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Know Your “No’s”: How to Handle Objections in Sales and Customer Service

July 26th, 2017 | Isabella Steele | Customer Service
How to Handle Objections in Sales and Customer Service

You’ve just made the greatest pitch to a prospective client. The rush of the possibility and anticipation of the sale has you bright-eyed and excited. The customer seems interested in your product, and the chemistry between you two is flowing like no other.

Then, out of the blue, your customer brings up the dreaded B-word. “But…” Or maybe it’s the W-word. “Well…” A doubt has been introduced and all of a sudden, you’re not so certain that this dream sale will come as easily as you had hoped. You try to maintain your composure, but from your point of view, things are beginning to fall apart before your very eyes.

Or rather, that might be the case if you don’t know how to handle objections.

Handling objections is an important part of sales, customer service, and – let’s be honest – it’s an important part of life. In this blog post, we are going to go over some important steps and tips that will help you navigate your customers’ objections with confidence and ease, so that you can reach a sale or negotiate a win-win compromise whenever possible.

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Acknowledge and Validate Your Prospective Customer’s Objections

Your prospective customer has put the brakes on the sale by bringing up an objection. In order to keep the sale afloat and help your prospective customer move successfully past their doubt or concern, it is important that you address what is bothering them. The best way to do this is by acknowledging and validating your customer’s point of view.

Validation is something that everyone seeks, whether consciously or not. It’s part of why making this sale is so important to you: a successful sale validates you as a salesperson. Your customer is human, so naturally they are going to want some validation too. Ultimately, acknowledging and validating what your customer perceives or has brought up as a roadblock sends the message: “I see you. I hear you. What you are saying matters to me.”

Acknowledgement and validation help make a human connection with your customer, establish good groundwork for a working relationship, and make them feel like more than just another dollar in your pocket. Were you to press on with the sale without taking this vital step, you would essentially be ignoring your customers concerns, and would guarantee a losing situation for both parties.

Example

Customer: “Your sales pitch was great and all, but I’m just worried that your offers aren’t exactly what I want. I want only to contract an internet service—I’m not interested in TV or landline.”

Sales Rep: “I understand that concern—it’s important that you have a service that you find satisfying. Let’s see what I can do for you.”

Here, the sales rep acknowledged the customer’s concern, and validated how she was feeling. Many customers who enter sales or customer service situations begin the conversation worried that it will be a waste of time, or that they will ultimately not be listened to or helped. The sales rep in this example was able to put the customer at ease right away, and set a pleasant, respectful tone for the objection handling process.

Investigate Your Prospective Customer’s Objections – What Are the Underlying Needs?

Once you have acknowledged your prospective customer’s objection, it is time to work your way towards remedying it. This requires a bit more investigation, and for you to distinguish what your customer wants from what they need.

Every “want” has a “need” underlying it, and that can make all the difference when overcoming objections and making a sale. Two customers with the same “wants” don’t necessarily share the same needs, and visa-versa.

Here’s an example to better illustrate this: Let’s say that you are selling fruit, and that you are approached by two different customers who each want to purchase bananas. The first customer wants bananas to put in a fruit bowl. The second customer wants bananas to make into banana pie. Each of these customers share the same want, however, the bananas that they are actually going to purchase will be different based on each customer’s individual needs. If you were to offer the first customer overripe bananas with spots on them, that customer may refuse and you may lose the sale (because these would not meet the need of looking attractive and fresh in the fruit bowl). And if you were to offer the second customer perfect, yellow, spotless bananas, that customer might also refuse, and you might lose the sale (this time because banana pie calls for riper, softer, more spotted bananas, so good-looking yellow bananas would not fit this customer’s need).

Needs often go unspoken, and may take some digging before they come to light. Use good questioning techniques to get to the bottom of what your customer needs. This might include asking your customer who the product is for (to find out if the product is for a child, a teenager, an adult, etc., if applicable), what it will be used for, how often it will be used, to what capacity it will be used, size requirements, whether the priority is quality or price, and/or any other key questions that might be relevant to your product.

And if you’re worried about annoying your prospective customer with your investigative questioning, research shows that you shouldn’t be. A recent study by Harvard neuroscientists found that when people talk about themselves, it gives their brains as much pleasure as money or food. This means that many customers enjoy answering the questions that will help you become an expert in their needs, overcome their objections, and make that sale.

Example

Sales Rep: “Ideally, what sort of package would you like, ma’am?”

