Survive and Thrive

by Marc Beauchamp

   Last month we reviewed the six basic traits that determine why merchants make a positive purchasing decision, just to review - they were reciprocation, consistency, social validation, liking, authority and scarcity. This month I'd like to discuss the commitment stage of the sales process and several traditional methods of how to respond to common sales objections. A great definition of gaining commitment is helping people make an educated buying decision. You've heard it before: "People don't like to be sold, but they love to buy." The job of merchant focused salesperson it to create an environment where your customers want to buy. Before we get started lets look at the most common reasons why prospects fail to purchase.

  • Fear of making a bad decision
  • No perceived need and/or value
  • Lack the means to purchase
  • Comfortable with current situation
  • Lack of rapport or trust with sales person
  • Had a previous negative experience

   Objections can be a fabulous tool to gauge where you are in the sales process and help open the door to your merchant's thought process. Good salespeople use probing questions to uncover why prospects are not moving forward. Answering questions to objections is an opportunity to consummate the sale. Don't get defensive; an objection is not a personal attack.
   Many initial objections are conditioned responses. When someone in a store asks you "May I help you?" how do you respond? Probably with "no thank you, I'm just looking." Many of your merchants are doing the same thing.
   Here are five standard steps to answering objections:

  • Listen to the objection. Really listen.
  • Acknowledge the objection. Empathize and/or feed it back to them or ask a question to clarify the objection.
  • Answer the objection. It must be believable and practical to the situation.
  • Confirm. Verify that the answer you gave is acceptable.
  • Advance the sale.

   Let's review a couple traditional responses to the most common objections.

I Want to Think it Over

   The one objection that salespeople hear more that any other is "I want to think it over". Here is a general guide that can be used for the "think it over objection."
   Merchant: "Let me think it over."
   Salesperson: "That's fine, I understand. This is an important decision and you need to feel comfortable with it and make sure you covered all the bases. To clarify my thinking and answer any questions you might have while I'm here, what is it that you want to think over? Is there something I didn't cover or is it the _________ or_________. (Keep firing possibilities at them in order to find out the true objection.) Once the true objection is uncovered you can deal with it.

Feel, Felt, Found Response

   Another great method is the Feel, Felt, Found method; this has been around for ages but still works for just about any objection raised. The feel, felt, found method accomplishes three things:

  • Assures the merchant their feelings have been accepted,
  • Lets the merchant know those feelings are valid and shared by other merchants,
  • Shows the merchant that others have found those feelings to be unfounded because of one or more of the benefits of ownership.

   Regardless of the objection raised you respond in the following manner:
   "I understand how you feel; I've had customers that felt the same way, but what they found was that ____________."
   Make sure you have the answers and have practiced your responses to the most common merchant concerns and can fit them into this model.

When All Else Fails Just Ask - Why?

   Here is one technique that works in any situation and avoids using any pre-packed responses. Just ask the customer "Why." You can phrase this in many different ways:

  • Why do you say that?
  • I'm curious, why do you feel that way?
  • Tell me, why do you think that?
  • Why is that?

   This will get down to the real objection quickly and you can work with the customer to eliminate their concerns. Objections are a critical step in the buying process and give you the chance to answer all your merchants' questions and avoid buyer's remorse. If the steps prior to the objection phase were done correctly, gaining commitment should be a natural progression in the sale.