With enough foresight, all of your prospects’ concerns could theoretically be addressed before the sales process even begins, and occasionally that will happen. Most of the time, however, your prospects will raise objections to making a purchase. They want to be sure they are making the right decision, and in all fairness, they should.
Objections are not usually a “no,” they are simply your prospect’s way of saying; “I don’t see enough value for my money yet.” So unless you believe that your products or services are not the best solution to their needs, your sales process is not yet completed. Either you have not properly identified your prospect's needs, or you have not fully explained your solutions.
Occasionally objections are really avoidance tactics for people with no intention of buying in the first place. They are simply "window shopping." For example, people without the financial means to purchase a new car will sometimes take one for a test drive. They have no intention of making a purchase. They are simply dreaming. In this case, no solution you offer will ever be satisfactory. When you recognize one of these people, exit swiftly but gracefully. You can't afford to waste your time, but you never know, one day that window shopper might become a genuine prospect.
Just as it is possible to anticipate many of the questions your prospects will ask, so too is it possible to anticipate many of their objections. Following are some common objections for your consideration.
- Price objections
- Efficiency objections
- Quality objections
- Avoidance Tactics
1. Price Objections
One nearly universal objection among prospects is the concern over price. One way to handle this is to break the price down into smaller chunks. Calculating the amount one would pay for an automobile lease on a daily basis, for example, might offer a better perspective than that of the monthly fee you actually charge (i.e. $15 per day rather than $450 per month).
Consider a value comparison as well. By comparing the value your prospect will receive from your product or service with the value they might receive from another product or service in a similar price range, you can help them to see past their pricing concerns. It is also important to find out if price is the only thing in the way of the sale. If your prospects have other concerns, solve them first and leave the price issue for last. Negotiating or discussing price before the value of your products or services is clear to your prospects can do more harm than good. If they think you are overpriced they may tune you out before you have the chance to demonstrate the real value of your offering. In other words, you could lose the sale and the customer before you even start. In general, price reductions are not a good idea. Lowering your prices to make a sale devalues your products, implying that they were overpriced in the first place. And lowering your price on something your prospects don’t feel they need in an effort to make a sale will only make you look worse. It may generate a sale, but as we have discussed before, it will do little to generate a customer.
In a situation where your prospect simply cannot afford your product, one option is to decrease your price by decreasing your expenses. Look for ways to cut back on features that your prospect could do without. A commercial graphic arts client of mine, for example, usually offers their prospects a choice of three original design concepts. But when money is tight for a prospect, they will occasionally offer a discounted rate based on only one or two design concepts. The rule of thumb is, never discount your products or services without giving your prospects a reason why.
If your prospect can afford your products or services but price is still an issue, you may be better off to let the deal go. If this is not the best solution, then a better option than discounting is to add value to your offering. Extending a warranty, offering free installation, or adding options are all ways you might increase the value of your products or services without discounting your price.
Having said all this, there are certain situations where negotiating is an anticipated part of the purchasing experience. If you sell real estate or vehicles, for example, people will assume that your asking price is simply a place to start. Some companies have found success by bucking the trend and offering a fixed pricing structure, but this may not always be possible. Even when negotiating is expected, however, try to leave this part of the sales process to the very end. If price is the only concern, the negotiation will go much more smoothly.
Price objections sound something like this…
“That seems rather expensive for our needs.”
“Our budget won’t allow for it.”
“It is not our policy to pay in advance.”
“Your prices are higher than your competitor’s.”
“It’s a little more than I can afford.”
What types of "price objections" do you regularly face in your industry?
2. Efficiency Objections
Efficiency objections concern your ability to meet your prospects’ needs in a timely fashion. If they previously had a bad experience with one of your competitors, for example, they may be leery of your ability to handle the job as well. Or they may feel your business is not large enough, experienced enough, fast enough, and so forth, to meet their needs. An efficiency objection represents a lack of confidence in your business. Consequently, your responses must be designed to instill confidence by demonstrating your ability to meet your prospects’ needs. For example, if a prospect worries that his order may not be ready on time, you might reassure him that you have never missed a deadline and that you will keep him informed of its progress along the way (i.e. courier companies allow their customers to track the progress of their packages over the Internet), offer him some type of guarantee (i.e. your pizza will be delivered within 30 minutes or the next one will be free), or provide him with references who can verify your timely service.
