One of the most essential skills in closing a sale is the ability to deal with questions, concerns and objections. To do this successfully, you need to understand the root of these questions, concerns and objections; how they come up in the sales process and how to address them.
To begin, I’d like to identify definitions for each of these terms. Then, I will call upon my own experience to provide some examples and solutions.
What are the questions we deal with? The way I see it, when we’re asked a question by a prospect, it’s actually a quest for more information. A challenge we might have is hearing it with the same sensitivity with which it is asked.
We are so involved in this industry, and so inundated with knowledge about all the details of kitchen and bath design, we often take things for granted, or assume certain things are standard knowledge. Our prospect, however, may have a totally different perspective. For that reason, we might not hear the question in the same way it’s meant, or we may misinterpret the intent with which it was asked.
Listening properly becomes the first step to successfully handling questions. We must make sure we understand the question. It never hurts to repeat the question back to the prospect to be sure we understand exactly what information is being sought.
However, this process shouldn’t seem to the prospect like it’s an interrogation.
My approach to handling a question is to listen calmly, making sure I understand it before I answer it. Of course there may be times when you get a question that you cannot answer without first getting additional information. In these cases, I suggest you write the question down in front of the prospect, read it back and indicate when you will give the answer.
Part of successfully answering a prospect’s question involves making sure the answer receives the client’s “buy in.” An example of this might be early in the information stage of a possible remodel project when the prospect asks, “About when will you be able to start our job?”
Your answer could be, “With our current schedule and product availability, we would expect to start in seven or eight weeks. Will that work for you?” Note the latter part of that answer: If you don’t ask, “Will that work for you?” you will not have finished the questioning process. If you don’t get an agreement, it will turn into a concern.
Now, what if the prospect asks, “What day will you be able to start our project?” I know in our company, our sales/designer would not be able to be exact without consulting with our installation manager (who sets the schedule). The way I believe this should be answered is, “I will communicate with my installation manager to get an exact date. I will give you a call tomorrow. Based on your agreement with that date, I will need to place your order. Will that be okay with you?”
What is neat about this kind of an answer is that it provides a conditional close. The prospect’s agreement is a close of the sale. If the prospect says yes, you can place the order.
In order to keep your selling attitude positive, remember that questions from the prospect mean your opportunity is alive and well. Prospects who are asking questions are actually saying, “Tell me more.” However, when you fail to follow through with the questions and give answers designed to provide the information they need, those questions can escalate to become concerns or objections, which can be much harder to deal with.
Concerns are a little different than questions in that they are harder to uncover and more difficult for the prospect to articulate. To keep concerns to a minimum and at a manageable level where they won’t derail your selling process, it’s important for the salesperson to frequently ask questions such as the following:
- Is everything okay so far?
- Is there anything I haven’t done or information that I have not provided?
- I have found there are several areas where concern can be created, therefore, I need to know, are you comfortable with the design, budget and timetable we are working with before we go on?
- If you are comfortable, we need to go forward toward our final agreement. If not, we need to solve any concerns. Are you comfortable moving ahead?
- I’m prepared to go forward with the project – are you?
With these questions, you will help to identify any concerns and create the opportunity for them to surface and be dealt with.
If you don’t ask these types of questions early and often in your selling process, concerns will arise that can hinder your ability to close the sale. The longer you wait to identify and address these, the tougher they are to solve.
I believe questions require factual answers, and are answered by giving the prospect facts. Concerns also may be the client asking for facts, but their origin tends to be more emotion driven, and as such, they need to be answered with more emotion.
For instance, you might answer a price concern by saying, “I am sensitive to your budget concerns, however, I believe… (then you continue to review and sell).”
Our responsibility as sales/design professionals is to uncover any concern early, solve the problem and move on. Letting a concern go unacknowledged diminishes your opportunity to create a sale.
Objections are likely to come in the form of a statement. For example, the top three objections I have found are: “Your price is too high,” “We want to think it over” and “We want to get more bids.”
I have good news about objections: There are not many. I would suggest you try to list the 10 most common objections you receive. I bet you will find it difficult to get past five.
Since you know what your objections will generally be, you can prepare your answers to the most common objections in advance. Remember, too, that many objections can be eliminated at the start by properly qualifying prospects. Ask questions such as:
- If we can work within the budget we have established, will we be able to move forward?
- Are you working with any others for designs and quotes on your project?
- Often people want to think over their design and investment. I want to make sure we don’t delay your decision and project, so let’s think it through as we go.
- I believe you would agree that would be best, don’t you?
When a question, concern or objection arises, I like to use the time-tested statement, “I understand how you feel (empathy), many people have felt that way (you are not alone), however… (transition to the solution).”
Please take my opinions, examine how you might change your communication and presentation skills, and raise your ability to handle questions, concerns and objections. When you hone these skills, you can prevent these three pitfalls from being a deterrent, and instead turn them into your allies.
Read past columns on Closing the Sale by Ralph Palmer, and send us your comments about this story and others by logging onto Kitchen & Bath Design News’ Website at www.kitchenbathdesign.com.