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Turn Objections Into Opportunities

Don't take "no" for an answer. Here are six smart ways to counter sales objections.
November 1, 2004
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/73478

Editor's note: This article is excerpted from Stop Cold Calling Forever!from Entrepreneur Press.

If you're passionate about what you do for a living-and I hope you are-you're going to have to make a determined effort to maintain your composure when a prospect starts launching objections about your product, service, or solution. It's natural, to some degree, to take these remarks personally, but it's also essential to keep your sense of balance and perspective when you're feeling you're on the grill.

Don't shoot from the hip. Don't improvise. Don't pain. Follow these simple rules when a prospect tells you your specs aren't right, your price is too high, your reputation isn't good enough, or your quality is suspect.

Rule 1: Remember, everything your prospect says has face value. Don't fight (internally or externally) with the individual who passed along the objection. Don't rebut. Don't get into point-by-point struggles. Take what follows to heart when you answer any objection.

Rule 2: Compare the objection to your own history as a salesperson. Is this objection something that, historically, you have had not control over? Is it unique to this buyer? Odds are, this objection has something in common with one you've heard before. Ask yourself, "Have I ever sold to someone who told me this?"

Rule 3: Analyze the objection. Is it reasonable? Would you make this objection if you were in your prospect's shoes?

Rule 4: Look at the big picture before you respond. Remember, you don't have to sell every person you come in contact with to be ahead of quota. You just have to sell the right ones.

Rule 5: Never offer judgments concerning the validity of the objection. Instead learn how to question the objection.

See What They Say

After years and years of hearing objections, I reached the following conclusions.

First, I had to totally disregard the standard "objection handlers" I found in sales books, such as "I understand how you feel; others have felt that way. Blah, blah , blah." None of it worked as well as I needed it to.

Second, there were really only two general ways to address what is at the heart of every objection. The first way I did this was by actually seeing what my prospects were saying, and the second way was to put words in their mouths. That sounds weird or manipulative, but it's neither. Read on.

What follows are five easy ways to see past the objection and one really cool way to introduce an objection before your prospect does.

Buy Anthony Parinello's Stop Cold Calling Forever today. Buy it now.

Objection Strategy 1: Up the Ante

When your question the objection tactfully and politely, you call the prospect's bid and raise her or him one. This approach is dramatic, and it's not what you'll read about in most sales training books. But I know you'll find that it delivers some extraordinary results if you do it-and stick with it.

Questions the objection allows you to get to the bottom of things in a hurry, which is what My Way is all about. After all, if there really is an insurmountable objection, don't you want to find out about it as soon as possible and track down prospects who are likelier to do business with you? Good, I thought so.

Questioning the objection involves using an "If not, then what?" formula. Here's an example of how questioning the objection works in practice:

Prospect: "Thanks for showing me the fall line, but your wholesale price is just too high. After we apply our standard markup, the retail price would be too high for the clientele who shop in our discount chain. I'll pass.

You" "Hmm. Okay, if our price were lower, low enough for you to make margin and price it right for your outlets, would you place an order for your stores today?"

Prospect: (Surprised pause, then) "No, the problem is that the style and material really aren't what I think they ought to be."

Bingo! The price wasn't the insurmountable obstacle you'd been led to believe. You're perfectly positioned to show other merchandise to this buyer.

You can use this tactic with virtually any objection that could come your way.

Objection Strategy 2: The Price Is Right

At my seminars I'll ask the audience, "Who here is working on a deal where they're getting beat up on price?" Consistently, 30 to 50 percent of the audience will raise their hands. That's a ridiculously high number, wouldn't you say?

You know what I think? I think it's a setup. Your prospects know that you're desperate to make the sale. And they also know that, all else being equal, the only meaningful negotiating point will be price. Try this:

Prospect: "Your price is too high." (Or: "You have a reputation of being the higher-priced provider.")

Top Salesperson: "Please define price."

Wow! Now your prospect is on the spot to articulate what price means to him and her-and you're in a position to listen and learn.

Don't ask a stupid question, one that will give you an answer that you don't do anything with. For example:

Know exactly what your limitations are and how much room you have to lower your price, and knock it down before anyone asks you to do it. Or better yet, keep your prices high, and sell only to prospects who appreciate the indisputable fact that you'll always get what you pay for.

Objection Strategy 3: Take the Challenge

Lets' say for a moment that your prospect is extremely happy with whomever the current source of supply is-si happy, in fact, that he or she would never, ever consider switching. That is, until you show up.

Prospect: "I saw your e-mail. Thanks for the call, but I am all set. My current PR firm is taking care of all my brand-awareness needs."

Top Salesperson: "Before you hang up, let me ask you-would you like to know what your loyalty to your current PR firm is costing you?"

I strongly suggest you use this verbatim. It's a very powerful way to find out if there is any shred of interest. And it's also a direct, but appropriate, challenge to the prospect's position. This is powerful stuff.

Bottom line: If you hear anything other than a click and a dial tone, you're in. Take a look:

Prospect: "What do you mean by that?"

Top Salesperson: "The other customers we have in your industry tell me that they're now able to _____________." (Fill in the blank with the value and benefits of your product or service.)

This response also works well for any prospects who have an internal source of supply that they're "totally" satisfied with. For example, if your prospect says, "My PR department is taking care of all of my needs," your response would be the same.