Customer: “I’m looking for only internet – I’m not interested in the landline and TV bundle deals. I’m looking for economy, and for a year-long contract.”

Sales Rep: “Alright, I understand that. To help me find the internet speed that’s right for you, do you mind answering a few questions?”

Customer: “No, not at all.”

Sales Rep: “Great. How many people will be using the internet at your residency?”

Customer: “Typically two, unless there are guests.”

Sales Rep: “About how big is your residency?”

Customer: “Approximately 70 square meters.

Sales Rep: “Okay, excellent. And what sort of activities will you be performing with your internet? Browsing, video streaming, or running heavy programs and games?”

Customer: “Browsing and fast-speed video streaming. I hate having to wait for my videos to load.”

In the above example, the sales rep used keen questioning meant to reveal the customer’s needs. This makes the customer feel like the rep is actually trying to get to the bottom of what is best for her, rather than to just make a sale and call it a day.

Show How Your Ability to Meet the Prospective Customer’s Needs Outweighs the Objection

Once you’ve revealed your customer’s needs, it’s time to show them how your product or service will meet those needs. Many prospective customers’ concerns are tied to attachment to wants. You can overcome sales objections by diving in and showing your customers that while their “wants” are important, making a purchase that excels at fitting their needs is even more desirable.

To make this work, it is important for you to deliver a focused pitch. Sometimes salespeople make the mistake of ignoring the information that a customer has given them, and instead spill every last amazing detail about the service or product. While this may seem like a good tactic, the reality is that our conscious mind can only process 3 or 4 pieces of new information at a time. By focusing on the ways in which your service or product will meet your customer’s needs, you will be able to avoid pitching unwanted features and benefits, answering un-asked questions, and generally overwhelming the customer.

Example

Do:

Sales Rep: “Based on the information that you’ve given me, I think that the 50 Megabytes internet would suit all of your browsing and streaming needs. This option allows for seamless streaming of videos, downloads of 5GB movies in as fast as 10 minutes, and up to 4 people can use the internet at a time on multiple devices without it slowing down. So, here are our options for the internet. The first option is to get just the internet, which would be $40 per month, plus a $100 one-time installation fee. The second option is to get the internet with a landline. This would cost $45 per month, but there would be no installation fee. And the third option is the TV, landline, internet combo, which would end up at $90. Based on what you’ve told me about your needs, I’m going to recommend the $45 landline bundle. I understand that you aren’t looking to contract a landline, but this bundle waives the installation fee, which since you are only looking for a year-long contract, will save you money in the long run.”

Here, the sales rep took the customer’s needs into consideration, and showed his expertise in the field by giving her a thoughtful, precise response. He also showed her the advantage of weighing her needs – fast, economic internet – over her wants: internet only, with no landline.

Don’t:

Sales Rep: “Okay, great. Just so you know though, our TV combo has 69 HD channels, 32 SD channels, and 101 paid channels. This includes HBO, Comedy Central, National Geographic, ESPN, you name it, all in HD! You can also access shows online, record shows on your DVR, and even watch the recorded shows on your mobile devices, away from home!”

The customer in our ongoing example has already told the sales rep that she wants internet to be able to stream videos at fast speeds, and that mainline phone and TV bundles aren’t of interest to her. The sales rep has the customer’s needs and her wants, and shouldn’t be wasting both of their time trying to convince the customer to completely abandon both and go with what he wants her to buy. In this “Don’t” example, the rep continued to overload the customer with information about all the channels that are available, rather than exploring the different internet options to meet his customer’s needs. Go with your customer’s needs, don’t fight them.

Use Objections as Learning Opportunities

When you look at a situation as a learning opportunity, everything becomes more interesting, and less condemning. When a prospective customer puts up an objection, it’s not the end of the world, and usually not even the end of the sale.

By using a prospective customer’s objections as fuel for growth, you open the door to learning more about your prospective customer, and how you can better meet his or her needs. Also, the more you practice overcoming sales objections, the more skillfully you will be able to do so in the future.

If you are receiving a lot of the same objection, take note. Objections are also important to bettering your company’s product or service. By having a feedback loop and suggesting improvements where your customers’ needs aren’t being met, you can help your product team and your company make the tweaks that are necessary in order to succeed in the future.

Anticipate Common Objections

Many infomercials feature commonly heard objections, which an enthusiastic narrator remedies on the spot. This technique is used to help overcome objections that viewers might have while watching, before they can become dissuaded and decide not to call in about an otherwise desirable product.

