ask the customer for the sale again. This is a point left out in most sales countering objections pitches. Based on the context you can try a soft close around benefits, timelines (e.g.: “how does this timeline sound for you”) or a hard close (“are you interested?”)

The above can apply to both B2C (where sales happen mostly on the same customer contact or on a very small number of contacts) and B2B (where the object of the “sale” becomes securing the next step in a longer sales cycle).

As an internal coaching/training process to improve handling performance skills within the sales team, you can organize short brainstorming groups to develop multiple approaches for each one of the above 4 steps based on industry, context, product, etc., as well as conducting objections role plays to rehearse various combinations of EIHC.

Ultimately, successful sales is about having enough of the right kind of conversations with enough of the right kind of prospects that lead eventually to an agreement, i.e. the sale. Designing and deploying an Objection Handling framework can help ensure early on in the sales process that you’re not wasting your valuable time on having the wrong conversations with the right prospects or vice versa.

5. Beat them to the punch

John McCormack, Retired Sales Professional of 44 years

The best objection to deal with in a call is no objection. In John McCormack’s 44-year career as a sales professional, his best practice and word of advice is to beat the prospect to the punch. In his words:

A long time ago, I first heard the name of a particular company and my first reaction was, “who would want to do business with a weird name company like that?” The company was Google. But what was most important wasn’t the name of the company, it was what the company did, and then I wanted to know more.

I had my greatest sales successes working for companies no one ever heard of. On the cold call, I would announce upfront that we hadn’t spoken previously and get right to the point. Frankly, that objection rarely came up and if it did, I considered that an opportunity to differentiate. Whether the prospect knew me or my company, or not, I never considered it to be important and therefore I felt it shouldn’t be a consideration for the prospect not to engage. If he doesn’t recognize the caller ID or recognize the number, the moment the prospect answers the phone, he’s thinking “I wonder who this is,” and with the following opening, you’ve answered his question without his even asking:

“Hi Mr. Jones, this is Jim Smith calling with XYZ Corp. You and I haven’t spoken before and I’m calling in regard to [the service in question]”

Final thoughts…

All of these well-established sales professionals agree on a few key points: know your company, know your customer, and know how to listen and respond accordingly.

When it comes to beating the “I’ve never heard of you” objection, each salesperson has to find their own best practice. What works for one company may not work for another.

Our solution? Try things out within your own team and figure out what feels right for you and your company. Once you have that down, make sure to keep your CRM updated and get selling!

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