Don't turn and run when you hear this objection. This supposed deal-breaker sends many a salesperson away, feeling rejected and questioning whether or not they should go back to school and get another degree so they can get a "real" job. Don't you be one of them.

I promise, you will earn the respect of your prospect if you do use this approach to stand firm.

Be prepared. Have your response at the ready; rehearse it with your sales manager or a peer that you respect. Get your ducks in a row. Know the real differentiators between you and your closest competition.

Turn Objections Into Opportunities

Objection Strategy 4: Been There, Done That, Got the T-Shirt

Just about every company in existence has had some problem account that they really messed up and, as a result, have lost. Then along comes a new, unsuspecting salesperson in the territory-or maybe the past messed-up customer turns up on a hot-prospect list. Here's what it sounds like:

Prospect: "We used your line of [detergent], and it cost us a fortune in repair bills for our steam washers. I'll never use your company again."

Top Salesperson: "Sorry to hear that. Let me ask you, if your company's best salesperson just heard that objection from one of their past customers, how would you personally coach them in answering it."

If you hear anything other than a click and a dial tone, you're in business. Suppose you hear something like:

Prospect: "I'd tell your production department to get a new formula, and then I'd tell your quality assurance department to put proper warning labels on your packaging. And I'd tell your sales department to know everything about their product before they go out and try to sell it." Etc., etc.

As this prospect dumps on you, make sure you take notes. When the person is all done and feels heard, you can say something.

Top Salesperson: "Thank you very much. Here's what we've done." (Now articulate what, if anything, you've done to correct the situation-and more importantly, what you've done that this prospect suggested be done.)

The biggest insult you can give any prospect at this point is to become a "parrot" and say something totally lame:

Lousy Salesperson: "I can see that you've had a bad experience with our company in the past. Well, fortunately, that salesperson is no longer here. I am committed to doing whatever it takes to win your business back. Blah, blah, blah."

This will only succeed in getting the other person to tune out.

Be an ambassador for your organization, take the heat, do whatever it takes to make it right, and see to it that you and what you're selling are engaged in a constant improvement program.

Objection Strategy 5: Don't Agree to "Call Me in Two Months From Never"

You sent the e-presentation, you call to follow up, and everything's going great. Your prospect seems interested enough, but he's preoccupied. He makes a request that you've heard a thousand times before:

Prospect: "I am interested in your line of crop dusters, but I've got to do some year-end budget planning first. Call me in three months."

(What to do? Take a look.)

Top Salesperson: "Sure. Let me ask you, though: Let's say it's three months from now. What exactly would you want to see, hear, or experience during that time that would provide a complete understanding of our products, services, and solutions?"

Prospect: "Well, I'd first want to talk to someone who has a similar need to mine, and then I'd want to take a ride in the crop duster, and finally I'd want to have my aviation director take a look."

Top Salesperson: "I've got an idea. How about you and I grab a bite to eat with one of my customers sometime in the next month? What's your calendar look like?"

Or: "How about this? While you're crunching number, I can have a conversation with your director of aviation about..."

The key here is to offer several suggestions as to steps and actions that can easily take place during the idle time the prospect suggested.

It never ceases to amaze me how many salespeople will obediently take the blow-off and actually agree to give a callback in three months from never. Make no mistake, during that time your competition will be calling on this prospect and outpositioning you in the interim.

Have an arsenal of information, tactics, activities, correspondence, newsletters, touch points, lunches, lattes, and so forth that you can offer in response to the endless blow-off. It beats knee-jerk acceptance of a blow-off.

Objection Strategy 6: The Best Offense is a Good Defense

This extremely cool, highly effective, unorthodox strategy for dealing with objections comes to your courtesy of Joe Sugarman, the king of infomercials and an icon in marketing. You may not recognize the name, but you most likely have one or more of his products, such as his blue-blocker sunglasses. Here then is one of the best sales tactics that I've ever learned, compliments of Mr. Sugarman.

Every single product, service and solution in existence has its fair share of flaws. So the question is, what are you as a salesperson going to do when those flaws are pointed out? Oh, sure, you could be on the defense and "handle" the problem when it comes up, but how about turning the table? How about bringing up your worse objection before your prospect does? How about bringing it up when you want to take about it?

Let me give you an example. Let's say you're selling the highest-priced chemical cleaner on the market. And let's say that the price objection always rears its ugly head at a time when it typically isn't favorable to closing the sale that you've worked on so hard.

Top Salesperson (You): "Mr. Lowball, you'll find that we're the only provider of high-quality, extended-shelf-life, and EPA-compliant chemical cleaners on the market. And you'll also find that we're the highest-priced solution."

(There. You came right out and said it.)

Prospect: "Well, that's a problem. I've been asked to reduce expenses for the balance of this year."

Smart Salesperson: "Have you completed your annual EPA inspection?"

Prospect: "No, it's due to start in the third quarter."

Smart Salesperson: "Shall we provide you with enough cleaner to satisfy your needs until the end of the third quarter-and guarantee that you pass the inspection with flying colors?"

In every single case you'll gain the respect and confidence of your prospect with this approach.

Excerpted from Stop Cold Calling Forever!from Entrepreneur Press.