Efficiency objections sound something like this…
“We can’t afford to wait that long.”
“Spare parts for your products won’t be available when I need them.”
“I won’t have time to pick it up.”
“You don’t have the capacity to keep up with our needs.”
What types of "efficiency objections" do you regularly face in your industry?
3. Efficiency Objections
Quality objections suggest that your prospects have concerns about your ability to fully satisfy their quality requirements. If you have properly identified your prospects’ needs and are certain you can fulfill them, then a quality objection typically indicates that something is missing from your sales presentation. For example, if your company has not been in business for long, your prospects may worry that you lack adequate experience. One solution might be to focus on the personal experience of the individuals at your company, rather than on the company itself. If your company has only been in business for a few years but you have experienced employees, you might tell a prospect that your people have 30 years of combined experience in your industry. A guarantee can help to satisfy a quality objection as well.
If your prospects regularly express quality concerns, this may be an indication of a deeper problem. Be willing to examine your company honestly. You may indeed have quality problems that need to be addressed. Remember, any inconsistencies in your prospects’ experience with your company bring your quality into question.
Efficiency objections sound something like this…
“We need a higher quality product.”
“Our needs are more complex than your programs are designed for.”
“I need guaranteed results.”
“Your track record is fairly short.”
“Your employees seem inexperienced.”
What types of "quality objections" do you regularly face in your industry?
4. Avoidance Tactics
Sometimes, “Let me think it over,” means your prospects are just dreaming or window shopping. Usually, however, it means they have unanswered questions or concerns. They may want to ask others for their opinions, they may want to shop around, they may not like or trust you, they may think your prices are too high, or they may not have the money. Whatever their reasons are, it is important that you make every effort to identify them. You can’t satisfy an unidentified concern. Left to its own devices, “Let me think it over,” can easily transform itself into a “no.”
Avoidance tactics might sound something like…
“Let me think it over.”
“I’m too busy right now.”
“I’ll get back to you.”
“Let me sleep on it.”
“I don’t have time to make a decision right now.”
What types of "avoidance tactics" do you regularly face in your industry?
Tools for Handling Objections
Following are some ideas to consider when handling objections. Some will be more appropriate for certain businesses than for others, but something of value can be gained from all of them. As you read through them, ask yourself how the ideas might apply to your business.
- Avoid arguing with your prospect
If you set up an adversarial relationship with your prospect it is unlikely that he will buy from you, even if you win the argument. Remember, buying is primarily an emotional experience, so while it may be tempting to put a difficult prospect in his place, rarely will it result in a sale. In this day and age, people are typically too sophisticated to be bullied into a sale, and even if you do happen to make the sale, in all likelihood you will lose a potential long-term customer.
This doesn’t mean that the customer is always right, however. After all, you are the expert in your field, not your customer. If you are an interior designer, for example, and you feel strongly that your customer’s choice of fabric will detract from the overall look of a room, show them an example. People can change their minds, but if you want to maintain your relationship you’ll let them see the difference for themselves, rather than try to push them into something they don’t want. In the end, certain decisions are up to the customer and certain decisions are up to you, but whatever you do, don’t get your back up over a sale. If a prospect’s demands are fixed and unreasonable, or if he becomes hostile, just move on. Arguing will only make things worse. 2. Give options not ultimatums
When handling objections, avoid putting your prospects in the position of having to say “yes” or “no” to your offer. Instead, engage them in a conversation about choices or options to do with their decision. If your prospects are concerned about price, for example, you might engage them in a discussion concerning your various payment options, or in different ways to reduce the price by eliminating some accessories they may not need at this time.
This process encourages prospects to make buying decisions without the finality associated with an ultimatum, and the more decisions they make on their own, the more in control they will feel. Your job, or the job of your salespeople, is to act as a knowledgeable guide for your prospects as they make their way towards their final buying decision.
- Respond on an emotional level
It is important to show your prospects that you are concerned with their feelings around this purchase decision. Remember, buying is predominantly an emotional decision.
The “Feel, Felt, Found” method is a good way to open your prospect’s mind to other possibilities without taking an offensive or argumentative stance. When your prospect makes an objection, try responding with something like this…
“I appreciate how you feel about the cost, Bob. Many of my existing clients felt the same way until they found out how much money they could save on their heating bill every month simply by installing our product.”
