Selling 102: How To Handle Objections More Effectively

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“I understand how you feel.”

How many time have you heard your salespeople say this to their (your) customers after an objection is raised? Sure, I know, it’s Selling 101, the old “Feel, Felt, Found” method. I get it, but the problem is your salespeople don’t. Somewhere along the way they attended a training seminar that taught them to use Feel, Felt, Found every time they get an objection.

Here’s how it works: First, “I understand how you

feel

” (shows empathy, a nice touch). Then, “Others have

felt

this way too” (I don’t want my customer to think that they are alone). Finally, “What they have

found

is that by ….” (insert here whatever it is you are trying to get the customer to do). While the concept is right, let’s see if we can make Feel, Felt, Found work more effectively.

Before a salesperson attempts to handle any objection, he should first make sure that he understands what the customer is really saying. An easy example is the objection, “It’s too expensive.” Before you blurt out “I understand how you feel” and tout the benefits of your financing program, consider some of the other possible options, as “too expensive” means different things to different people. Is it that they really don’t have the money? Could it be that they think it’s too expensive given the product’s benefits compared to its price? Or maybe they have seen it elsewhere for less money.

While these are just three possible scenarios, the initial response of offering your financing program only addresses one of them (that the customer can’t afford it). Take the time to clarify the objection before you try to answer it so you can offer an appropriate response. You could clarify it with an open-ended question such as “By too expensive do you mean you don’t think it’s worth the price?”

Here’s another example of clarifying the objection. Let’s say you’ve done a great job of presenting your service plan to the customer and you ask him if he would like to go ahead and include it with his purchase. He responds with “Can I get it later?” First, I would view this as more of a buying signal than an objection since it’s really a question expressing interest. I would handle this by answering the customer’s question to avoid alienating him. Depending on your company’s policy and/or state law, your answer is either yes or no, but either response should be followed by a clarifying question. “I can only offer it to you today, but may I ask if there’s a reason that you want to wait to purchase it?” At this point you have answered the question and asked for clarification before you begin to handle the real objection.

Out of that clarification will come a variety of responses, such as “I need to talk to my spouse” or “I just don’t have the money right now.” Let’s deal with the latter. Clarify again: “So you like the idea of the program, it’s just a matter of making it affordable today?” Again two possible options, yes or no. If it’s no, there is an underlying issue that needs to be uncovered by further clarification. If it’s yes, now and only now is the old Feel, Felt, Found appropriate, since we have clarified and uncovered enough information to understand what it is that the customer is really saying.

But instead of “I understand how you feel,” try “Now I understand” (the “

feel

” is implied). “I hear the same thing from other customers every day” (others have felt this way). “Most of them are able to get the program that they want by taking advantage of our in-store finance program” (tell them what the group

found

to solve the problem). “Why don’t we go ahead and have you fill out the paperwork, it only takes a few minutes, how does that sound?”

The point is to take the time to uncover the real objection before trying to solve the problem. Feel, Felt, Found is great conceptually; just make sure to use it appropriately.

Tom Hebrock is retail services VP at Stuart & Associates, a Brentwood, Tenn.-based consulting firm working with manufacturers and retailers on returns reduction, extended-service plan sales and sales training now in its 15th year. For more information, visit www.bettersales.com, call (615) 371-9322, or write Tom at thebrock@bettersales.com.

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