Personal Selling Process: Meeting Objections Objections are encountered in practically every presentation. They should be welcomed because they indicate that the prospect has some interest in the proposition. A prospect who is not interested in buying seldom raises any objections, silently going along with the presentation but saying at the end, “I’m not interested in your deal.” There are several important techniques that should be used in responding to a buyer objection:• Listen to the buyer. It is important that you listen actively. “Learn as much as you can about the objection,” says certified professional sales trainer and speaker Rick Grosso. “Encourage your prospect to expand and tell you more.” Do not assume that you know what the buyer is going to say, and never interrupt—nothing annoys a buyer more!• Clarify the objection. Repeat and clarify the objection by asking for more information, using questions such as “Let me see if I understand you correctly, [repeating the objection as you understand it]. Is that correct?” The buyer may confirm that you are correct in your understanding or provide additional information. Sometimes this step can uncover a misunderstanding that the buyer has about your product and/or service.• Respect the buyer’s concern. Acknowledge that you understand and appreciate the concerns. Remember that the buyer is not attacking you personally, so you should not become defensive.• Respond to the objection. It is important that you respond to the buyer’s concern. The specific response to the objection depends on the type of objection it is. As these techniques suggest, the salesperson’s response to the objection should not threaten the rapport that hopefully has been developed with the customer. Like all people, customers desire to be seen as competent, credible individuals; and want to be treated fairly. Salespeople must keep this in mind and carefully manage the rapport when overcoming customer objections. The most common types of objections and specific strategies for handling them are discussed next. Price or Value Objections Buyers who say “I don’t need it” or “It costs too much” are indicating that they don’t think the value of solving the problem or meeting the need is worth the cost. In this case, the salesperson must convince the buyer of the importance of
the problem and of the value of the solution. It may be necessary to go back to the need assessment part of the call to ask some additional problem impact and solution value types of questions to increase the buyer’s perception of the seriousness of the problem and the importance of a solution. If the buyer acknowledges the importance of the problem but still feels that the company can’t afford the product/service or that it is not a price-competitive solution, then the salesperson can offer some price value comparisons of alternative solutions. Product/Service Objections Sometimes the buyer acknowledges the importance of a problem but doubts whether the product or service can solve his problem or improve his operations. The buyer may disagree with the salesperson’s assessment or, in some cases, even doubt the genuineness of the salesperson. In this case, the salesperson needs to convince the buyer that her product will do what she says. She must demonstrate or prove that the product has the capability to fulfill the need. Some of the proof-providing tactics are to offer the buyer• case histories• testimonials• independent tests• a demonstration• trial use• expert opinion Some objections relate to needs that your product cannot satisfy. In this case, it is best to first acknowledge that your product or service cannot meet the particular need. Then try to increase the perceived value of your product by reemphasizing those important needs your product can meet. Procrastinating Objections Procrastinating objections can be difficult to overcome. Some such objections are• Let me think about it a while.• I have to talk it over with my boss.• I have to wait until the next budget cycle.
