As a salesperson, you put in a lot of time and effort to ensure that your product or services are needed by your prospect. However, no matter how compelling the need may be, no matter how excellent your product may be, prospects will always raise objections, and demand additional information. Consequently, you should welcome objections because once answered, they give you the potential energy to close the sale.
In selling, one definition of an objection, is ‘a reason given by the prospective customer why they are not ready to buy your product or service.’ Your success as a professional salesperson will depend on your ability to anticipate and handle a prospect’s objections. No matter how perfect your presentation is, at some stage, your prospect may raise an objection …. and how you handle it will make or break the sales game.
• Anticipate Objections
Objections scare new salespersons because they are not sure they can find convincing arguments to overcome them. However, sales professionals have learned how to take the prospect’s objection and turn it around in order to close the sale.
As a sales professional, you will probably put a lot of time and effort into developing a winning presentation to ensure that your product or service is needed by the potential prospect. Yet no matter how persuasive your presentation may be, and no matter how convincingly you present your product or services, there will be objections and doubts.
An easy exercise for you to do before you make your presentation is to review it in detail. When you get to a point where you think there might be a customer objection, write it down on a separate sheet of paper. Continue doing this until you have reviewed the entire presentation. Once you have finished, give your presentation to a colleague, asking him to give you any objections that come to his mind. You might find other areas of objections to work on before giving your presentation to a prospect. When you think you have covered all possibilities where objections could originate, continue to work on the solutions. Practice your answers. You may not be able to come up with all of the answers to make your presentation ‘objection proof’, but you will surely have a command on the presentation and be ready with answers in case of an objection..
The ability to anticipate an objection is very important but not nearly as important as developing the skills to overcome the objections. No matter how hard you try to list every possible objection, there will still be the times when the prospect raises an objection that you never thought of.
• The Inner Working of an Objection
The term objection has an additional meaning. As used here, an objection refers to ‘any hindrance voiced by the prospect which prevents you from moving to the next step in your presentation or closing the sale.’ The key word here is ‘voiced.’
Usually a lack of understanding on the part of the prospect is the reason for the objection. But objections have a structure that can enable you to analyze them, determine the cause, minimize their occurrence and deal with them effectively. It is important to work with the prospect to understand the exact nature and extent of his objections. When you welcome objections, you communicate to the prospect that his needs are important and will be addressed accordingly. Examples of this approach are as follows:
– Mr. Ahmed, I understand what you’re saying. Another client asked me the same question. Here is how I worked with him to satisfy his concern …’
– I am glad you mentioned that because it gives me the chance to show you how our product will solve that problem.’
There are five steps in dealing with objections:
1. Expect them and allow the prospect to express them freely.
2. Welcome them when they occur because they indicate an interest on the part of the prospect.
3. Affirm the objection by restating it in the form of a question to be answered, ‘So what you are saying is that the delivery schedule is a concern to you. Is it that bothers you?
4. Give complete answers to the objections. Use testimonials, past experiences or whatever relevant information you have.
5. When the prospect raises an observation that is perceived as a real drawback, present an compensating benefit such as, ‘Mr. Prospect, your concern about our delivery schedule, but we have transportation service to your area every second day. Your orders will be delivered on time.”
Never respond immediately to an objection. Very often prospect will continue talking to clarify his position or to offer more information. When this happens, wait for a few seconds and think about what he has said. Your pause shows a level of respect for what the prospect said.
One of the definitions of an objection is: ‘not ready to buy’; another is ‘any hindrance’. Look at objections as the prospect’s request for more information or justification. In order to close the sale, you must give him more information and explanation that he seeks. When you approach objections as requests for more information, your sale interview will move smoothly, you will handle objection effectively and you will move closer to a buying decision.
