When customers object or voice their concerns, your measure as a salesperson is what you do next. And your first response might be to start talking...

When customers object or voice their concerns, your measure as a salesperson is what you do next. If you are concerned about your numbers or your paycheck, your first response might be to start talking, using your incredible persuasion skills to encourage the customer to change her mind.

As soon as she feels you are trying to pin her down and lead her to your conclusion, however, the trust alarm goes off and you will likely get resistance rather than cooperation.

But if you are more concerned about the customer than the immediate sale, you might say to her that you understand, because buying a new floor is a big decision and she will likely have to live with her choice for a long time. You want her to be sure, so you might give the customer your card or load her up with samples and send her on her way, praying that she will return.

Both approaches are ineffective. One drives the customer away, the other encourages her to quit and leave on her own. In either case, the selling ends. In retail, since most customers come to you of their own volition, not much selling occurs until the customer offers her first objection or concern. 

Research shows that in order to assert control, most customers have a psychological need to object at least once. That means giving up or overselling is not helping the customer. Real selling is helping customers succeed or get what they want. It is not an attempt to be nice; it is not philanthropic or selfless. It is also a powerful means of getting what you want! So, what you do next really matters. And that’s when the selling really begins.

Last month I explained that you must open the customer’s mind by cushioning or respecting her need to voice her concern; do an in-depth inquiry of what’s fueling that concern and verify that it is the cause of her reluctance to continue. Once the real concern is verified, then and only then can it be addressed.

If you find that the products you have offered have not met her needs, the natural next step is to show her more products. Caution: A major cause of customer indecisiveness is overwhelming choice. As Barry Schwartz said, showing her too many products “may discourage her because it forces an increase in the effort that goes into making a decision. So she decides not to decide, and doesn’t buy the product.”

The optimal approach would be to ask her more questions and dig deeper into what’s important to her. In order for her to feel in control, never assume you can move forward without her consent. Always say something like, “To help me better understand, would it be okay if I asked you a few more questions?”

    When a clearer picture is attained, you can then say, “Based on what you have told me, I think there are two or three products that might be perfect for you. May I show them to you?”  You don’t need to show the customer every product you sell.

Rule of thumb: Ask enough engaging questions that allow you to present to her no more than three to five products. If she feels understood, her mind will be more open to your suggestions.

However, if she has concerns about a particular product that she really likes, and the product, in your mind, is perfect for her, then your responsibility is to alleviate those concerns. Selling is about enabling the customer to make a decision to buy. Handling verified objections or concerns is another master selling skill.

There are five ways to answer customers’ concerns:1. Deny the Concern is Valid
This should be used sparingly at best, but there are times it is the most effective. It’s never a good idea to tell the customer she is wrong, but sometimes it has to be done.

For instance, let’s say the customer says that she heard that your installers are poor or that your company is dishonest. You know this is not true. That’s when you look the customer in the eye and with passion and emotion, you tell her so using any evidence you can muster. It’s effective when used appropriately.

2. Clarify Concerns and Questions
A second way to handle a customer concern is to clarify any concerns or questions she may have by explaining and providing evidence in more detail. This may include clarifying warranties, explaining what happens on the day of installation or itemizing all that’s included when purchasing a certain product. Many times a simple clarification can move the purchase along. Using a brochure, spec sheet or printed document to legitimize your explanation is very effective.

3. Reverse the Concern
The third and most powerful way to handle a concern is to “reverse” it. You use the customer’s reason for objecting as the reason she needs to buy. Let’s suppose she says, “It’s more than I wanted to spend.”  You can say, “That’s the very reason you ought to buy it. Need I remind you how unhappy you are with your last floor?  Yes, this floor is more expensive, but you will be much happier with its performance and its longevity. As you know you get what you pay for.”

While marketing my seminars, potential attendees would sometimes respond, “We can’t afford to attend a seminar.”  I’d reply, “That’s the very reason you should come. You’ll be learning great selling skills that will help you increase your average ticket, sell at high margins, close more sales and make more money. You can’t afford not to come.”  Using the customer’s own reason is powerfully persuasive.

4. Reframing
The fourth method is reframing; that’s changing the customer’s perception of the issue. Let’s say the customer’s verified concern is going over her budget. You might say, “With our easy payment plan, that’s only $10 more a month.”  What you have done is changed her focus from the total amount to the significantly smaller monthly payment. You “reframed it.”

5. Building Value
 This last method of handling concerns is most effective with pricing issues. You can always make a sale by giving things away; the real selling begins when you start shaping the customer’s perception of value. Customers judge value by what they get in return for the dollars they pay. So when a customer says your price is too high, what they are really saying is that “my perceived value of your product is not worth what you are asking me to pay. Instead of lowering the price, you will tell the customer why the product is worth the price according to what is important or valuable to her.

Handling concerns is not done by over-selling or by becoming aggressive. It’s discovering what’s important to the customer and offering understanding and clarification to her concerns so that she is empowered to make a decision. The key is not to quit when she says “no” but to skillfully guide her to a decision that is right for her.