In essence, there are two combat strategies regarding objections.
The first is pre-empting them – in other words, by anticipating and responding to the objection before the prospect has even had a chance to voice it.
The second is by dealing with the objection as it arises. If you are prepared to incorporate both strategies, then you’ll encounter fewer objections and be more resourceful when they do arise.
If you are going to use the second strategy, I share hereafter seven suggested steps:
Step 1 – Remain silent
It gives you time to think and sometimes the customer may even answer their own objection for you. Thinking is a good thing where you are adding a little pause into the proceedings, because you are demonstrating that you are taking their objection seriously.
If you jump in too early, you may cause a further objection. When you interrupt them, it feels as if you are objecting to their objection. If you refuse to listen, you are creating a strong possibility that you will lose rapport. Use active listening methods, nodding and physically showing interest.
Remember, they are trying to tell you something that will help you sell to them and they will be giving you more information about how to frame and re-position your selling proposition.
Step 2 – Gather information
As appropriate, ask some questions to fully understand the objection – for example, “Tell me more about…” or “What do you mean?” – this shows you are interested in them and it also gives you more information about their objection.
If you ask a question that begins with “Why?” they will reinforce all the reasons for their objection, making it harder for you to respond to. Therefore, use open questions of any type, except those that start with this.
As you question them, watch carefully for body language that gives you non-verbal feedback about what they are really thinking and feeling. Keep your questions light and relevant – if you respond in a commanding, forthright manner, they’ll feel insignificant and closed to voicing any further objections.
Step 3 – Check your understanding
This lets the customer know that you understand their objection and are taking it seriously – for example, “So what you’re saying is…” – this also helps to maintain good levels of rapport and conveys that you are seeking to properly understand their situation. This step is important because communication can get distorted and you’ll want to answer their objection, rather than create a new one!
Step 4 – Trial close
This takes ‘checking your understanding’ to the next level because it flushes out any hidden objections, or the real objection behind what may have been a smokescreen – for example, “If I could satisfy you on this point, will you order/buy today?”
Your sensory acuity at this point should be focused on looking at their non-verbal response. If they say ‘yes’ and their non-verbal communication conveys ‘no’, you should acknowledge what you’ve noticed – for example, “You don’t look sure, what else is there that we need to cover?”
Step 5 – Handle objection
Provides the customer with another perspective that could eliminate or neutralise their objection. The best way to become excellent at this is to prepare ideal responses to commonly encountered objections. An important proviso to this suggestion is that it’s critical not to distort what the customer is telling you so that their objection fits into one of your prepared responses, as a foundation. Another great way to improve your competence, in this specific area, is by reviewing any objections, after each meeting, to build an objections library. Some of your responses may be more successful than others, which is why it helps to log the responses that worked well. Good product and service knowledge is particularly useful with this step, as well as having a good understanding of your competitor offers.
Step 6 – Check customer satisfaction
You’ll notice that ‘checking’ is an ongoing theme during a consultative sales process. Used at this point, checking the prospect’s satisfaction, both verbally and by assessing their non-verbal behaviour, provides you with their feedback that you’ve been successful in handling the objection. For example, “Have I handled this to your satisfaction?” or “Does this make more sense now?” If their response is a ‘no’ then you’ll want to be flexible in your next response, because if what you’ve attempted hasn’t worked, you’ll want to keep changing your response until you find a way that DOES satisfy their objection. With this particular step, your flexibility is a vital part of the process.
Step 7 – Ask for order/continue discussions
This step ensures you move discussions forward – for example, “Are you ready to go ahead now?” or “Shall I go ahead and prepare the paperwork?” If your prospect says ‘no’, then you’ve either not handled their objection to their satisfaction, or they have another objection. It’s also a valid point to remember that resistance from a prospect is usually a sign of insufficient rapport. Therefore, check that you are matching or mirroring the prospect and go back to step 6. If they are satisfied with your handling of their objection, then ask “So, what’s preventing you from moving forward with this?”