Uncovering hidden objections

Years ago, after making what I thought was a great advertising proposal to a local restaurant owner, I sat back and smiled, thinking “He’s going to buy.”
He didn’t.
Instead, he pulled the tablecloth out on me. “Let me talk to my partner, ” he said. “Give me a call next week.”
He had an objection, gave me a put-off, and I had no sale.
Before you can effectively overcome an objection, you’ve got to uncover what it really is. At the restaurant, I hadn’t asked enough questions up front. Did he have any partners, or anyone else who made buying decisions? Was that even the real issue?
The “partner” was a delay statement. Almost every time a sale is lost or delayed, the prospect just isn’t convinced that doing business with you is worth the pricetag. With my restaurant client, I needed to go back and ask more questions. It was the only way I could find the hidden objection.
The first step is almost always to get more information. The less you know, the less likely you’ll make the sale.
What does that customer use now? Who at the company uses it? And how could you fill a need or increase the customer’s satisfaction?
Asking questions is one of the most inexpensive – and under-used – tools in your sales arsenal. Before you start talking product, service or price, make sure you’ve uncovered all of the prospect’s needs, wants and concerns.
The next step is persistence. It takes up to five calls to close a sale. That includes time for rapport-building, product or service positioning, and overcoming initial concerns. Most salespeople give up on a prospect after only two calls. Naturally, if the prospect is now buying from one of your competitors, the prospect will have to be convinced to try you.
Dropping the ball too soon means future sales and continued growth will be lost. Persistence is essential. Today, with your prospects’ lives moving faster than ever before, a sales presentation must be more concisely matched to a prospect’s needs, or you’ll lose his or her attention to something else.
When you’re put off, it will often come in the form of a general objection, like, “Let me talk to my partners or committee.” The real objection could be that he or she didn’t match you, your company and the person’s satisfaction together quickly enough. And once your plan is shelved, you’ll have to work even harder to get it back into motion.
Even then, objections will remain. Handle them as you would any question about your product or service, but never as an attack that needs to be defended.
A lot of objections today don’t fit the old textbook profiles. They’re general sounding and harder to pinpoint, like an “unsold partner” or committee. Very few prospects will say, “Sure I’ll buy, now let’s go convince my boss.” In real life, it’s easier on the client’s part to “put you on hold.” Then it’s up to you as a sales professional to uncover the hidden objection and re-present your case.
Help fill your prospects’ needs by uncovering more of their hidden concerns, and you’re on your way to a new sale … and a lasting partnership.
Joe Guertin is president of Joseph Guertin & Associates, an Oak Creek-based speaking, training and coaching firm.
Your comments are welcome at 414-762-2450, or jguertin@tcccom.net
Ten Tips:
For Uncovering Hidden Objections
1 Ask more questions up front
It pays to know timelines, budgets and other decision-makers
2 Don’t pounce on objections
Objections aren’t attacks, but requests for clarification
3 Classify the importance of the objection
Ask, “Aside from that, what’s most important to you (and your staff)?”
4 Isolate the objection as the only objection
Ask, “If that weren’t a problem, would you go ahead with it?”
5 Address the objection succinctly
Explain your case, or use it to negotiate
6 Get them involved in the solution
Try putting the prospect in your shoes. Ask what he or she would do.
7 Test the waters
Once you answer the objection, Ask, “Does that answer your questions?”
8 Be aware of “inside objections”
Learn about the prospect’s buying policies and hierarchy
9 Make more links
Get to know the prospect’s decision-influencers
10 Brainstorm common objections
With colleagues, managers or co-workers
July 1998 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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