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8 Handling objections.

An important part of the sales interview involves uncovering objections. An objection is an expression of buyer concern. Experience shows that it is rather naive to expect that telling another person everything known about the situation will convince that person to logically accept the idea or program. Facts, in and of themselves, do not sell. People interpret facts in their own way, see what they want to see, and hear what they want to hear. The assumption that facts will sell assumes that people are logical and objective. People are, of course, more emotional and subjective. Therefore, it is extremely important to recognize the opportunities to clarify objections. Rather than argue for a point when an objection is raised, a salesperson can be more successful by listening, or probing, to find out why it is an objection. The worst objection is the one not heard--the one the prospect refuses to disclose. A salesperson cannot overcome an objection that is hidden.

Why Prospects Object

There are a number of reasons prospects may provide objections to your proposal or product. First, prospects will not buy a product they do not understand. It is possible that you have talked over the prospects' heads. You must probe throughout the sales interview to ensure the buyers understand and agree with what you are presenting. Get into the habit of routinely asking, "How does that sound to you?" as you progress through the sales presentation. Second, the prospects will object if they feel the product doesn't fit their needs. In this case, you have either failed to qualify the prospects or did not sufficiently establish the prospects' needs for your product. A third reason prospects will object is if the cost is too high. You should learn the prospects' financial limits and keep them in mind as you progress through the sales process. Fourth, the person to whom you have been presenting may not be the decision maker. It is critical in the preapproach or approach stages that you clearly identify the decision maker so that you do not waste your time speaking to the wrong person. Sometimes prospects object simply because they are looking for the best deal, in which case, you should have identified price as the primary criterion and been prepared to overcome this objection. Another reason for objecting may be that the buyers are just seeking to challenge the salesperson, or that the prospects are uncomfortable making a decision. Finally, prospects may object because they perceive the risk as too great. In the latter situation, you have simply not convinced the potential buyers of the value of the benefits.

Steps for Handling Objections

When you encounter an objection follow these steps.

1. Listen and observe to gain time so that you can effectively counter the objection.

2. Check for understanding. Rephrase the objection to verify that you understand it correctly, so you can narrow the objection down to a specific point.

3. Use a positive statement with the prospect. You don't have to agree with the prospect, but you can let the prospect know that you understand why that person feels as he or she does.

4. Empathize and relate. Say things like, "I can understand how you feel," "I'm glad you brought that up," "Others have felt the same way," or "If I were in your position, I'm sure I would have arrived at the same conclusion."

5. If appropriate, construct a conditional statement. If the objection is based on price, respond with "If I could show you how you can afford our services, then would you be interested?" If you get a negative response, continue probing. The prospect may have an undisclosed objection.

6. Convince the buyer by providing evidence. Offer "proof" to back up your statements. For example, you may want to provide copies of articles, company literature, letters from satisfied customers, or names of references.

7. Verify agreement. After you have responded to the objection, confirm that the prospect has accepted your response. You might ask, "Have I explained myself clearly?" "Before we go on, do you have any other questions about . . . " or "Does this satisfy your concern regarding . . ." If agreement does not exist, you will need to continue probing.

8. Ask for the action needed to progress the sale. This may mean asking for the order or getting the buyer to commit to some other specific step.

Taking "NO" for an Answer

You must know how to take "no" for an answer. Certain essential actions must be taken before trying to close the sale again.

* Probe for hidden objections. When the customer says "no," it is for a reason. It is your job to probe for the reason and try to overcome the objection it represents.

* Recreate a "yes" frame of reference. The customer who says "no" finds it harder to say "yes." You not only have to probe for objections, but you have to get the customer in a "yes" frame of mind before again attempting to close.

* Every time a customer says "no," he unsells himself to a certain extent. You have to rebuild the sale, at least to the point where it was before you try to close again.

Listening and Responding to Objections

In any sales position, you will routinely encounter objections from sales prospects. Some common objections you may hear include: "I'm not interested," "I'm too busy," "I can't afford it," "I have no need for it," "Come back after vacation," "My partner's out of town," "My business is different." When listening to objections, you have to constantly ask yourself two basic questions about each buyer you deal with:

* What does that person mean by what he or she says?

* What does that person feel?

By listening instead of just hearing, you may avoid the trap of answering false objections. When you hear an objection like one of the above before the buyer has even heard your presentation, it can kill the sale. The early objection is often a purely personal reaction based on the buyer's personality and immediate situation. He or she may be tired, lazy, ill, or indifferent.

