Dr. Brian Monger
A sale is not complete until it has been properly implemented.
The two greatest problems faced by both new and experienced salespeople are (1) how to handle objections, and (2) how to close the sale. In the case of a new or inexperienced salesperson, fear is often part of the problem – fear that he or she will be unable to handle objections and will thus lose the sale. This fear is justified because, with only rare exceptions, you cannot close a sale as long as the prospect has any major objection or objections – remaining. Conversely you usually cannot close a sale unless the prospect has considered the offer seriously enough to have developed objections. Thus you have to understand the principles and techniques of handling objections before attempting to master closing techniques.
Objections or doubts are present in nearly every sales interview. They may be real or valid ones, hidden ones, or mere excuses to put you off. Once you learn how to anticipate, recognise, and handle them, your fear will vanish and the problem of facing them will diminish. True professional salespeople not only welcome but also seek out objections so that they can answer them to the prospect’s satisfaction at the earliest strategic moment.
Your prospect’s objections, properly answered, can help you make a sale – but if you encounter strong resistance in presentation after presentation, it may be a signal that it’s time to review your presentation. Does it still sound fresh? Are you putting into it the same enthusiasm you once did? Are you really tailoring it to individual prospects? Are you yourself sold on what you sell, and does that come through in your presentation?
If your presentation is carefully prepared and carefully delivered, with sensitivity to your prospect’s problems, objections in most cases will be relatively few, and temporary. Since objections and doubts are present in nearly every sales interview, however, you must be prepared to recognise and handle them, and to turn them to your advantage. The purpose of this section is to show you how to do this.
Once a salesperson has answered a question or objection, a favourable response to the answer by the prospect can often be turned immediately into an excuse for a trial close (trying to get a quick decision). In some cases, even the first objection is a signal that the prospect is ready to buy. In those cases, rare though they may be, the salesperson can close within a few minutes. With such possibilities always present, the salesperson who knows how to handle objections quickly becomes a better closer.
Why Are Objections Raised?
Since all salespeople have to deal with objections day after day, interview after interview, it may help to give some thought to why they are raised. Some objections are honest ones; others are mere stalls for time, and others are intended as bids for information. Many people object to the idea of being sold; others just do not like to part with their money and thus try to avoid a decision as long as possible.
Honest objections of a business nature may involve the following points:
1. A desire to know all facts of your proposal as they affect the buyer’s firm or organisation. Since the buyer is paid to handle the money of his or her organisation carefully, he or she has every right to voice objections or doubts until each is fully satisfied.
2. A search for proof that your product or service will fulfil a need, will increase profits or cut costs, and will perform exactly as you claim.
Sincere objections of a personal nature may involve the following points:
1. A desire to feel that he or she (the buyer) is making the decision and is not being sold anything.
2. A desire to know all the facts so as to be reassured in his or her own mind that the purchase will be of value.
3. A need to be a participant or partner in the sale – to have his or her opinion listened to with respect.
4. A basic fear of making a decision, which indicates that he or she is not yet convinced in spite of apparent agreement with the salesperson.
A salesperson may encounter objections of both a business and a personal nature when selling to the buyer of a firm or organisation. As we learned, while such buyers strive to effectively represent their organisations through a rational decision-making process, they are also influenced by personal feelings and emotions.
Many objections, especially some of the standard ones such as “It costs too much,” “I can’t make a decision at this time,” or “I’ll have to think about it” are mere smoke screens and do not represent any real objection at all. Thus you cannot afford to take all such objections at their face value; you have to find the real objection and answer it. But this real objection may be so deeply rooted in preconceived ideas or prejudice that prospects themselves are not specifically aware of the inner reasons for their negative responses. We will discuss methods for discovering the real or hidden reasons shortly. First, however, we consider your personal attitudes toward objections in general.
What Should Your Attitude Toward Objections Be?
Your attitude should basically be that of welcoming objections and answering them positively rather than evading, ignoring, or resenting them. As we shall soon discuss, timing and controlling the handling of them may vary, but you must finally acknowledge all objections to the prospect’s satisfaction in order to close the sale.
Questions designed to uncover hidden objections must be phrased carefully, however, in order not to accidentally trigger a flat “no” response. Once prospects have said “no,” they have a position to defend, and your job of persuading them to say “yes” becomes must more difficult. Thus, yes-building questions are desirable, and it is best not to try for a decision until you are fairly confident that it will be a favourable one.
Major closing problems come more often from procrastinators, who cannot make up their minds, than from prospects who have solid reasons for not buying. In either case, you should not consider a “no” or “not interested now” as final but merely as an invitation to continue selling harder.
Most objections are standard ones, common to all fields of selling, and salespeople have devised many persuasive techniques to cope with them. Other objections require special handling and considerable knowledge, empathy, and flexibility on your part. Your attitude in all cases should be one of securing agreement rather than securing mere submission from your prospect.
You should welcome an objection because it offers a clue to what your prospect thinks or feels. It pinpoints an area on which you should concentrate and offers insight into his or her wants and buying motives.
Prior Planning Can Anticipate Or Forestall Many Objections
What kind of objections may be encountered, and how can they be forestalled within the presentation? Here is a brief list of some common (or standard) objections plus a few less common ones. We will present techniques of handling these and others shortly.
Some Common Objections
Your price is too high.
I cannot afford it.
I am not interested at this time.
I am satisfied with what I am currently using.
Some Less Common Objections
Your product is too new.
Your credit terms are not favourable enough.
We have a better offer from your competitor.
I have heard that some other company had trouble with your product.
Such objections can be forestalled by incorporating into the presentation certain points that counter the objection before it is voiced. This forestalling can be accomplished without your having to ever state the objection yourself. For example, if your product or service is higher prices than that of a competitor, you can openly acknowledge the fact, then proceed quickly to stress value, benefits, quality, performance, satisfaction, or any key features other than price.
You can anticipate some of the less common objections, and, as in the case of the “your-product-is-too-new” objection, you can forestall them during the presentation in much the same manner as you can the price objections. Knowledge of what is going on in your industry and of what your competition is offering prepares you to handle promptly other less common objections.
A carefully planned interview, presented in a logical, clear, understandable, convincing manner, can effectively eliminate all or most basic objections. Nevertheless, prospects raise some objections in nearly every interview, so you have to understand the strategy, psychology, and techniques of dealing with them.
Dr Brian Monger is Executive Director of MAANZ International and an internationally known consultant with over 45 years of experience assisting both large and small companies with their projects. He is a specialist in negotiation and behaviour He is also a highly effective and experienced trainer and educator
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