You can learn from a customer's objections by listening carefully for the real message.
Objections often come up during sales calls. They surface in the form of loaded questions, needling or challenges. Perhaps the customer breaks into your sales presentation to express doubt or lack of interest, or makes a negative comment about your product, company or service.
When talking about customer objections, do you think the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make some lemonade,” applies to sales situations in the electrical wholesaling industry? At least one sales veteran thinks so.
“I love objections,” he said. “The more, the better. How can you sell somebody something unless you find out what he or she is thinking, and what his or her reservations might be about your product or service?
“Sales usually happen when you provide plenty of reasons to buy, and there are no reasons not to buy. I have never known a great salesperson who didn't constantly solicit objections. You must uncover and eliminate all the reasons not to buy.”
When dealing with objections, long-time Electrical Wholesaling author John McCarthy wrote that salespeople should consider these strategies:
Control the negotiation by breaking down disagreements into manageable pieces. Narrow the areas where the customer's opinion and yours diverge, and always remind the customer how many areas you agree upon. Then focus on the points of contention.
When dealing with price objections, make sure the customer is aware of the full range of values your company offers. Emphasize those values of special interest to the current prospect. When justifying a price, focus on the benefits of buying that product from your company. The key features and benefits include product quality, cost savings and the delivery and technical expertise your company offers along with products.
Use questions to cut through a customer's smoke-screen. Customers sometimes use a barrier of objections to shield their true concerns. Salespeople can discover the customer's real objection with a subtle line of questioning.
Strategies for dealing with objections often come up in Pro Talk, a series of roundtable discussions published by William Bradford Associates, Inc., located in Cleveland, Ohio. Following are several of those strategies.
Be patient. Some salespeople love to hear customers' objections, because it gets their competitive juices flowing. They take every objection as a challenge, and they want to prove they can change the customer's mind. However, salespeople need to keep the situation under control, and not jump on an objection right away. Even though they want to respond quickly to a customer's objection, they should instead first listen carefully to the customer and then play back the customer's words to them. They might say, “My understanding is that you're not interested in doing business with us because of this or that. Is that the way it is?”
Doing this makes sure the salesperson understands the customer's concern. Just as important, it gives a salesperson time to think.
Listen before putting your mouth in gear. While salespeople have an innate urge to talk their way through every sales challenge, silence is sometimes golden, according to a participant in a Pro Talk roundtable. This sales veteran said that when he hears a sincere objection from a long-time customer, he first says nothing, and waits eagerly for the customer to explain his objection.
“I just sit there and look at the customer with an expectant expression on my face,” he says. “It's tough to do because you want to jump right in. But if you wait — and it seems like hours go by — the customer will start talking again. More often than not, customers talk themselves right out of their objections. Sometimes, they will tell themselves the objections really aren't that important after all. Agree with them, support their conclusions and go onto something else. It's uncanny the way this works.”
The toughest nut to crack can be the potential customers who are reluctant to place any orders but don't voice any specific objections. In these situations, salespeople are dying for the customer to object to something so they can start addressing their concerns. These are the customers who sit quietly during a sales call — smiling, friendly and listening to everything a salesperson says — but then buy from other competitors and never say why they won't place an order.
Of course, even the most stellar sellers occasionally run into a customer who just can't be sold. One Pro Talk veteran told the tale of a customer who, after listening attentively to her sales presentation would say nothing more than, “Very interesting. We'll see.”
Months would go by and the customer wouldn't place an order. Frustrated, the salesperson drew up a list of 15 potential reasons the customer wouldn't buy from her and titled the list, “I won't buy from you because…”
On her next sales call, she handed the list to the customer and asked him to check off the reason that applied. The customer read the list carefully, smiled, and then wrote on the bottom, “None of the above, but you have given me some new ideas.”
Next month's EW sales challenge: How to add value when selling.
Tell EW How You Deal with Objections and Win $100
This month's Sales Talk challenge for Electrical Wholesaling's readers is to submit the best strategy for dealing with customer objections. The reader who submits the best sales tip on this topic will receive a $100 American Express gift certificate and recognition in an upcoming issue of Electrical Wholesaling. To be eligible for this month's contest, e-mail your sales tips by March 15 to Jim Lucy, Electrical Wholesaling's chief editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stumped? Perhaps you want to offer an idea for dealing with objections, but you're having trouble putting your thoughts down on paper. Here are some ideas to spark your thinking. Check out the sales tips from “99 Can't-Miss Sales Tips” in EW's October 2006 issue and “The Quest for the 100th Sales Tip” in the December issue. These articles are available online at www.ewweb.com.
You may also get your creative juices flowing by writing down your responses to the follow objections:
- Your price is too high.
- We're satisfied with our suppliers.
- Sorry. Simply not interested.
- We've given you a trial order and it wasn't handled well.
- Your competitor has a better product for our purposes.
This exercise can also prompt discussions among your salespeople in a roundtable format in a sales meeting. The roundtable format is the basis for Pro Talk, a brainstorming tool to focus a group of salespeople for an hour on one aspect of the job. By using open questions to tap the know-how gathered at the table, a company can harness a valuable asset to improve performance. For more information about Pro Talk, contact Dave Bradford at (440) 543-7602 or by e-mail at BradfordPROTALK@aol.com.
The Winner of EW's 100th Sales Tip Contest
Electrical Wholesaling received dozens of responses for its 100th Sales Tip contest that was announced in the October 2006 issue. We were delighted with the quantity and quality of the responses, and most of them were published in EW's December issue, “The Quest for the 100th Sales Tip” (p. 46). The winning entry was more than just one sales tip. It was actually a list of sales strategies that one industry sales veteran uses as his personal 13 “rules of the road,” and has offered as valuable advice for younger salespeople at his company over the years. Nine of the 13 tips had not been published in EW's “99 Sales Tips.”
For developing such practical and time-tested sales tips and for being willing to share them with younger salespeople on the way up in their sales careers, the winner of Electrical Wholesaling's 100th Sales Tip Contest is Jim Horn, outside sales, Wabash Electric Supply, Bluffton, Ind. Here are Horn's sales tips:
Don't bash the competition, your own company or anyone else, for that matter. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it.
Spend at least 10 percent of your time prospecting. This should be done in both existing accounts and potential customers.
Your pay is directly proportional to the amount of time spent in front of the customer.
Find out what the customer wants or needs and help him get it.
Make it as easy as possible for the customer to buy from you.
Say thank you.
Don't waste the customer's time. Always have something of interest to show and/or tell.
If you don't know, ask!
All supply houses have buildings, inventory, computers, telephones and people. Remember, the biggest difference between them and your company is that they do not have you!
Be truthful to both your internal and external customers, and most of all be truthful to yourself.
Be a good listener.