At the recent ITT Convention in Dubai I was in conversation with a travel agent in the Belgian bar. Our discussion turned to the idiosyncrasies of customers and my friend asked me this question. “It might just be where my agency is”, she said, “but my staff spend a lot of time finding out what people need and then, when they think they are ready to book, they will suddenly say that there’s something wrong with the holiday and we have to go all the way back to the start and try to find something else for them. And quite often we can’t find anything that suits them and so we lose the sale. What’s wrong with these people?”

And it is very true. One of the most annoying things about selling is when, after what seems to be a perfectly straightforward sales conversation, a customer raises an objection to the product which prevents your closing the sale. Often this starts a process where the salesperson then tries to find an alternative product, only to find that the customer then objects again. This process can go on for a while and, quite possibly, no sale eventually results. Dealing with objections

 

Some sales manuals will talk about “overcoming objections” but I prefer not to use that expression. After all, how many of you would enjoy “being overcome”? Actually , objections are a natural part of the sales process and you should expect them. They are, in fact, an expression of interest. If your customer has absolutely no intention of buying then he or she will say “…No, it’s not what I want…”. People do not usually have the time to spend ages chatting about something in which they have no interest at all. Objections usually arise for one of three main reasons: 

  • You are selling too hard or fast and the customer puts in an objection to slow you down
  • The customer has misunderstood something you have said
  • The product or service you are offering is really not suitable.

Only in the last case can you deal with the objection immediately since the other objections are false.

True and false objections

When a customer objects to something we have offered, our immediate reaction is to try to offer something else, or to point out how good and appropriate our suggestion is. This will only work if the product or service really is wrong and even then we must be sure exactly what’s wrong with it. If the objection is false then no amount of persuasion about the virtues of the product or service will work since the stated reason is not the true reason; it’s not what the customer is really objecting to. For example, you might be trying to sell the benefits of a luxury self-drive car in the States and a customer who doesn’t want to pay the extra cost of a luxury vehicle might say something like, “…I really don’t want the hassle of find a parking place for such a large vehicle…”. In this way he will not be forced to admit that he can’t afford to rent a car of that group. If you simply try to overcome the objection by pointing out how easy it is to park in the US, he will probably come up with another objection such as, “…Yes, but those Yank Tanks are real gas-guzzlers…”. So you might say that this isn’t a big problem since, even now, petrol is much cheaper over there than it is here and, what do you know, the customer comes up with another one: “…Yes but my wife needs to be able to drive and she will feel daunted by such a massive car…”.

Customers can carry on “yes-butting” for ages and you’ll not discover what the real problem is until they run out of lies. There is great temptation for you to say something like, “…Well, why don’t you go away and think about it and come back when you’ve decided…” After all, you have other work to get on with. And so away they go – never to return.

Before you can make a sale you have to deal with customers’ objections, and before you can do that you need to find out what the real, the true, objection is. And this can be difficult unless you use a proper technique.

Identifying the Real Objection – the four-step technique
  • Let the customer finish – don’t interrupt. You can’t find out what the real problem is until you’ve heard about it. Pause for a few seconds before speaking. It’s not unknown for customers to deal with their own objection. Like this. “…It’s more than I want to spend really…” Pause. “…Still, I suppose if that’s all there is we’ll just have to bite the bullet…” This technique works because people don’t like silence and will say something to fill it. But make sure it’s your customer that fills the silence, not you.
  • If the customer doesn’t deal with the objection, repeat it back. This serves two purposes. Firstly, it makes sure you have heard the objection correctly and secondly it gives your customer a chance to explain what’s really bothering him or her. For example, using the objection cited earlier, “…When you say they’re difficult to park, how exactly do you think this will be a problem…?” This will mean that your customer will need to explain and may then realise that the objection is not a serious one and withdraw it. If your customer then explains that he’ll be touring and is worried about the parking at the various sites, then you’ll know what the real concern is and you can move to the next step.
  • Agree and empathise. Say something like, “…I know, parking can be a worry. Can I just get it clear in my mind…?” Then ask any questions that you need in order to be sure about this aspect of the sale. For example, you might want to reconfirm the amount of driving that the customer intends to do or the amount of luggage that will be carried.
  • Isolate the objection by setting it aside and ask if the product is in order apart from the aspect objected to. For example, you could say something like, “…Supposing I get you a car of a similar price but smaller, would that do…? Then, if the size is the real objection, the customer will probably tell you to go ahead. If it’s not, then he’ll probably have to admit what the real problem is - possibly the price. Either way you’ll be able to deal with the objection.

Other phrases you could try include: “Leaving the parking aside, how is the car otherwise…?” “Apart from the size, is the car what you want…?” “What if I book you a smaller car in the same category, how would that do…?” This type of technique will quickly establish whether an objection is true or false and will work with almost any type of objection. Then once you have identified the true objection you can deal with it. And the way you do that is for next time.

For more information contact Richard English on 01403-710371 or email retraining@pncl.co.uk

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