A variation of this method substitutes the word “realized” for the word “felt” when appropriate. For example…
“I appreciate how you feel about the cost, Bob. I felt the same way until I realized that the money I would save on my heating bill would pay for my investment in less than two years.”
Of course you’ll want to put this in your own words, but the key here is empathy. Until your prospects know that you recognize their emotionally based concerns they will not be ready to hear your “logical” argument.
- Take the blame when it doesn’t really matter
Some objections result from simple misunderstandings or miscommunications. While you never want to argue with a prospect, they will, from time to time, need to be corrected. For example, your prospect may erroneously believe that your products do not come in the colour he would like, that your services do not include delivery, that you cannot handle an order the size of theirs, or even that you missed your scheduled appointment with them.
The easiest way to handle these types of objections, without damaging your prospect’s ego and thereby risking the sale, is simply to correct him and accept the blame for the error in communication. For example, if a prospect arrives 30 minutes late for a lunch meeting and tells you he thought the meeting was at 12:30, you might say something like, “I’m sorry Bob. I thought our meeting was at 12:00. I must have written it down wrong in my calendar.”
Proving to your prospect that he or she is wrong might make you feel good, but it will do little to support your relationship with him. When it really doesn’t matter, give your prospect a way out by transferring the blame for their misunderstandings to your shoulders.
- Recognize the buying signals hidden inside objections
Ironically, objections are often buying signals in disguise. When a prospect focuses their objections on one or two specific areas, they are often implying that if you can resolve these concerns, they will seriously consider making a purchase. In fact, if a prospect chooses to engage you in a discussion about your products or services, no matter how negative, they are typically a better prospect than someone who quietly and politely waits for you to complete your sales presentation. Why? Because when a prospect has a specific objection it indicates that he is paying attention to what you are saying. And when someone pays attention it often indicates that they are interested.
For example, if a prospect understands the value of your products or services but expresses concern about your return policy, you might say something like, “I’m sure we can work out something that will make you happy. Do you have any other concerns?” If the answer is “no,” they are ready to buy. You may need to make some slight adjustments to your return policy or you may simply need to explain it better to them. Either way, you’ve got a potential sale in your hands.
- Make sure you are in front of all the decision makers
When a prospect is unable to make a decision because he needs to consult someone else, then unless this is simply a stalling technique on the part of the prospect, chances are he was not properly qualified in the first place. So before beginning your sales presentation, find out if the person you are talking to has the authority to buy. If not, then your goal immediately changes from making a sale to setting up an appointment.
Why? Because if someone else is involved in making the decision, then you are effectively relying on the person in front of you to sell your products or services on your behalf. The problem is, unless you are convinced that she will do a better job of selling your products or services than you will, your chances for making a sale will drop dramatically. In nearly every case, you need to get in front of the decision makers. Otherwise you are wasting your time.
A sale is not lost until the final decision maker has rejected it, so find out who has the authority to make a buying decision and ask your contact to make an introduction or an appointment for you. If for some reason your prospect won’t put you in front of the key decision makers, you’ll need to make a judgement call. If you believe this person is sold on your offering but seems to have a legitimate excuse for not setting up a meeting for you, then your next step must be to prepare her to make the sale for you. You can do this by providing her with all of the necessary materials she will need, such as extra brochures and samples, and by carefully reviewing your list of frequently asked questions with her.
If on the other hand, you believe this person is not yet sold on your offering and she won’t put you in touch with the decision maker, then you need to either improve your relationship with this person or you need to find a new prospect. You can give her a brochure if you like on the off chance that it will get to someone who is interested, but if she is not sold, it’s unlikely anyone else will be either.
You know you are not speaking to the final decision maker when you hear something like…
“Sounds great, but I’ll need to speak with my partner (wife, boss, bookkeeper, etc.) first.”
"People spend money when and where they feel good."
Be careful not to damage this person’s ego when trying to move past them to the real decision maker. It is likely that they have some influence over the decision maker and you don’t want to begin your relationship on a negative footing.
Work out the objection handling section of your Sales System. List the most common objections your prospects make when considering your products and/or services on the left, and write sample responses to each of these on the right.
Common Objections Response Price is too high Do everything you can to avoid a "price" discussion until your prospect truly understands the value of your service. Then, when the issue comes up use a "comparison" example to show them why it's such a good deal. For example, "When you compare the value of our service with the cost, it really becomes a bargain."