Two of the quickest and simplest ways to handle objections are to:

* Anticipate objections. Most objections can be anticipated and certain objections arise more frequently than others. Develop a variety of answers to such objections. Furthermore, if you know that certain objections are common, incorporate them into your presentation selling points to explain why they are not valid. This type of planning means fewer objections will be raised.

* Ignore early objections and proceed with the interview, outlining buyer benefits. Many salespeople turn a deaf ear to objections such as "See me next trip." or "I've got enough."

Additional Hints

Some additional hints for responding to objections include:

1. Listen to the objections and do not interrupt the prospect. Be a good listener as well as a good talker. Interrupting the prospective buyer, in many cases, increases the intensity of the objection and antagonizes the prospect.

However, do not hesitate to be firm if the prospect interprets your silence as an opportunity to seize control of the interview. Standing silently by, while the prospect belabors a point or proceeds from one objection to another, consumes valuable time and accomplishes little. You may even find the interview has completely stalled.

2. Have the right attitude toward objections. Consider an objection a request for additional information and, therefore, an indication of interest. Regard this request as a question and answer it accordingly.

3. If the answer to an objection involves a point that you will cover later in your presentation, or if you feel confident the strength and persuasion of your presentation will overcome the objection, postpone answering by saying, "That's a good question and I'll come to it in just a moment, but first let me show you this." Occasionally, when such an objection is raised and it is the first indication of real interest, it may be advisable to hold the prospective buyer's interest by answering the objection immediately and to change your presentation accordingly.

4. Never repeat the objection. In answering an objection such as, "You have the worst service in town," don't repeat with an amazed look, "I have the worst service in town?" Also, don't say, with the same amazed look, "What?" hoping to minimize or ridicule the objection. You are not going to shame the prospect into retracting confidence in his or her own opinion. In fact, it is more likely the prospect's conviction will be strengthened. If necessary, answer the objection, but do not emphasize its importance by repetition.

5. Make your answer clear and brief. Do not magnify the importance of any objection by talking about it too much.

6. Don't lose your temper and argue or contradict. You can win the argument but lose the sale. The "Yes, but" technique can often be used to answer objections. In substance, you say, "Yes, I agree with you up to a certain point" or "I understand how you feel, but there is something you may want to consider."

In using the "Yes, but" technique, avoid paying lip service to the "yes" portion; you must agree with part of the objection. Assume a prospective buyer states, "I won't hold my meeting with you because I'm short on planning time."

Wrong reply: "Yes, but your staff deserves something better."

7. Whenever you can, turn the objection to your own advantage by making your answer bring out a selling point. For example, agree with the prospect that a condition such as shortage of planning time exists and then go on to explain how letting your staff handle the meeting will help solve the problem.

8. In handling an objection that involves dissatisfaction with your company's policies or disgruntlement due to a possible error, do not let the prospect influence you into condemning your company. Justify your company's position with dignity and make every effort to correct any errors. Your loyal stand will be respected far more than a pitiful "Don't blame me" attitude. To your customers, you are the company, and you must assume direct responsibility for the proper execution of all company policies.

9. Finally, if you have been unsuccessful in getting the order, in spite of your efforts to overcome objections and close the sale, maintain your goodwill. You should try to leave the prospect with the idea that you are sorry not to have been able to help and that you will attempt to devise a better solution.

Techniques and Tools for Responding to Objections

There are many ways to handle objections. The most effective method will depend on the objection itself and the prospect's social style. You should be in command of many methods for handling objections so that you are never stymied. Here are just a few of the methods you may want to consider adding to your repertoire.

Price Method. Price is the most frequently mentioned objection. To handle this objection, gain a better understanding of the prospect's viewpoint by asking probing questions such as, "Too high in what respect, Mr. Jones?" or "Would you mind telling me why you think my price is too high?" These types of questions should elicit more information from the prospects which allows you to better counter this objection. You should focus on selling the value and quality of your product, and emphasize features that justify a price difference. You can provide evidence of value and quality by demonstrating the product, providing testimonial letters, showing test results, or presenting independent studies. Discuss your superior service or company reputation.

