Dreaded ‘O’ word
Fear, it is said, is a negative kind of wish. And to the salesperson nightmare is a word that begins with an ‘O’. Don’t we all wish for smooth-as-breeze sales with no objections? But let’s borrow the buyer’s hat for a minute. Matt Abrahams and Burt Alper contributing to Stanford Business Insights explain it this way – “People will go to great lengths to avoid potential negative outcomes – much greater lengths than they will go to attain potential positive ones. This orientation toward the status quo often compels us to be suspicious of new things” The solution? Know how to handle a suspicious audience say Abrahams and Alper in their insight article How to handle audience skepticism (Stanford Business Insights, September 3, 2015)
Framing – A fail-safe objection buster
One fail-safe objection buster is ‘framing’. How we position a topic often determines the way people see it. Use language that highlights the positives such as the potential benefits and successes. Classic example of framing is the description of ‘used’ cars as ‘pre-owned’. A simple change in the word choice transforms the way those cars are seen, which in turn influences buyer attitudes and behavior
Two primary objection categories
To help understand which framing technique would work where, the article groups all objections into two categories –
- Objections of the Heart - Subjective, emotional concerns
- Objections of the Mind - Objective, factual concerns
Objections of the Heart
Emotional objections are easy to spot. They lack data or are focused on what might happen in the future. They are expressed as knee-jerk, spontaneous concerns. Here are some techniques, the article suggests, to counter objections of the heart
1) Look for Cues
Phrases like the ones below:
- “I’m not sure why …. I just don’t like it”
- “That doesn’t feel right for me”
- “What if …”
- “That might lead to …”
2) Douse emotional fire with logic
Fighting emotion with an emotional response drives the other side to take an even more entrenched position. The issue doesn’t get resolved and your credibility takes a knock.
3) Use paraphrasing as a framing technique
“Paraphrasing” say the authors “is a listening tool where you reflect back what others say in your own words”. Effective paraphrasing brings a host of benefits with it. You can be sure that you heard and understood the other person right. The other person feels valued for her/his contribution. You get some time to think, when you can pivot your response to logic.
4) Reframe with a higher order concept
Consider the most feared objection – “Why are your prices outrageously high?” A reframed, paraphrase can be effective in such cases, recommends the article. “… you can reframe the issue to be about a topic you are better prepared to address. For example, ‘So you’d like to know about our product’s value’.
This, however calls for, identifying a higher order concept that holds the key to an effective response. Objection on longer delivery time, for instance, could be pivoted to highlighting of quality. So, invest time ahead of the crucial sales call or presentation to anticipate objections and understand the connected higher order links. Then you can invoke the links seamlessly while paraphrasing
5) Try these lines to start your paraphrase
- “So, what you are saying/asking is …”
- “What is important to you is ….”
- “You’d like to know more about …”
- “The central idea of your question/comment is …”
Objections of the Mind
Fact based objections are easier to both identify and manage, as they originate from some logical reasoning. These objections are usually the result of prior experience with the idea, product or service being discussed. The article suggests strategies to counter objections of the Mind, which are as follows:
1. Spot the cues
Phrases denoting fact based concerns, listed in the article, include:
- “We just don’t have the resources”
- “We don’t have enough time”
- “Your idea will cost too much”
2. Don’t counter fact based objections with more facts
Presenting more facts that counter the other person’s objections is not a smart thing to do. This approach leads to arguments on whose information is right. Neither side will win. Your credibility will be hurt
3. Use analogies to reframe and overcome fact based objections
When you use an analogy, you activate the listener’s existing mental constructs. Information processing and understanding become quicker. You also introduce a fresh view point or perspective for discussion to continue. For example, while opening a bank account, the Customer objects to the number of papers required to be submitted. You could counter that with an analogy of a car passenger having to strap on for a safe ride. Enjoyable? May be not. But safe? Definitely yes. Work in advance, to anticipate fact based objections and keep some analogies ready to counter them
Champions of Selling follow a professional sales process right from the word go, so that Customers see the Value they are getting. Such Sales People sell price well, overcoming objections that come on the way.
How does one handle non-price objections? There are three kinds of objections: Objections we don’t hear, Objections we hear and can answer and Objections we hear but cannot answer. The process and skill to handle each of these is key to selling well.
4. When it comes to analogies, clichés are fine
We are taught to avoid clichés, while writing. But when it comes to picking analogies to overcome objections, clichés are fine. Since clichés are trite analogies, they are universally understood and can put common wisdom on your side. A Customer objecting to a buying maintenance contract for an expensive equipment, is easier to convince when you tell him that it could be a penny-wise thing to refuse the maintenance cover. You should of course take care not to overuse clichés in a single interaction
Salespeople regard objections as stumbling blocks. Intelligent use of framing can help you transform them into stepping stones for sales success.
The Stanford Business Insights article on How to handle audience skepticism by Matt Abrahams and Burt Alper is here
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