• I have some other reps to talk to before I make a decision. Procrastinating prospects use such excuses to avoid acting on a proposition immediately or to avoid admitting that they don’t have the authority to make the decision. In door-to-door selling, a sale that cannot be closed on one call usually has little chance of completion. In many business sales, however, the prospect cannot be pushed into a sale without creating considerable ill will. In fact, businesses are taking more and more time before committing. Customers today are very thorough. They use the Internet to research all options and are careful not to make a mistake. A survey of purchasers found that only 13 percent tend to buy within three months, while 44 percent require 6 to 12 months to decide. A full 20 percent of purchasers say they require a year or longer before a typical sale is complete. The sales rep must understand this extended buying cycle and remain a patient and trusted adviser to the customer. The amount of aggressiveness must be modified to fit the prospect and the situation. Some people will not be pushed or rushed. In these situations, the best strategy is to ask for a commitment for some future action that will move the sale forward. For example, the salesperson might ask for a meeting with the buyer and his boss or with whoever else seems to have substantial influence over the decision. Hidden Objections Prospects may state their objections to a proposition openly and give the salesperson a chance to answer them. This is an ideal circumstance, because everything is out in the open and the salesperson does not need to read the prospect’s mind. Unfortunately, prospects often hide their real reasons for not buying. Further, stated objections may be phony. A prospect may say she does not like the looks of a product, when she really thinks the price is too high. The rep must determine the real barrier to the sale to be able to overcome it. Some salespeople have developed special methods for getting the prospect to disclose what is blocking the sale. One saleswoman uses what she calls her “appeal for honesty” tactic. She says to the reluctant prospect, “You expect me to
be honest with you, as you should. But haven’t I the same right—to expect you tobe honest with me? Now, honestly, what is bothering you about theproposition?” However, the best technique for discovering hidden objections isto ask questions that keep the prospect talking.As we noted in the planning section, it is often necessary for salespeople tochange their original objectives and strategies for the sales call. Salespeople mustrecognize the need and be willing to adapt their presentations when the buyer’sobjections signal that they may have initially chosen the wrong strategies.Another important principle to remember in handling most objections is to avoidarguments at any cost. The sales rep should ask questions that help clarify theprospect’s thinking. This provides insights into the precise obstacles that arehindering the sale. Even if prospects are dead wrong, sales reps should neveroffend them. A sales rep can win an argument only to lose the sale.Create Buyer Urgency and NeedsAn objection in the world of B2B selling is a stated (or perceived) reason on thebehalf of a prospective buyer as to why he or she is not willing to commit eitherto buying your solution or to moving ahead to the next stage of the sale.Most buyer objections can be avoided or, at least, neutralized by leading the salesprocess with consultative sales techniques. By opening discussions with buyersaround the external pressures facing the buying organization and relating themto their internal pressures, desires and needs, before aligning the benefits of yoursolution with these pressures, needs and desires, your buyer will have much lessreason to object to your proposal. Most of the doubts they held about yourproposal will be extinguished if you create a compelling event in the mind of theprospect before explaining how your product or service will benefit them indealing with this event.We call this consultative approach ‘Selling from the Left®’. If you are able to Sellfrom the Left® with a really compelling event, the buyer will not only want toavoid raising any objections that might delay the sale, they will want toproactively work with you to overcome any hurdles that you come across duringthe remainder of the sales process.Be flexible and provide social proofHowever, consultative sales techniques alone are not enough to maximize theamount of objections that you will avoid. To avoid as many objections aspossible, you must be flexible and prepared to give away additional value, while
you must also be poised to provide social proof to help with the momentum ofthe sale.To summarize, the three secrets to avoiding objections are as follows:1. Sell from the Left® using consultative sales techniques to create urgency anddesire. This will motivate the buyer to avoid objections wherever possible and, ifobjections are raised, they will be more likely to be genuine objections that thebuyer will wish to overcome.2. be flexible and prepared to give additional value to help the momentum of thesale. Identify small points of additional value that you are willing to proactivelyadd in to the sales process to maintain the momentum and avoid any potentialconcerns.3. Provide social proof of the solutions you have previously (and successfully)implemented for similar clients in the past. Social proof, in the form of greatreferences, will reassure the buyer that others have benefited from your solutionand will, therefore, reduce the buyer’s perception of the risk involved withinvesting in your solution.If you can Sell from the Left® to create urgency and desire, you are flexible