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Thursday, September 18, 2014

6 Steps to Objection Handling

I enjoy teaching this section in my sales training classes. Objection Handling is the most fun during training as it provides role play and sometimes many laughs. 

I also enjoy this part of when I get sales trained as well because I always jump up to play the customer and hope I get a young sales rep to play with. Our greatest fear is always the price objection and the one that has us all tongue tied.

In one gamification training class, we had to remind the roleplaying CIO to relax a bit with his objections because in real life they are not as intense as he was but he said "I wanted the other guys to walk away from the deal so I could buy it from the guy I liked". We were taught a valuable lesson that objections are also used to manipulate buying decisons that are not price based in this case.

I try to take the customer point of view as if I was buying a car myself. I too will have objections as I am trying to get a deal as every dealer has the same list price. Some objections are very valid because you did not do a good job stating the value proposition. Some objections are just insane and are designed to have you walk away so the buyer can buy the product from his current supplier. (This is common for those buyers that are afraid of change). However, it is a serious issue that we all need to deal with. 

We all have our horror stories and the one I enjoyed the most was visiting a Telecom Manager for a railway early in my career. When you sit in front of his imposing desk that appears to be higher and larger than normal there is what appears to be a square baseball bat and it has written on it facing you "Salesman Adjustment Tool".

At one point during the sales call (or in my case after reviewing my proposal with him) you may actually ask a very awkward question:

Uh Fred I didn't know they made square baseball bats these is very interesting...what can you tell me about it?

Well, John that is a Salesman Adjustment Tool and I use it a lot

Adjustment, Fred....adjustment for what?

Well, John I use it for adjusting attitudes and as well as beating the price out of salesmen. In fact, I used it this morning to beat the arrogance out of the photocopier salesman.

Hmmm....are you going to use it on me because that looks like it can be pretty painful?

No John, i like your attitude. You somehow appear like you are interested in helping me with getting rid of message slips and trying to get me to buy this electronic voice mail contraption. You know the railway started out with analog clocks and trains ran on time just as good as digital clocks now.

Ok thanks for that Fred, I was really worried for a moment. So I would like to get your project going and have the equipment ordered and scheduled so we can get it up and running quickly for you. if you can just sign off on this document and .........................

John, John, John you must be crazy or something because this Meridan Mail thingamajig is very very expensive. We don't have that kind of money. I don't have budget for this luxury and we have boxes of these message slips in the closet. I cannot just throw them out.

Fred, so you are saying that this Meridian Mail solution is too expensive? What makes it expensive?

I am sorry John but I will have to use this on you now because I think I really need to beat the price out of you. Ok stay still now and I will be easy because I only need to beat the price out of you not your attitude.

The guy was a real character and he had a lot of fun buying technology but he was a very shrewd and over bearing bully. Yes, he was a bully and not just because he looked like a big hulking line backer but because that was his personality. I hadnt taken the Buyer Personality training yet.

So back and forth we went and sure I showed ROI, productivity increases, ability to save important messages etc etc, lease it or pay by the month, pay cash, Canadian Tire money even. So we settle on the final price a week later. I return and that tool looks like it had gotten some use at it appeared to have several scratches.

OK, Fred I have the letter of intent for you to sign....

Then he does the...John, John, John, I have talked to others last week and you are higher still....stay still while i beat you up again...but AT THIS POINT I had  nor more room and we gave the solution a haircut and even took out some items to lower the price and install it in the next quarter to line up with his budget. Its a win-win for both of us. I can't drop my pants again.

We had built up a relationship over time and he told me that he trusted me in the past unlike the other guy who was a flakester so I thought i could just say...

Fred, I worked hard to get the pricing down and cut out a lot of the profit for our company. I promised you I would take the train instead of the airplane for business travel to Montreal, but I got 10 minutes left on my parking meter outside. I cannot do this deal and don't want to get fired for giving the deal away at such low profit. I appreciate your time Fred. I am sorry but I have to walk away from this.


You know I am sure you can buy the box off the other guy and maybe he is lower in price and enjoyed the beating more than I did  but really the greatest risk on this project is the implementation. Let me sketch out and go over the implementation tab on the proposal and show you the team who is going to deliver a best in class installation. Fred, let me go top up the parking meter and lets go grab lunch , I want you to meet Alex our Project Manager, and our field office is just down the street so he can join us. I called Alex and like anyone in operations if sales is coughing up a free lunch (and drinks) he is on it. He was at the restaurant before we were and he surely enjoyed the T-bone steak and shrimp cocktail.

I finally got the deal later that week but he did use the tool on Alex because now the installation costs were out of whack but we remained firm and explained the installation costs line item by line item. He realized that our implementation story was a stronger value proposition than the other guy and our pricing did include services the other guy did not.

We can also enjoy the story about the buyer who objected to not getting brochures. He had 7 sets of identical brochures from the other vendors but he needed 8 to complete his set. I was the 8th and made sure I put them in those plastic protector pages and in a nice binder. I gave him 2 sets, just in case. What does one do with 8 Nortel Networks M81C brochures anyways? actually 9 I exceeded his expectations.

Objection Handling Scripts

1 Listen carefully

Learn to accept  objections for what they are… hidden opportunities. They are a sign of an interested customer. Don’t interrupt or try to handle the objection immediately. Listen carefully and patiently to what they have to say.

2 Make sure you understand the objection

Do this by repeating your understanding of their objection back to them 

“So, if I have understood you correctly, what you are saying is..…”

Make sure they confirmed that your understanding is correct.

3 Acknowledge the customer’s viewpoint

“I can understand why you might say that. In fact, one or two other clients started by saying the same thing to me in the past....”

4 Answer the objection

Continue from step 3 by saying something like:

“…. but what they found – and I'm sure you’ll find the same thing – was that....”

If they are objecting to the price then they have not seen the value of your solution. If they are objecting to reliability as example, you will have to come back with more information to alleviate their concern.

5 Check back that your answer has met their concern.

“Does that make sense to you as it does to me?”

6 Ask for the order

“So would you like us to go ahead?”

If  the customer still objects, you may have to go back to step 1 and start again. If this still fails, ask more questions to help you establish their needs and the value to them of meeting those needs. Your goal is to help them understand your solution

Strategy Tips

Delay talking about prices until after you have demonstrated the value.

“Before we can discuss prices we both need to be absolutely sure that this is the right solution for you. So, if it’s all right with you, we’ll come back and discuss the price in detail when we both know what you need.”

Paint a picture, quantify the value, and help them to understand how it will solve their problems. 

Offer payment alternative like financing or leasing.

Compare your prices to others

“Tell me, are you always the cheapest supplier in your market? Well, neither are we. Like you, we charge a fair price for great products and services. But if all you want is the cheapest widget on the market, I can introduce you to several cheap firms from whom you'll get exactly what you pay for. They are also lower in quality”

“I am sure our competition knows what his widgets are worth. Just as we know what ours are worth but we offer a better widget overall in reliability and quality."

Focus on the difference between what they say they are willing to pay, and what you are asking. This is haggling.

Remove some items or feature of the package to bring the cost within their budget.

Reduce the customer’s risk – perhaps with a money back guarantee or try and buy program

Offer a discount disguised as an incentive. Have them sign up for a 3 year service plan instead of a 1 year.

  • Bonus Tip: Go back and squeeze the manufacturer for some discounts you can pass on

If all else fails, be prepared to walk away – or perhaps introduce them to a lower cost supplier who can offer a 1 ply toilet paper in place of your 2 ply model. Everyone knows the more plys the better the experience.

Happy Objection Handling

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