If there is a particular objection that you hear coming up often amongst customers who have similar wants or needs, you can try anticipating this with your hesitant customer. Then, you can move on to remedying it. This will show that you value transparency, and that you truly have thought of everything.

Example

Sales Rep: “And in case you’re worried about any hidden fees or extra charges—don’t be; there aren’t any. Our prices are a fixed monthly rate that don’t go up throughout the duration of the contract. You don’t have to worry about buying or paying to rent a Modem either; we include a Modem free of charge.”

Here, the sales rep anticipated any objection or worry regarding any surcharges, or the use of the Modem, providing extra assurance and tranquility.

Know Your Major vs Minor Objections

According to Tim Hopkins, sales guru and author of How to Master the Art of Selling, “There are two kinds of objections: minor and major. Minor objections are nothing more than a defense mechanism. Your customer probably just wants to slow down the sales process a bit. He or she may just want a few more moments to consider all the facts and figures you’re providing. Handled properly, minor objections tend to fade away and your presentation can continue.”

Major objections, on the other hand, have a much smaller likelihood of being remedied. Major objections might include that you are asking for a price that is just too much for the customer to afford, or that your product or service is just genuinely something that this prospective customer does not need right now.

Knowing which objections are which can help you know how to continue, and when it’s time to thank them for their time and move on.

Don’t Interrupt an Objection

Sales is a two-sided process; your customer listens to you, and you listen to your customer. Venders who step on their customers’ toes by making the sale into a one-man show all too often give the industry a bad rap.

By resisting the urge to jump in and counter an objection before the customer is finished speaking, you will show your prospective customer that his or her voice matters, and strengthen, not weaken your relationship.

It’s also worth noting that sometimes customers voice objections that they are currently in the process of thinking their way out of themselves. If you cut them off and try to provide a rebuttal before they can fully form a sentence, you will be depriving your prospective customer of the chance to figure out the answer to their own objection, and lowering your chance of a sale.

To make sure that you are not interrupting, try and give your two cents during a long pause, following a customer’s question, or after asking the customer, “May I?” or some other question that politely allows them to give you permission to take over the conversation again.

Don’t Push – Empathize

Your customers are people, not numbers, and it’s important to remember that while making a sale.

According to the Harvard Business School professor, Gerald Zaltman, 95 percent of our purchasing decisions take place unconsciously. This statistic is one of many that prove that buying is first and foremost an emotional process, not a logical one.

If you don’t relate to your customer or if you pressure them too much with the facts, you could easily lose their approval or interest while handling their objections.

Work Your “Way”

José Carioca, an animated green parrot who first appeared in the 1940’s as a friend of Donald Duck, was Disney’s first Brazilian character. José helped peak a budding global interest in Latin America, and brought Samba, swag, and a Brazilian jeitinho to the cartoon big screen.

A jeitinho translates to “little way,” and refers to the typically Brazilian way of getting what you want in business, sales, and in life. It involves popping a smile, talking to your customer as if you’re old friends, and smoothly showing them how their objection really isn’t a problem at all.

Regardless of what country they come from, many successful salespeople know how to naturally work this ability. Others need to practice in order to achieve the desired result, or opt for a different strategy altogether. While this may not work with every culture, customer, or situation, it is a great way of overcoming objections for those who know how to pull it off.

Example

Customer: “To be honest, I might not even need a year-long internet contract. It’s possible that I’ll get transferred to another location within 6 months.”

Sales Rep: “Oh, that’s no problem at all. If you break the contract, you’ll be charged a small amount based on how many months you have left—if you’re with us for half your contract, it’ll only be about $40. That’s less than the setup fee, so if you get the internet and landline package, it cancels itself out. And who knows, if you do stay for the whole year, you wanna have great internet all year long, right?”

Customer: “Okay… when would I be able to have it set up?”

Sales rep: “Let me see what I can do… If you sign up today I might be able to pull some strings and slip your name in for tomorrow.”

Negotiate

Once all objections have been made, and all needs have been uncovered, if your customer is still resisting making a purchase, it might be time to negotiate. Here are some techniques for the best negotiation:

  1. Have Your Goals Ready

    To compromise effectively, you should know what you need to have versus what would be nice to have. Before you open the doors to negotiating, create pricing boundaries. What is the lowest you will go for any given customer? What are your best, worst, and most probable scenarios? Know the value of your product and use it as a guideline.

