Saturday, November 7, 2009

Don't BUT heads with prospects

It’s sensible to avoid arguing with customers...but . . .

Customer objections can become stepping stones towards a sale or stumbling blocks. Many salespeople fall into the “yes but” trap which weakens their negotiating position and could blow the sale.

Infective salespeople typically follow a variation of the following:

Prospect: “Your price is too high...”
Salesperson: “Yes but considering all the features this is a great deal.”
Prospect: “I’m not prepared to pay that much...”
Salesperson: “Perhaps we would be willing to... (Value-added).”
Prospect: “That’s nice, but I think I’d like to think about this some more.”

Replacing ‘but’ with ‘however’ or ‘and’ is cosmetic at best, and does little to close a stalled sale.

SELLING PRINCIPLE: When a prospect objects, find a point of agreement.

Applying this principle is not as easy as it seems. Phrases such as “I know how you feel” or “I can appreciate that” or “I’m glad you brought that up,” are weak, slick, and come across as insincere - mostly because they are insincere or trite.

Let’s analyze the price objection and develop a point of agreement, which positions us as an assistant buyer, not a product peddler.

Prospect: “Your price is too high...”
Salesperson: “We’re not cheap.” or “This isn’t the cheapest system on the market...”

The use of cheap is deliberate here. It changes the emphasis from ‘too high’ to ‘not cheap.’ Cheap implies poor quality, minimum features, or a stingy buyer. Few prospects want the cheapest system; they want the most features for the least investment and they want a better deal. A select number of high ego buyers want the “finest system money can buy.”

There isn’t just one price objection,since several issues revolving around price. Does the customer feel the system is not worth the investment, or do they feel it is beyond their means? Do they believe they can get it elsewhere for less, or are they simply trying to put you off?

Clarifying the objection is up to the salesperson and, effectively executed, closes sales. (Ask the customer for clarification if you are unsure.)

Salesperson: Just to clarify my thinking, are you concerned this system is not worth the investment, or are you not sure how you can handle it?”

This salesperson changes price to investment which appeals to the customer’s sense of value and implies a longer-term benefit rather than short-term savings. By asking the customer to clarify their concerns, you allow them to answer their own objection. In addition, how you respond to “I don’t think it’s worth it” is distinctly different than handling the “I don’t believe I can afford it” objection.

Prospect: “I don’t believe I (we) can afford to spend that much...”
Salesperson: (Point of agreement) “I can appreciate why you would hesitate if you were concerned about the investment, in addition to the budget issue, is there any other reason that might cause you to hesitate?”

Caution: A sales script often sounds insincere, cold, and generic. Their effectiveness relies on the salesperson's capability to isolate a prospects genuine concerns and deal with them effectively. In the hands of a professional salesperson, the above process is a masterful way of helping prospects make the best and most informed buying decision as quickly as possible. The process is not manipulative; some salespeople are manipulative. As Stuart Chase contends, "Meaning is in people, not words."

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