Handling Objections

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Customers who are not ready to decide on a purchase often come up with objections, statements about what is holding them back. You can overcome these objections if you are prepared to respond to them in a calm, rational way. Often all that customers need is more information to make them feel more confident about their purchase.

In these situations you need to be careful not to start an argument with a customer or belittle the customer’s concerns. In fact, you might decide to agree with a customer to a certain point but then show the customer a different way of thinking about the purchase. For example: “I know that buying new windows is a big investment, but let’s look at what you can expect to save in energy costs.”

There is a saying: “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. Although this is something of a cliché and not 100% applicable, it gives a good example of how you can deal with customer objections by turning them to your advantage. 

Naturally, people will be reluctant to part with money that they have worked hard to earn, and will not want to spend without being absolutely convinced that the spending has been worthwhile. This means that they will be on the look-out for things that will make the purchase less worthwhile. Your task as a salesperson is to hear and understand their objections, but convince them to look at things differently.

Common Types of Objections

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Here are some of the real reasons why people are unwilling to make a purchase:

  • They don’t have the money.
  • They can’t get financing. 
  • They can’t decide on their own.
  • They think they can get a better deal from someone else.
  • They’re not sure your product will meet their needs.
  • They think your product is overpriced.
  • They want to shop around.
  • They have an established relationship with another vendor.

Each of these objections has the potential to be the banana skin on which your sales pitch slips and falls. Equally, if you listen to what they have to say and offer a different way of looking at things, they have the potential to be turned into positive reasons for purchasing. 

Often from preliminary conversations it is possible to foresee what objection will arise and how to counteract that objection, and by your command of the situation you can convince the customer that you know what you are talking about.

There is a sense in which sales are all about control. If you fail to produce a counter-argument for one or more of the customer’s reasons for not purchasing, then you have conceded control to them and, more importantly, to their pessimism regarding the purchase. 

How you handle customer objections can be the major influence on your success in making a sale. Anyone can sell to a customer who is on a mission to make a purchase. Selling to someone who is determined only to buy when they are convinced of a good deal is a far bigger test.

Basic Strategies

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Before you can respond to a suggestion, you need to understand the real reasons behind it. You might discover, for example, that

  • The customer can’t afford your product.
  • The customer doesn’t like your product.
  • The customer has strong personal ties to another vendor.

In these situations, it is probably not worth responding to a customer’s objections. Nothing you say will change the customer’s mind. If they cannot afford the product, then they cannot afford it. Short of you giving them the money, you cannot influence that and if you cannot extend the payment terms then there is nothing more to say. If they don’t like the product, you can offer alternatives but these may not have much relevance. If their objection is related to having strong personal ties to another vendor, then they may well already have made their mind up – but it is worth considering an approach based on the idea that a change is often a good idea. These responses are however at best speculative.

If the objections are less “firm” then they do have the potential to be turned to your advantage. If the objection is based on cost, then look at creative ways around that. It may be that they do not want to spend so much in one go. 

A payment plan may be the quickest way around this. A certain amount each month might be something they are prepared to do. You can also look at how much money the deal might save them over time. Saying “Yes, $300 sounds like a lot, but when you consider how much use you will get from the product and how much it will save you, it works out quite reasonably” can help. Avoid using words such as “cheap”, as it can be insulting to a customer who is spending a lot of money.

If the customer is reluctant to purchase because they feel that the product does not meet their needs, get their needs ironed out and explain how the product does just that. It may be a good idea to call on your experience and mention that another customer had the same objections, but the purchase worked out for them in the end and now they swear by it. 

You can always embellish on a story if you can base that embellishment in something which holds up to analysis. The key point is to emphasize that the product has many more benefits than negative aspects, and to chip away at the negative aspects by presenting ways around them.

Advanced Strategies

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Here are some possible questions you might ask in response to customer objections:

  • That’s more than I wanted to spend.
    How much were you thinking of spending?
    Do you know about the trade-off between price and reliability?
  • I’m not ready to make a decision.
    What additional information would be helpful to you?
  • I’m not sure this product is right for us.
    What features are you looking for?
  • I’d like to shop around some more.
    What other brands are you considering?
  • I’m too busy to make a decision right now.
    When can we get together when you have more time?

These questions might not help you close a sale, but they will at least keep the discussion going. It’s important not to push too hard with questions like these. 

You want to come across more as a consultant than a salesperson. Even though the customer is a customer and you are a salesperson, if they feel like they are being “sold to” rather than dealt with like a human being, they will be far more likely to walk away from the sale. You need to keep away from appearing as though you have dollar signs in your eyes. This is where it is essential to maintain a balance between being a salesman and acting as a friend. 

Some salespeople make the mistake of trying to be too “friendly” and chatting to every customer as though they were talking over drinks. While this may work for some customers, it will backfire in most situations. 

You are in the position of a specialist. If you were about to go in for surgery, you would not want the consultant to look down the list of symptoms and “jokingly” quip “Do you know any good undertakers?” While sales and surgery are clearly different, it is worth bearing in mind that the customer is not parting with money lightly. 

A salesperson with expertise will turn reluctant customers into happy customers.

Case Study

Eric fell off the sales cliff. He couldn’t get one customer to give him a dime and Eric’s sales plummeted fast. Without a life raft, Eric swam against the tide to try to save his sales job, Debbie threw out a line to pull Eric back into the sales force and she carried him to the shores toward success by handing him her power house sales skills and chipped away the mountain of rejections he had built that blocked him from great sales. Debbie and Eric destroyed the mammoth barricade in Eric’s way while Debbie fed him the right words to use with a client. Soon, Eric became able to climb a hill all by himself and made it past the other climbers to reach the sales mountain top.