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Wednesday, 08 August 2012

Selling 102: How To Handle Sales Objections More Effectively

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Clarify Sales Objections and Understand Their True Meaning


Originally published in Twice Magazine

I understand how you feel. How many time have you overheard your salespeople say this to their (your) customers after a sales objection has been raised? Sure, I know, it’s Selling 101, the old “Feel, Felt, Found” method. I get it, but the problem is your salespeople don’t. Somewhere along the way they attended a sales training seminar that taught them to use Feel, Felt, Found every time they receive sales objection. 

Here’s how it works: First, “I understand how you feel” (shows empathy, a nice touch). Then, “Others have felt this way too” (I don’t want my customer to think that they are alone). Finally, “What they have found is that by ….” (insert here whatever it is you are trying to get the customer to do). While the concept is right, let’s see if we can make Feel, Felt, Found work more effectively next time you, or a member of your sales team, receives a sales objection. 

Before attempting to handle any sales objection, first make sure that you understand what the customer is really saying, i.e. the true reason they raised the objection. An easy example is the all encompassing sales objections, “It’s too expensive.” Before you blurt out “I understand how you feel” in response and begin touting the benefits of your financing program, consider some of the other possible options, as “too expensive” means different things to different people. Is it that they really don’t have the money? Could it be that they think it’s too expensive given the product’s benefits compared to its price? Or, maybe their sales objection actually means they have seen the same or similar product at a different retailer's store for less money. 

While these are just three possible scenarios, the initial response of offering your financing program only addresses one of them (that the customer can’t afford it). Ultimately, you need to take the time to clarify the sales objection before you try to answer it so you can offer an appropriate response. You could clarify it with an open-ended question such as “By too expensive, do you mean you don’t think it’s worth the price?” 

Here’s another example of how to clarify sales objections. Let’s say you’ve done a great job of presenting your extended service plan to your customer and you ask him/her if they would like to proceed and include it with the purchase. He responds with “Can I get it later?” First, I would view this as more of a buying signal than a typical sales objection since it’s really a question expressing interest. Depending on your company’s policy and/or state law, your answer is either yes or no, but either response should be followed by a clarifying question. “I can only offer it to you today, but may I ask if there’s a reason that you want to wait to purchase it?” At this point you have properly addressed and handled the sales objection and asked for clarification before you begin to handle the potential or real underlying objection. 

Out of the clarification process will come a variety of responses, such as “I need to talk to my spouse” or “I just don’t have the money right now.” Let’s deal with the latter. Work to clarify again. For example, “So you like the idea of the program, it’s just a matter of making it affordable today?” Again two possible options, yes or no. If it’s no, there is an underlying issue that needs to be uncovered by further clarification. If it’s yes, now and only now is the old Feel, Felt, Found appropriate, since we have clarified and uncovered enough information about the sales objection to understand what it is that the customer is truly saying. 

However, instead of the typical “I understand how you feel,” ... instead, have your sales team try this... “Now I understand” (the “feel” is implied). “I hear the same thing from other customers every day” (others have felt this way). “Most of them are able to get the program that they want by taking advantage of our in-store finance program” (tell them what the group found to solve the problem). “Why don’t we go ahead and have you fill out the paperwork, it only takes a few minutes, how does that sound?” 

The point is to take the time to uncover the real,underlying sales objection(s) before trying to solve the problem(s). Feel, Felt, Found is great conceptually -- just make sure you and your sales team use it appropriately.

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Tom Hebrock

Tom Hebrock is Vice President of Retail Services for Stuart & Associates, a retail consulting firm specializing in Sales and Margin Growth Programs and Returns Reduction Programs.

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