In the last issue, we discussed how objections are opportunities to be more effective by uncovering the questions and thinking of the customer. When your prospect expresses a concern, think of them as reasons to continue selling. In this issue, we discuss more ways to manage objections by breaking down the customer’s resistance.
Once an objection has been isolated and appraised, we must offer a solution, but without proving the buyer wrong or seeming insensitive to needs. Otherwise, customers may feel the desire to defend their reasoning, and the buyer may become even more entrenched in their original beliefs.
The art of cushioning helps solve this dilemma and is a crucial step in the objection strategy. Cushioning is simply a linking statement that acknowledges that what the customer says or feels is important and appreciated. Cushioning is empathy-based and meets the human condition of feeling understood. Use these supporting dialogs each time your customer says something that shows her reasoning or brings up a point that needs to further discussion or clarification.
Realize that cushioning does not necessarily mean we agree with the customer’s statement. The purpose of cushioning is to demonstrate to the customer that their concern was understood and significant. As an opposite example, suppose our customer raises an objection. Then suppose we say something like, “Ms. Customer, that’s not so. You are crazy to think that.” Obviously, even if we do not agree with the customer, we would not answer her objection in that way. Our goal is to avoid conflict and find a point of understanding and harmony between the customer and ourselves before we address the objection. “Great point! I’m glad you brought that up!”
Salespeople who omit the cushioning step may unfittingly use “but” or “yea, but” as a transition to answering a concern. “But” or worse, “yea, but” statements negate your empathy and may seemingly contradict the customer. As an example of what I am saying, consider this objection, “Your price is considerably higher than I expected.” Solution statement, “Yea but, we offer affordable financing.” Instead try, “To help you with that, we offer affordable financing.”
Our next step is to address the issue. This is where salespeople sometimes get scared. They have not taken the time to know and rehearse the pros and cons of their products. To resolve this, consider making a list of common objections along with insightful solutions. Gain product knowledge by checking with your management, colleagues, literature and manufacturers. Be resourceful.
Before we address an objection, I think we must first ask ourselves if the concern is valid. If it is, then we must acknowledge this truth and provide a better solution. If you truly believe the objection is not valid, then we need to give further information in a way that does not make the customer feel ridiculous or they are not being taken seriously. Again, the last thing a customer wants to be told is they are wrong.
Before we move forward, let us first be clear. An objection is really about fear—a fear of buying. A fear that they are making the wrong decision. A fear that our product will not meet their design or functional needs. Are they are spending too much? A fear of how others will judge their decision. A fear of change.
Begin your resolution with the end in mind. Start every customer resolution with one simple internal question, “What is the desired outcome?” Your answer sets the tone for resolving the situation efficiently while working within the realm of what is possible. Of course, we want to make the sale, but to be successful at this, we must envision the customer’s desired outcome as well as our own. If we are honest about our appraisals, it can be surprising how fair-minded and thoughtful customers can be while taking their own personal interests into consideration.
Do not use long-winded responses, as they may make you appear insecure. Keep your responses clear and to the point. Please do not wing it either—buyers will sense this, and that creates doubt and distrust.
To make sure your solution or explanation has been understood and does not linger as a critical issue, we must get agreement on critical issues. In other words, we should not assume the customer agrees with or understands every point we make. Therefore, after answering an objection, you might conclude with questions which ask for feedback such as, “Will that meet your needs?” ... “How does that sound to you?” ... “What are your thoughts about that idea?” In doing this, we are making the customer the final consultant.
Caveat: Be careful with confirming questions such as, “Does that make sense?” Or “Does that clarify things for you?” as these concluding questions may appear condescending to certain people.
Finally, to avoid any chance of receiving a false “yes” on important points, you might add, “Is there any part of your concern that you feel is still left unaddressed?” If she still says “no,” we move on. Remember, objections buried alive never die; they just come back and haunt you! Together, these confirming queries put you on common ground and make you the trusted advisor while constructively controlling the direction of the sale.
By resolving sales objections in the right way, we strengthen our relationships with our customer. Properly solving objections helps ensure that our conversations stay positive, focused, and consultative. Our ability to manage objections correctly allows us to move forward in a non-confrontational way.