    Create a list of things that you are able to negotiate. Are there any setup fees or shipping costs that you can waive? You can reach a win-win by making smart concessions such as these that your customers value greatly, but that come at minimal cost to the company.

  2. Consider Everything

    What is influencing your customer’s decision? What is the competition offering? How competitive is the market? How much leverage do you have?

  3. Show that You Want to Negotiate

    By showing your customer that you are willing to negotiate with them, and that you want their key issues to be addressed in this negotiation, you will help your customer feel like this is a win-win situation, and that your company is fair and cares.

    Phrases that show your willingness to negotiate might include:

    “What would you like to see come out of this deal?”
    “I’d like to work together to find a compromise that works for you as well as for our company.”
    “What are your non-negotiables? And what can we make some progress on?”
  4. Know When Not to Negotiate

    If you can’t make the same promise for every customer, then chances are you shouldn’t make it. Providing certain concessions might be a bad precedent if you can’t afford to give all clients/customers the same deal. News—good or bad—travels quickly through word of mouth, and it travels even more quickly via social media.

    If a customer is asking for the world, know when to apologize and let them go. Have a set of non-negotiables, and stick to them for the sake of consistency.

  5. Be Transparent with Your Needs

    Your customer has been forward with their needs. And now you need to be honest about yours. Sharing the reasons behind a point of non-compromise can win you points with a customer. If they want you to lower the price on something that can’t be lowered, explain why you can’t go lower (who gets paid, where the money goes). Most people are very reasonable, and if you can actually inform and educate your customer around why you can’t go lower, they’ll often respect that and be happy to look for added value elsewhere.

    If your price is higher than a competitor’s, explain what your company offers that your competitors don’t. By being transparent, you encourage your customer to be transparent as well. You also show your customers that you care about their needs, but that you are dedicated to your business as well.

  6. Remember and Share Long-Term Benefits

    Share with your customer what the benefits of a long-term relationship between them and your company could be. Don’t forget to keep these benefits in mind yourself when negotiating. Just because you have to give a little and compromise doesn’t mean that you lost—think about the bigger picture and what this customer will bring to the table.

  7. Put the Relationship First

    A sale is great, but what is even better is a quality relationship with a customer. All too often a company doesn’t make a sale, but then continues to harass their “almost-customers,” via automated email or even phone call to the point of annoyance.

    Maybe the customer isn’t ready to take on your product just yet. Build trust by following up personally, and showing potential customers that you care about them, and not just their business. This can help you sway a lead into become a loyal, paying customer in the future.

    As Greg Waldorf, CEO at Invoice2go writes, “Understand that a negotiation doesn’t have to be a power struggle. It’s a chance to listen and to be heard, to show and earn respect and to develop a solid relationship with your customers that they’ll want to tell others about.”

Don’t Take Objections or Lost Sales Personally

If you find yourself becoming annoyed by sales objections, or taking them personally, it’s time to give yourself a minute to detach. The moment that you start to get offended by an objection, many customers will be able to sense that in your tone, and will want out asap.

By taking objections personally, you run the risk of becoming argumentative, and making customers uncomfortable. And if by chance you still make the sale, your customer likely won’t walk away feeling good about it. For your sake as well as the sake of your customers, let the objections roll off you like sweat. It’s all part of the game.

What Could You Have Done Differently?

If you weren’t able to properly overcome your customer’s sales objections, it’s time to step back and look at the bigger picture. What was the source of this customer’s objection? Were you unable to create desire for the product or service? Did the customer fail to perceive you as an expert? Were there any errors or mistakes in your presentation?

While it is great to analyze these things for yourself, it may be difficult to be completely objective about your own behavior. When in doubt, ask for your supervisor’s opinion, or even the point of view of the colleague who was sitting next to you. Knowing these things can help you to do better next time.

Conclusion

Although they might seem off-putting at first, objections are a healthy part of an exchange between a customer and a sales rep. You want your customer to object to things that aren’t convincing them, so that you can fine-tune the sale, and help them leave as satisfied as possible.

So, next time you hear an objection don’t be disheartened; use it to perfect your negotiation skills, get back on that horse, and learn how to handle objections better and better each time!

For additional reading, check out our blog post, How to Say No to a Customer Without Ruining Your Relationship.

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About 

Isabella is a freelance editor, writer, and blogger at Live Chat 100 and Comm100. She is passionate about helping people, teams, and organizations grow into their full potential, and excel in their service. In her spare time, you can find her traveling, painting, or drinking copious amounts of coconut water. Connect with Isabella on LinkedIn.

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