andprepared to give away additional value, and you provide social proof of yourprevious successes, you will be able to avoid most of the objections that buyerstypically throw at sales and business development professionals in salesmeetings. By following these steps you will not only make the buyer avoidraising objections, but you will also create real interest and a desire on thebuyer’s behalf to progress with the sale.The Sales Relationship-Building processFor many years the traditional approach to selling emphasized the first-time saleof a product or service as the culmination of the sales process. Marketing conceptand accompanying approach to personal selling view the initial sale as merelythe first step in a long-term relationship-building process, not as the end goal.The relationship-building process which is designed to meet the objectivescontains six sequential stages. These stages are (1) prospecting, (2) planning thesales call, (3) presentation, (4) responding to objections, (5) obtainingcommitment/closing the sale and (6) building a long-term relationship.When a buyer and a salesperson have a close personal relationship, they bothbegin to rely on each other and communicate honestly. When each has a
problem, they work together to solveit. Such market relationships are known asfunctional relationships. A person may have such a relationship with along-termmedical or dental practitioner or hair-cutter.When organizations move beyond functional relationships, they developstrategic partnerships or strategic alliances. These are long-term, formalrelationships in which both parties make significant commitments andinvestments in each other in order to pursue mutual goals and to improve theprofitability of each other.Importance of personal sellingThe importance of the personal selling function depends partially on the natureof the product. As a general rule, goods that are new and different, technicallycomplex or expensive require more personal selling effort. The salesperson playsa key role in providing the consumer with information about such products toreduce the risks involved in purchase and use. Insurance, for example, is acomplex and technical product that often needs significant amounts of personalselling.It is important to remember that for many companies the salesperson representsthe customer’s main link to the firm. In fact, the salesperson is the company.Therefore it is imperative that the company take advantage of this unique link.Through the efforts of the successful salesperson, a company can buildrelationships with customers that continue long.Personal selling is an integral of the marketing system, fulfilling two vital duties:one for customers and one for companies. Lacking relevant information,customers are likely to make poor buying decisions. For example: Doctors wouldhave difficulty finding out about new drugs and procedures were it not forpharmaceutical salespeople. Second, salespeople act as a source of marketingintelligence for management. Marketing success depends on satisfying customersneeds. If present products don’t fulfill customer needs then profitableopportunities may exist for new or improved products. If problems with acompany’s products exist, then management must be quickly apprised of thefact. In either situation, salespeople are in the best position to act as theintermediary through whom valuable information can be passed back and forthbetween product providers and buyers.Disadvantages of Personal Selling1. Intruding nature of the method - The biggest disadvantage of selling is thedegree to which this promotional method is misunderstood. Most people have
had some bad experiences with salespeople who they perceived were overlyaggressive or even downright annoying.2. It is expensive maintaining this type of promotional effort due to the highper-contact cost involved. Costs incurred in personal selling include high cost-per-action and training costs.3. Job turnover in sales is often much higher than other marketing positions4. Can not reach mass audience5. Numerous calls needed to generate sale 6. Labour intensiveAdvantages of Personal Selling1. One key advantage personal selling has over other promotional methods is that it is a two-way form of communication. In selling situations the message sender (e.g., salesperson) canadjust the message as they gain feedback from message receivers (e.g., customer).2. It is Flexible - So if a customer does not understand the initial message (e.g., doesn’t fullyunderstand how the product works) the salesperson can make adjustments to address questionsor concerns. Many non-personal forms of promotion, such as a radio advertisement, areinflexible, at least in the short-term, and cannot be easily adjusted to address audience questions.3. The interactive nature of personal selling also makes it the most effective promotionalmethod for building relationships with customers, particularly in the business-to-business market.This is especially important for companies that either sell expensive products or sell lower costbut high volume products (i.e., buyer must purchase in large quantities) that rely heavily oncustomers making repeat purchases. Because such purchases may take a considerable amountof time to complete and may involve the input of many people at the purchasing company (i.e.,buying centre), sales success often requires the marketer develop and maintain strongrelationships with members of the purchasing company.4. Personal selling is the most practical promotional option for reachingcustomers who are noteasily reached through other methods. The best example is in selling to the business marketwhere, compared to the consumer market, advertising, public relations and sales promotionsare often not well received