Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Recognizing Objections in the Selling Continuum

Effective sales people understand the selling continuum. They work to add value and build positive relationships with customers and gain their customer’s commitment.  Sometimes this happens quickly and other times objections occur during the sales process which increases the time it takes to gain the commitment of the customer. Moving customers through the selling continuum so they can make a well informed decision is what successful sales people do.  It is not always easy. An important factor in gaining the customer’s commitment is the ability of the sales people to understand and effectively respond to customer objections.
What is an objection? Simply put, an objection is a question or concern.  You may experience objections when you are prospecting for new business, during a sales call and in a presentation. You may see objections when you try to close and gain commitment or even after you have closed a sale and the customer has experienced the product or service.
Customers will object for many various reasons. The most common objections usually fall in the area of pricing, product, need, source, and time (Weitz, Castleberry and Tanner, 2001). Objections occur during the selling process and they can occur in everyday life. For example, you are presenting an idea to a group and during the presentation someone rises up and presents an objection. They state they do not have the time to implement your idea and they do not see a need for it right now. This is a time and need objection.
Responding to a customer’s objections is a responsibility of the salesperson. Here are some examples in these areas that I have experienced in my sales and marketing career to help you see more:
      Price Objection:  We negotiated terms and conditions of a major sponsorship agreement for a sports venue. In the middle of the selling continuum the customer presented price objections. We listened and did not interrupt the customer as they shared their concerns. We focused on unmet needs and evaluated concerns. It was discovered the customer had unmet needs for advertising and customer traffic. We made adjustments, innovated and designed a value-added discount coupon on our packaging that drove traffic into the venue. This simple promotion was easy to execute and we further enhanced our relationship and trust, to further strengthen our partnership. Plus, we were able to improve our overall net pricing.

·         Product and Need Objections:  We were trying to gain new business from a large chain of fast food outlets that sold our competitors’ products.  When we attempted to set up an initial appointment we heard many objections. They felt our products were not needed and our products would not do any more for their business than their current supplier’s product. They seemed satisfied with their current supplier. We did not try to force a situation nor spend time trying to convince the customer to consider us. We listened to the customer, evaluated the situation, and we remained professional and consistent. Occasionally, we would stop by to present an idea or two to keep the customer in our selling cycle. The end result was after a six-month period our efforts paid off and we were given the opportunity to present our innovative ideas, programs, and were successful in matching our capabilities to the customer’s needs. A great partnership evolved and eventually we gained the business and the customer’s commitment. In turn, we gained incremental sales which came directly from our competitor.

·         Source Objection: Providing high quality customer service and care is a key component in building successful relationships and trust. When a company does not provide quality customer service and care and does a poor job following through on service-related issues trust can be damaged and lost. It can sometimes lead to losing the account. We were always proactive in this area and any service- related issues that happened and were not to standard we thoroughly evaluated to find the cause. We evaluated each one closely. We developed feedback tools, improved standards and provided training to ensure our customer service and repair averages were kept at the highest level.  This prevented source objections. 

Responding to objections is an important part of what sales professionals do. When on sales calls and in the selling continuum, we need to remember objections may arise and we should be prepared to handle them by being helpful and positive. Objections are simply questions or concerns. They are a normal part of the selling process. Successful sales professionals should always listen attentively and work to understand their customers’ point of view and address their customers’ questions and concerns. They need to prepare effective responses that will help their customers move forward in the selling continuum so they can make well-informed choices. Being positive and handling objections professionally builds credibility and trust. This helps us gain the customer commitment and builds successful relationships and partnerships. 

Here are some additional insights and tips on objections from Selling and Persuasion

 Weitz, B. A., Castleberry, S. B., & Tanner, J. F. (2001). Selling building partnerships (4th ed.). New York,, NY: Mcgraw-Hill Irwin. 

Bill Davis, MA, CM
Faculty – Forbes School of Business at Ashford University

My articles cover topics on management, leadership, business, marketing, professional selling, organizational change, motivation, adult learning and development and personal and professional career success.  

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