• Three Big Factors
Objections that face salespeople the most are:
The best way to handle objections is to appear as a knowledgeable, interested salesperson whose mission is to help the prospect achieve his objectives. Respond to objectives positively and respect the prospect’s actions as legitimate concerns. Let us discuss all these factors in details:
If the prospect seems skeptical about your presentation, your product / services or your ability to deliver, it could come from one of the following situations:
a. Promising too much. If you promise too much too soon or trivialize the uniqueness of the prospect’s situation you will surely lose him.
b. Failing to establish a rapport. You must listen and respond effectively. If the prospect thinks you are talking only in your terms, his interest in you will diminish rapidly. Learn to listen and respond effectively.
c. Not asking the right questions. Know enough about the prospect’s needs to be able to ask probing questions. Asking good questions is just as important as giving good answers.
d. Not fully answering questions. The prospect’s questions are real; do not think that they are ‘dumb questions’, and do not avoid a question because you think it is trivial. By not answering all questions, the prospect could think you are trying to conceal something.
e. Becoming defensive. If you appear to be defensive to an objection, you might antagonise the prospect. Always be open-minded, responsive and reply enthusiastically, not defensively.
f. Not Client-Centered. If you speak in general terms and do not address the specifics of the prospect’s objection, you have not given him the answer he is looking for.
g. Never be hasty. If you rush through your presentation or do not give enough consideration to the prospect’s concerns, you could make the prospect feel uneasy. Never linger on any one point, but do not give any quick answers either.
These objections fall into three categories:
a. Improper understanding of the need. A professional salesman has the ability to define and solve problems. By understanding the prospect’s situation, you are better able to offer the help or answers he needs. Take the time to get to the core facts and offer the solutions necessary to close the sale.
b. Inadequate goal definition. You have to know what the prospect’s goal is before you try to suggest a solution. If his main concern is to maximise monthly production and your product is a critical part in the production, speak in terms of providing the solution and help him to reach his goal.
c. Discuss benefits and not features. Provide specific examples of how the prospect will gain benefit from your product/service and your proposed solution to his objections. Do not give generalized answers to specific problems
If the prospect seems to be stalling, the reason might be one of these:
a. He is not the decision maker. If this is the situation, find out who the decision maker is and ask to meet with that person. This can be done by asking the prospect himself or trying to gain the information from the receptionist. A simple question, such as: ‘ Mr. Basit, I deal in the office equipments. Can you please tell me who in your organization is in charge of specifying and buying office equipments?’.
b. He is not sold on your product. Ask probing questions to determine what the problem is. ‘Are you not sure about our pricing?’;’ Are you concerned about our ability to deliver?’ or ‘What it is that bothering you in making your decision?’
c. He wants to get other proposals. Find out what his criteria is in the proposals. Also, see if you can determine what kind of information he is looking for. Ask if the project is going to be awarded on a competitive bid basis only. Try to be the last bidder to present.
d. He is too busy to talk to you right now. Ask him what his schedule is and when you can return or call him back. Also, it might be good to find out if the project is a reality and not just a fire drill.
e. Product is not budgeted. An excellent chance for you to show him cost benefits and be willing to adjust your scope of work to fit his time frame. “You have told me that his project has not been budgeted for this quarter. However, I can see that you need our products. I have spoken to our financial people and we are willing to invoice you at the start of the next quarter if you agree to receive a shipment within ten days.”
• Unvoiced Objections
An obvious question you might ask is: ‘How can I handle those objections that have not been raised.’
If you anticipate concerns based on the information you have gathered about the prospect and have spent enough time on your sales presentation analyzing problem areas, you can get clues on this and develop strategies to handle these unvoiced objections.
Start a discussion when you feel these objections are present. You can start by asking the question, ‘Is there anything else you would like to ask me?’ or, ‘Are there any other questions I can answer for you?’ A professional salesman will keep on probing until all of such questions become clear.
Here are some examples of unvoiced objections:
1. You cannot possibly understand my business because it is unique.
Answer: Highlight your experience in the industry and how you have been able to help other clients in similar situations.
2. Why should I buy from your organisation?
Answer: Tell the prospect how you have helped other companies in the same industry, and be ready to show him testimonials.
3. There is no need for a change in suppliers?
Answer: Highlight cost advantages and other benefits of doing business with your organisation.
4. I already have a regular supplier?
Answer: With our sound knowledge of the industry and ability to help companies increase production and profits, we feel that we could be of benefit to you.
This will also give the prospect a new level of confidence in you because you were not avoiding any of his concerns. Whenever it appears that the prospect has an unvoiced objection, it is the time to probe for information. For example, ‘ Mr. Saeed, it appears that you have a question about what I just said; am I right in my understanding?’
