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Tough Sell

Take no for an answer? No sirree!
December 1, 1998

Here's a guarantee: Put a handful of veteran salespeople in a room together, and within a few minutes, they'll start telling war stories. No matter what they sell, they'll begin reminiscing about a prospect who was dead set against buying from them. Through sheer sales talent, of course, they overcame the person's objections and made the sale.

As every good sales book points out (and every good salesperson knows), the ability to overcome objection is what separates average salespeople from great ones. And if you're running your own homebased business, this skill could be the difference between succeeding and going back to being someone's employee.

Objections are what stop a sale. Period. You ask a prospect whether he or she wants to buy your product; the prospect says it's too expensive. That makes sense to you, so the meeting is over, right?

Wrong. Instead, when someone objects, listen carefully. Does he or she really think the price is too high, or is "no" just a knee-jerk response? Customers rarely accept the first offer in any situation--especially when it comes to price. Objections are also a way to buy time; your prospect may just want to think for a moment or hear about the product before making up his or her mind.

Hear the prospect out. Regardless of the objection, let him or her finish before responding. Many novice salespeople hear an objection and over-react. All they can see is a sale slipping away, so they anxiously interrupt. This results not only in cutting someone off, but appearing as if you're dying for the sale.

When the customer finishes speaking, be empathetic. First show that you understand the concern, then begin dealing with the objection. If it's price, agree that while initially, it may seem high, it's not when you consider how the product or service saves time, cuts costs, helps expand their business and so on. Don't sound like you're reading a script; mix the figures and the anecdotes. Personalize it to the prospect's business. Show clients you know their needs. As always, stress the benefits.

Sierra Madre, California, mother-and-daughter team Carol Evans and Kimberly Thomas recently started a homebased errand-running service. For a sliding fee, they do everything from picking up dry cleaning to house-sitting or taking pets to the veterinarian. Yet their sales and marketing efforts focus on how their services can ease the burden for single parents, dual-career families, people who travel often and so on. There's a big difference between offering to help a harried parent with chores and obligations and saying you'll pick up dry cleaning for 15 bucks.

Here are some tips to consider when dealing with objections:

However, sometimes a prospect is unreasonable. Maybe he or she wants you to cut your price in half. In that case, walk away. Be professional, thank the individual for his or her time, but walk.

Bill Kelley is a business writer in Arcadia, California.

Setting The Tone

Want to be more effective on the phone? Follow these tips:

Trade Wins

Going to your first trade show can be either a rewarding business experience, or a tremendous waste of time. Being prepared--especially for your first show--is the key to making sure it's profitable for you.

The most important decision is whether to go. If you don't have specific goals, forget it. You must decide exactly what you hope to accomplish. For example, commit to introducing yourself to two dozen new prospects, or speaking to vendors who can help you with a specific problem. Don't view it as a working vacation. Trade shows require work, and hard work at that.

If you do find the right show, heed the following tips:

Even if you don't plan on exhibiting in the future, keep a pen and paper handy. Take notes on the people you meet, and write down information about the companies you notice.

For The Record

Even the world's best marketing strategy won't work for you if it's not well-planned, and the best way to do that is to develop a customized work sheet for each client. Here's how to start:

1. List each company's top executives, products, and services. Make sure your marketing effort is aimed at the right individual.

2. Describe the products or services that you think best apply to each client. This is not a sales forecast but rather a listing of products you think can best help his or her business.

3. Make a list of your competitors. Include their products and any marketing programs they have. If they use fliers, advertisements and so on, list them and, if possible, the dates they appeared.

4. Write down the marketing plan you've use for each client. If you send anyone literature, be sure to include the date and result. Was a purchase made? Was there a request for more information? Did someone call? If no action was taken, note that, too.

5. Keep track of your marketing costs per client or prospect.

Only You

Unless your product or service is one-of-a-kind, you've got competition. To beat them, you have to make sure you're the key company, the one your customers turn to above all others. How do you do that if you're new and small? Try these strategies:

Contact Sources

Errands by Evans, (626) 355-9193,