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Objection!

Customer's objections offer a window of opportunity for closing the sale.

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Until a prospect reveals the truth about what he or she isthinking during the sales process, no salesperson--no matter howgood--can move in the direction of closing the sale. Maybe it'sa temporary truth, such as "It's more than we want topay." But for that customer, at that time, you have to takewhat they say at face value.

Most salespeople cringe when the truth surfaces because it'sgenerally in the form of an objection. The solution to handlingobjections successfully is to anticipate them in advance so you canconvert them into opportunities. If you do this, you'll findthat hearing objections won't have such an emotional impact onyou. Instead of feeling shaken, you'll feel confident that theprospect is giving you a foundation to stand on as you chip away atthe problem.

Here are four ways to anticipate an objection:

1. Keep an objection journal. You'll encounter plentyof objections in your daily meetings with customers. Keeping a listhelps you formulate answers to future objections.

The good news about objections is, you either overcome them oryou learn something valuable when you don't overcome them. Getin the habit of examining every lost sale. I often write downthings I should have said that may work during the next go-aroundwith that customer.

2. Study human nature. Certain types of objections seemto go with particular personalities. Conservative customers whoponder every purchase may object to costs. Brush up on yourfinancial answers before meeting with them. Technically orientedcustomers may ask mechanical questions. If necessary, take along atechnical person from your company on these sales calls.

3. Investigate proven methods. Study sales experts'proven techniques to handle objections. Adapt their approaches tocreate your own method of conquering objections.

One of the best books I can recommend for dealing withobjections is Neil Rackham's Spin Selling (McGraw-Hill).Rackham treats each objection as a problem to be solved and uses aformula to analyze objections.

4. Become a logical and clear communicator. When yourknowledge of the product is comprehensive enough to give customersa clear understanding of your proposition, they are less likely toobject. Instead, they can weigh the pros and cons in their mindsand hopefully overcome the negatives themselves.

Six Steps To The Sale

As you deal with objections, you must remain confident throughall the ups and downs of the prospect's thinking. It took yearsfor me to learn not to ride the same emotional roller coaster as myprospects. Once I noticed that all motivated prospects seemed toshow certain tendencies while making a buying decision, Irelaxed.

Customers getting ready to make a buying decision follow asix-stage behavior pattern. Depending on the purchase, goingthrough all six stages can take anywhere from 15 minutes to twoyears.

1. Exploration. When prospects begin researching aproduct or service, they don't always recognize their exactneeds or the available options. In the early stages of the salesprocess, you are the informer, enabling prospects to explore thepossibilities.

Don't get discouraged when they make negative comments. Atthis point, customers are still investigating, and you must gaintheir confidence by letting them feel free to make comments andobjections. By letting you see how they think, they're givingyou the insight to start overturning the foundation of objectionson which they're standing.

This is also your opportunity to start driving home a fewpositive points about your product. When prospects see youanswering three or four objections with honest answers, they'lleventually realize you know what you're talking about.

The temptation at this point is to push too hard. The solution?Always have a good supply of prospects in your pipeline. No onesale should ever be so important that it motivates you to push forit this soon.

2. Slight withdrawal. Some prospects reactenthusiastically from the outset, but most refrain from showingearly excitement. They may not yet be ready to accept a particularpart of your sales talk that will influence them more effectivelylater.

When you sense early withdrawal, remain positive, upbeat andconfident, realizing it may be the customer's own ignorancethat prompts him or her to say, "This seems like too muchmoney."

Conscientious salespeople, like conscientious lawyers, learn tohandle objections from case studies. Use the following fictitiousone--The Fly-by-Night Case Study--to help you anticipate andovercome objections. Replace my examples with your own product orservice.

Suppose you sell "Detachable Wings" to executives whowant to fly out their office windows at a moment's notice. Whenyou made the first sales call, a few of the senior vice presidentslet you fly out their 19th-floor executive offices and fly back in,causing great excitement. They all began chattering about the moneythe company would save in air fares and how convenient it would beto get to work without sitting in traffic. At the second interview,however, the management team seems slightly withdrawn. "Wearen't really sure if we need these detachable wings right now.We are a growing company, and perhaps we should put our money towork by investing in something more sensible."

3. More questions and interest. As long as you keepmoving forward with an upbeat sales talk, knocking each objectionflat on its face, a customer's interest is heightened, and heor she will start to ask you more questions. A legitimate prospectenjoys challenging the salesperson's knowledge anddedication.

"Will these wings last five years with no overhaulsrequired?"

"Did you say we can get all the senior officers' wingsat a 30 percent discount?"

Think of these as "verification questions." I used tohave to calm myself down when these questions started coming at me.My mind was rushing ahead with thoughts like "Yippee. You didit, kid. You sold them!"

But I learned the hard way not to jump the gun. Whenever youcount your commissions before they are cashed, you get bounced outof the bank. Don't get excited; just respond to theprospect's further probing with calm, confident answers.

4. Deliberate pondering and brainstorming. Now thecommittee is having a pow-wow about the wings. If you're in onit, shut up and listen. They may be getting jumpy becausethey're close to making a buying decision. In that case, youmay hear meaningless comments and objections one minute andpositive acknowledgements the next. Customers are walkingcontradictions when they reach this level.

"Isn't the lease on our corporate jet almostup?"

"I hope so. I don't want that thing just sitting in thehangar eating up corporate funds."

"Do we need a pilot's license to fly with thesethings?"

"That does it. I'm not buying these wings because testsmake me a nervous wreck. After I passed the bar, I swore I'dnever take another exam."

"Do we really need these wings?"

You may be tempted to jump into the discussion. Don't. Letthe group work their way out of it themselves. If you've donean impeccable job demonstrating features and benefits, you will getanother chance to clarify.

5. More doubt, questions and anxiety. "You told usonce, but tell us again--what happens if we break a wing?" Youmust have the mental toughness to answer questions unemotionallywithout knowing their outcome.

"Remember I said if you break a wing, you're equippedwith a waist pack that has two extra wings. You'll have plentyof time prior to descent to snap one off and replace it."

You are in real trouble if you don't have a logical answerat this point in the sales process. It may indicate to the prospectyou have a faulty product or poor product knowledge.

6. Resolving and finalizing doubt. The customers havecome full circle on their own, thanks to your expert guidance.You'll now begin to sense the sell. There is a feeling in theair that no stone has been left unturned.

"If we put up the money for these wings and decide within acertain time frame that things aren't working out, can we getour money back?"

This objection might have been covered earlier when you said,"If after 30 days you can't get off the ground, we willrefund your money--no questions asked." But when customers areclose to a buying decision, they need one last reassurance that noone is going to take advantage of them.

Objections are overcome by salespeople who not only possess adeep passion for and knowledge of their product, but also have theconfidence to walk (or fly) away when necessary, allowing thecustomer to make a final decision. Otherwise, the sale will neverget off the ground.

For More Info . . .
McGraw-Hill Professional Book Group, 11 W. 19th St., New York, NY10011, (212) 337-5045.

Danielle Kennedy has presented sales and marketing seminarsand keynote addresses worldwide to more than 46 differentindustries. She is the author of five books on sales as well asaudio and video sales training programs. You can reach her bywriting her in care of Entrepreneur, 2445 McCabe Way,Irvine, CA 92614.

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