• How to Handle Objections
The best way to handle objections is to anticipate them and to answer them before they are asked. However, for those objections that arise abruptly or instantly during the sales interview, there is a list of ‘ do’s and ‘don’ts’ that you should consider.
These are common sense ‘Do’s’:
1. Always maintain a positive attitude and be enthusiastic.
2. Always remember that objections are a natural and integral part of the sales process and should not be considered as a personal insult.
3. Always maintain good eye contact, even when under pressure.
4. Always listen attentively to an objection.
5. Always acknowledge the objection and then express your thoughts.
6. Always justify your viewpoints with testimonials, documentation and references.
And now, some very important ‘don’ts’:
1. Never knock down or degrade your competition. That takes the focus off of you and your company and you never want to do that.
2. Never say anything negative about your organisation.
3. Never say anything negative about your product or service.
4. Never tell the customer that they are wrong.
5. Never tell the customer that ‘you don’t understand.’
6. Never argue with any buyer.
7. Never lie to a customer. Long term relationships are built on trust and honesty. It is far better to say, ‘I don’t know, but I will find out the right answer and get back to you as soon as possible.’
8. Never be defensive; it is a negative approach to an objection.
9. Never lose your temperament with the customer.
10. Never let an objection go without an answer.
• Some Common Objections & Their Answers
Following is a list of some of the common objections. One simple exercise to try is, take three index cards and on each card write a common objection that you have received from prospects. For each objection, list several responses. Commit these to memory and practice your presentation.
1. Your price is too high. This is by far the most common objection and perhaps the most difficult to handle. Prices are determined diligently, and are not easily changed. You must go to a benefit-oriented solution to the objection or offer some add-on service to offset the difference in price.
When the prospect says: Your price is too high, you may use any of the following answers (customize them according to the situation)
• Compared to what? … How much do you think it should cost?
• Mr. Prospect, our quality / service is the best you can find in the market, and it means that you pay much less over the life of the product.
• Mr. Ahmed, our price is a bit higher than what other companies charge. However, we sell over 1 million units a year at the same price. We can’t sell so much if our buyers were not convinced that this is the best price.
2. I am not interested.
• Obviously you should not be interested until I show how our product can save you money and increase your profit.
• Mr. Niazi, 25 organisations have purchased this product during the last two weeks, and they all began by saying that they were not interested. But they bought because they found that our product would increase their productivity, save them money and solve some of their problems.
3. I will think it over.
• Mr. Sami, as a smart businessman you have made bigger decisions than this. What not make the decision right now and free your mind to think about the really big issues in your business?
• What exactly do you want to think about? …. Let us both think it over; sometimes two heads are better than one.
4. I don’t have the time to discuss that right now. This may be true, but only up to a certain point. It is a courtesy to respect your prospect’s busy schedule, however, it is reasonable to ask when he will have time to discuss the situation.
5. We don’t have the need right now. The obvious answer is: May I leave some literature with you and contact you later on?
6. My manager has to approve this. One way to avoid this objection is to be sure you are dealing with the right person, the decision maker. Not having done this, the natural response could be: All right; when will you be talking to your manager, please?
7. I already have a supplier for that product / service. Your job here is to convince the prospect that even though he has a supplier, you think you can do a better job and make him hear your presentation.
8. Your product doesn’t meet our specifications. Ask the prospect where you are lacking. Once you have that information, you can then customize your presentation and address the objection accordingly.
9. How long has your company been in business?. If your company has a proven track record, present it for the prospect’s review. Show him testimonials, brochures and printed material in the form of articles or press releases. It will establish your credibility.
See how many other answers you can develop to handle these common objections. Chances are that, as a salesperson, you will not close every deal. Some will fall by the wayside. You have no real control over that. However, you can minimise those situations by preparing yourself in advance. Develop a persuasive presentation; know it very well; practice it in front of others; be open-minded in identifying the potential objections and then go out in front of the prospect and give it your best shot.
You will win some sales and you will lose some sales; so, just remember this little equation developed by the noted American sales trainer Bob Ruth:
SWL + SW = SW
meaning, Some will like you; some won’t like you; so what?