Direct Denial. Provide information and correct facts, and present evidence to support your statement. However, this method should be used with caution; no one likes to be told that he or she is wrong. Consequently, this method should be used only when the prospect has presented an objection containing misinformation that could be harmful to the reputation of your company. "I'm sorry, Mr. Smith, but our hotel is not closing. Indeed, as you can see here, our annual report indicates how well we have been doing."

Indirect Denial. Recognize the buyer's position, but supply information to support your response to the denial. "I can understand how you believed that our restaurant was the one that was linked to several cases of food poisoning, but that restaurant is actually down the street from ours. Here is the newspaper article about that incident."

Compensation Method. If the product has certain shortcomings that the buyer has pointed out, the salesperson can admit the shortcomings, but show how other advantages of the product/service outweigh the disadvantages. "Yes, our guest rooms are smaller than the competition, but no other property offers a private beach."

Translation Method. Turn an objection into a reason for buying. "Our hotel is further from the downtown area, but this should result in better attendance at your sessions." Or, "Yes, our hotel is smaller than those you have used in the past, but we will be able to give you more individual attention."

Feel-Felt-Found Method. The feel-felt-found method is one of the most effective techniques for handling objections. It acknowledges the prospect's objection as legitimate, but also provides reassurance that others were satisfied with your offering. "I can see how you feel, other clients felt the same way about our location, but they found our hotel could meet all their needs." When using this method for overcoming objections, evidence such as testimonial letters or the name and phone number of the third party should be provided to the prospect.

Boomerang Method. This method turns the objection into a reason for acting now. "I understand that price is an issue for you, but if you sign the contract now, I can guarantee you the lowest fare of the season."

Pass-up or Roll-over Method. If the prospect has presented you with an early, generalized objection, "I'm not interested in seeing any salespeople today," listen to the prospect, acknowledge that you heard, pause briefly, then go on with the presentation. Use this method sparingly. For example, a version of this was used by a salesperson who initially encountered a prospect who shouted out, "I don't want to see any more salespeople," as soon as the salesperson opened the door to the prospect's business. Rather than excusing herself immediately, the salesperson simply said, "It sounds like you've had a bad day. Why don't you tell me about it?" Thirty minutes later, the salesperson walked out with the sale.

Postpone Method. When the prospect raises an objection, the salesperson simply asks permission to address the objection later in the presentation. "I'll be covering that in just a few minutes ... Is it alright with you if I continue from this point?"

The following are objection tools. With the exception of the final objection (where the buyer overcomes his or her own objection), these tools will not close the sale or overcome an objection. However, these tools will help you better understand why the buyer has not bought and gauge the buyer's level of commitment to the proposal. This, in turn, will help you determine your next step, be it the probing stage or a close.

The Process of Elimination Tool. Use the process of elimination tool for the buyer who will not tell you his reason for not buying. This method is different because it requires the salesperson to get the buyer into the habit of saying "no." The reasoning behind this is that in this process the "no" really means "yes." The method is demonstrated in this example:

Salesperson: "There must be something I've not conveyed very well. Can you tell me what it is? Is it the staff support?"

Buyer: "No, that's good support."

Salesperson: "The property itself?"

Buyer: "No, it's a quality resort."

Salesperson: "The room rate?"

Buyer: "No, it's not that."

Consequently, the buyer must admit everything is either okay or reveal the real objection to you.

The "I'll Think It Over" Tool. Another frequently heard objection is "I'll think it over." A salesperson was once overheard to respond to this objection by saying, "I guess that means no."--Obviously, there are much more effective responses!!! The "I'll think it over" objection is really a stall technique used by prospects. If you accept this stall hoping the prospect will buy at a later date, you will lose 95 percent of your prospects. A stall signals that you have not given your prospect a sufficient enough reason to buy now--after all, prospects buy when they recognize a strong positive benefit. Use the method demonstrated here to overcome this objection:

Buyer: "Sounds okay, but I need to think it over."

Salesperson: "Good. You really shouldn't make a quick decision on an event of this size, and you wouldn't be thinking about us unless you really were interested."

Buyer: "That's true, and I'll give it careful thought."

Salesperson: "So you have all the facts. While you're considering, perhaps you could tell me it there is anything about our product that you aren't satisfied with. Is it the location?"

Now you're back to the process of elimination. You can also handle a stall by asking questions that focus on benefits such as, "How would you benefit from our service?" "What do you find attractive about our service?" or "What advantage do you see in our offer?" When a stall objection is legitimate, set a new appointment to ensure your return.

