In my coaching conversations, I occasionally encounter clients who report that their prospect “didn’t seem interested” or “told me the price was way too high.” I usually respond with “how did you respond to this situation?” I often find, even with senior salespeople, that they shied away from this seeming objection or left it unexplored.
Before your next sales call, take a minute to think about what a prospect conveys when they seem to object. It could be worse – right? – they could just say, “I’ll get back to you” and leave the conversation. Or, they might even attack: “you brokers kill me; you’re always trying to position me.” But when you get a true objection, consider that the prospect is engaging in your presentation. They have listened, considered and are offering you extremely valuable feedback. If you explore this feedback, you can often answer their question and create the basis for a transaction.
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Sales trainers have categorized objections in three ways: misunderstanding, skepticism and indifference. Each type of objection plays out differently, but all can be explored and possibly resolved.
Dealing with Misunderstanding
You say, “The rental rate is $18.00 per square foot.” The prospect says, “That’s way too high for this market!” You know the rate to be competitive based on your market study. You could respond, “This is the best building in the marketplace, and it has a low vacancy rate,” because you believe the prospect is trying to negotiate with you. Instead, try responding, “Help me understand why you feel that way.” When the prospect goes on to say that having to pay $18.00 per square foot plus operating expenses, you realize the misunderstanding. You then clarify that you are interpreting that the prospect believes the rate is quoted in net terms. “Now, I see the misunderstanding – this rate is quoted on a gross basis, and includes the operating expenses. Does this help?”
When an objection arises, check for a possible misunderstanding by asking for more information. You can do this through a direct question (“Help me understand why you say that.”) or by trying to rephrase the objection (“So, I think you are saying that this building wouldn’t work for you because the rental rate is too high. Is that correct?”).
Dealing with Skepticism
You say, “Your employees will enjoy working in this building, partly because there are so many places to eat nearby.” The prospect says, “I only saw the McDonald’s on the corner, and the cafe on the first floor. I don’t see ‘many’ places to eat.” You could respond, “If you come down Kennedy Boulevard, you’ll find lots of places to eat.” Instead, try responding, “Would you consider 15 places within 1 mile to be ‘many?'” The idea is to affirm a mutual understanding of an acceptable number, and to lead toward evidence that you can supply. “Okay – here’s an aerial photo that I’ve prepared that shows a one mile radius from this location. You can see the eating places marked on the photo. There are 15 locations shown, not including the cafe in the building.”
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When the prospect seems to doubt what you are saying, clarify their specific concern and then respond with a “proof statement.” These proofs are often prepared in advance so that you can demonstrate the claims you make in a marketing presentation. One note of caution: do not blanket the prospect with all of your evidence (photos, site plans, testimonials, warranties, etc.) up front; much of if will go unnoticed or unappreciated. Your proof statement is much more effective when presented in response to a specific concern.
Dealing with Indifference
You say, “we have space available in this building that will meet your needs, and it is ready for occupancy now.” The prospect says, “We don’t really need a space today. Thanks for calling.” You could respond with, “Okay – thanks for the consideration” or “Have a nice day.” It is better to get on to the next call than debate with a ‘don’t wanter,’ right? Instead, consider saying, “I understand. When would you like for me to call you back to see if your status has changed?” The prospect may reveal a softer side or even a toehold: “Try me again in 90 days – things are always changing around here.”
If the prospect is really negative (We’re not interested!”), try ‘strip-lining.’ This method tries to push the prospect to a full commitment. You might say, “I understand. Let me ask this – would you like me to remove your name from my contact list so that I don’t bother you with market opportunities?” If the prospect says yes, you can safely remove them from the list and move on to the next call. Many times, though, the prospect will soften and say something like, “I don’t mind having you call, but send me your information, and I will call you” or “No…just wait six months to call me again.”
These are examples that reinforce the value of listening to the prospect rather than just trying to selling yourself. The more I listen, the more I understand what the objections (or misunderstandings) are.
Asking questions to understand people’s objections is a great way to uncover their real desires and/or concerns.