How to answer concerns, questions or objections

Just think; you are about to buy something of significant value, maybe £5000 or more. You are right at that moment when you are about to part with your hard earned cash… What are the natural, normal concerns you would have going around your head if not your stomach…

Just think about your own buying behaviour

It is only natural for most of us to procrastinate when we are asked to make a decision involving money we feel responsible for. As a general rule, most people, including you, me and most of our prospects hesitate before committing to a purchase a product or service. We have to convince ourselves that;
  • We need it
  • Are sure we are getting value for money
  • It will work for a reasonable period
  • There is some kind of back-up if things go wrong
  • That others we respect have already made, or would make, a similar decision
  • Our friends / boss will think we made a sensible choice 
Research indicates a significant number of prospects will say “no” five times before they actually buy something. As a professional salesperson, it is important to remember that an objection is most often a genuine expression of normal human concerns and is typically a sign of interest.
 
If your prospect actually verbalises their concerns with you through asking questions or raising objections it is actually a very good sign and therefore you can, and should, actually look forward to them. After all, if your prospect was not interested in your product or service, if they were not actually weighing up their concerns and questions alongside all the positive things you’ve already said then they wouldn't be asking questions.

How many objections are there?

The only real objections fall into a small number of categories; no money, no perceived need, no hurry, or no trust. If you haven't built trust and rapport with your prospect, qualified them financially, and conducted a thorough needs analysis, you can expect them to use objections to derail the sales process. There are probably only ten real objections for the vast majority of sales propositions and as a professional we need to work out 95% of the variants for our own situation. For warned is for armed. Often the genuine objection is hidden behind the easy to use excuses a prospect throws at us first, like “I have to think about it or I have to talk to…” so we do need to probe behind the first statement or question raised by any prospect. 

Four simple steps to become more effective at answering objecyions, concerns and questions.

Step 1 -  Hear them out and make them feel good for raising the topic

When your prospect voices a concern or a question, show concern, treat it with respect, and hear them out. Interrupting when you should be listening presents a bad first impression and it also destroys trust and rapport. Learn to be an active listener by giving your prospect your full and undivided attention. Avoid the temptation to think about your response while your prospect is speaking. An active listener is not only listening to what their prospect is saying, but is also trying to discover the meaning behind their words. Research indicates that over half of our communication is nonverbal. Therefore, it is vitally important to pay attention to body language and listen for voice inflections. In addition to observing your prospect's gestures, you must learn to be mindful of your nonverbal signals as well; stay warm, open and inquisitive.
 
Simply hear them out and write them down without comment. There is no need to argue and avoid any sign of disappointment with their concern of questions, just acknowledge them. It is a good idea to take notes and occasionally nod your head affirmatively to let them know that you are taking them and their concerns seriously. 

Step 2 - Feed it back for clarification and probe beneath the surface

Before you begin responding to your prospect's objection, it is vitally important that you understand their specific concern. Even though you may have heard the same thing said so many times before, you must avoid the temptation to begin addressing their concerns prematurely. Otherwise, you run the risk of shooting yourself in the foot by voicing an objection they had not even considered. I recommend you get in the habit of restating the objection in your own words, or parrot fashion using key phrases of the prospects to gain agreement that you are both on the same page before responding. 
 
Feeding their concern back in the form of a question provides your prospect an opportunity to expand upon their concern. For example, if your prospect said they don't have the money in their budget, you would simply feed it back in a non-judgmental way by saying; "You are considering the impact of this on your budget..?" This technique greatly reduces any sense of pressure they might feel. You can also feed it back as a statement and then ask a probing question to produce the same result.
 
By giving your prospect the opportunity to explain their statement, they will frequently answer their own concerns. Another good reason to clarify the concern is to make certain you are addressing their real issue and not the excuse that usually gets rid of ineffective sales people. A prospect will often use an objection they think sounds reasonable first in an attempt to stall or delay the closing sequence; they keep their real concern hidden. Probe behind what them mean and test if there are other things on their mind.
 
Ask “I’d prefer you to fell 100% comfortable that you are making the right decision. Apart from X and Y would there be anything else that you’d like you discuss further before going ahead?”  

Step 3 -  Provide an answer 

Your job in this step is to open the prospect’s mind not close the sale; get them to think. When addressing a concern stay in touch with the big picture; the prospect would be better off if they accepted your offer and they are just going through a normal decision making their emotions wobble.
 
  • Wherever possible use three different angles in your communication and follow one of the great leaders from ancient Greece, Aristotle. He taught that a speaker's ability to persuade is based on how well the speaker appeals to his or her audience in three different areas: ethos (ethical appeals), pathos (emotional appeals), and logos (logical appeals). These areas form something that later rhetoricians have called the Rhetorical Triangle.  If you can bring in all three elements to describe and resolve your prospects pain you are highly likely to win more people over.
  • Be prepared to provide details upon request. Use graphs, charts, numbers, and or testimonials. Be prepared to handle the emotion as well as the logic. Pay particular attention to both your own and your prospect's body language gestures. 
  • Whenever possible use third party words and evidence to back up what you are saying, even quoting other customers can often provide the reassurance your current prospect graves. 
Once you have had your say use an evaluative question to test whether the prospect agrees that their concern(s) has been resolved. Ask "Does that make sense to you..?"
 
Complete this step by asking, "At this point can you think of anything else that might keep you from going ahead today?" If they say no, proceed with confidence to the final step and ask them for the order. If you sense the least bit of hesitation, excuse yourself by saying, "I can sense something is causing you to hesitate, would you be willing to share it with me…”   If there is something then start back at Step 1
 
One key to overcoming concerns and closing the sale is to remain professional and be persistent without becoming argumentative or defensive.

Step 4 - Ask for the order

If they say “That about covers it, you’ve answered my question” you do know what to do next don’t you..?

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Bob Hayward speaks at NRG Network in Swindon

Bob Hayward speaks at NRG Network in Swindon on 3rd July 2012. His topic… A price resistant sales approach