Duke of Wellington Tool. This method for handling objections is the only close that physically involves the prospect. When properly used, the potential buyer will list all the reasons he or she should buy. Help as much as possible with reasons to buy, but let the buyer think of any reasons not to buy. Divide the paper so that reasons "why" (or "Pros") are on the left, and "why not" (or "Cons") are on the right.

Why Why Not

The Final Objection Tool. With this tool your goal is to establish agreement that there is only one final reason for not buying, and that you have correctly identified that reason. Listen to the objection very carefully and to all the buyer has to say. Be sure you understand it. For example:

Salesperson: "Okay--I guess that's it--but let me be sure I understand your position. The reservation you have about our recreation facilities outweighs all the benefits we discussed for holding your meeting at our property?"

Buyer: "That's right."

Salesperson: "So then, nothing else, just the recreation facilities?"

Buyer: "Everything else is agreeable. I just don't think there's enough recreation available for the 'free' time that will be scheduled during the meeting."

Salesperson: "Would you mind going through that again so I can fully understand the importance of recreation during your conference?"

As the prospect restates the concern, it might sound a bit irrelevant even to him- or herself, and the prospect will overcome his or her own objection. Or, the prospect maintains his or her conviction, but now you can deal with a genuine objection.

Caution: Only use the final objection tool if you know you can resolve the prospect's objection.

The Lost Sale Tool. After what appears to be the final decision, question why you failed. In short, ask the buyer why he or she did not buy from you. The lost sale close is a good way to identify a hidden final objection. For example:

Salesperson: "So I don't make the same mistake again, please tell me, what did I do wrong?"

Buyer: "Okay, you failed to convince me that your room rate was the best deal I was going to be able to obtain." Salesperson: "I see, and that's your concern?"

The buyer has stated a major objection. Instead of saying "no," the buyer is now saying "No, because ..." and that leads back to the evaluation stage and an opportunity to satisfy the concern.

If the customer is not ready to buy, ask, "Is there some reason you're not ready to buy?" Don't push, but don't give up. Say something like, "May I send you some information and call you next week?"

An Objection Response Exercise

For this exercise, write out a response to each objection given. Try to use a variety of response methods.

1. "I need to discuss your proposal with my partner."

2. "The price you have quoted is way beyond my budget."

3. "Let me think about it and I'll get back to you."

4. "I know my account is not a big one. I am afraid that my company events will just get lost in the shuffle."

5. "Your property doesn't have a swimming pool."

6. "I understand your firm has run into legal difficulties and may not be open much longer."

7. "I really don't like your proposal and would prefer to obtain bids from other companies."

8. "I'm leery of holding the Christmas party at your restaurant, the last time I ate there the service was awful."

9. "I'm not buying anything today."

10. "I'm sorry, but we won't be using your hotel for our annual banquet this year. We've decided to try the new hotel on the waterfront."

Key Concepts

Chapter 8 explores the process of recognizing and handling buyers' objections.

* Buyers will object if they don't understand the product, if they feel the product doesn't fit their needs, if the cost is too high, if they are not the decision maker, if they are looking for the best deal, or if they perceive the risk is too great.

* It is important for salespeople to listen and respond to objections. Most objections can be anticipated, but it is always important to understand and empathize with buyers' objections.

* Never argue with buyers over objections. Try to create a positive atmosphere during the sales call.

* The following techniques can be used to handle objections:

* price method--use probing questions to determine value.

* direct denial--present facts and evidence to support your statements.

* indirect denial--recognize the objection, then provide evidence.

* compensation method--give advantages that outweigh disadvantages.

* translation method--turn an objection into a reason for buying.

* feel-felt-found method--agree with the objection, but reassure prospect that other clients are still satisfied.

* boomerang method--turn an objection into a reason for buying "now."

* pass-up or roll-over method--address the objection later in the presentation.

* process of elimination tool--determine a reason for the objection by exhausting a list of possibilities.

* I'll think it over tool--avoid the stall tactic and determine the reason for not buying.

* Duke of Wellington tool--have the buyer list the pros and cons.

* final objection tool--narrow it down to one final objection and close.

* lost sale tool--ask the buyer why he or she didn't choose your product.
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Title Annotation:marketing methods
Publication:Hospitality Sales: Selling Smarter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Previous Article:7 The Presentation.
Next Article:9 Gaining commitment.

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