Questions and Objections Are Allies

Today's customers are doing their homework, gathering information and becoming well informed long before they take that walk through your door.

I have enough tenure to remember the days when clients just wanted the room's pieces to fit together; they pretty much left the design to me. Today's customers, however, want to be deeply involved in the whole process particularly the design portion and they provide hours of input. And, while early designs used to be based primarily on function, today's rooms are designed specifically for each individual client with regard to function, ambiance and decor. Though the importance of function has not diminished over time, the want of the "Wow! Factor" has increased dramatically.

Because of this newly acquired knowledge and desire for direct involvement, many of us need to shift our attitudes to better understand our customers. That's why we need to treat any customer questions or objections as our friend. After all, customers wouldn't have questions or objections if they didn't have interest. Therefore, when working with your next customer, you will have a distinct advantage if you change your attitude toward those questions and objections from annoyances to allies.

Customer Questions
Unfortunately, many salespeople look at questions as objections. They are not. If the question is properly posed, all the prospect is asking for is additional information.

During the selling and design process, customers often have a lot of questions, and the volume alone can become annoying. Compound-ing the frustration is the likelihood that you've already addressed some of the questions being posed.

One thing that will help in answering a consumer's question is to make sure you understand what's being asked. A reply such as, "If I understand your question correctly, you are wanting to know" could help to clarify things. It's also helpful to read a customer's body language and voice inflections. Often these will enhance your understanding of the questions, as well.
Following are questions that are typically asked, as well as responses that I might offer.

Q: "You can't start my project until three months from now?"
A: "You have asked a good question and it deserves the same kind of answer. Three months is a definite start time, and it ensures the expected finish date. Waiting three or four weeks longer and having this assurance is something that is in your favor."

Q: "I know white kitchens are not as popular as they once were. Should I be looking at something else for my kitchen?"
A: "There are always trends and changes in style. However, I've found that people are always content with what they like, and what they like may not be a current style in the marketplace. Therefore, I advise you to select products within your personal comfort zone. That way, as trends change, you will always have what you like."

Q: "Is there any way we can get the cost reduced to stay within our budget?"
A: "Matching a budget to what one wants is a difficult process. Frankly, I always believe the pricing is correct, and the wants, needs and expectations of the consumer are accurate. Therefore, it's my obligation to advise and design the best answers for you. I will work with you to make sure that your investment will deliver exactly what we've discussed and designed, and that it meets your expectations."

Q: "Are there any other stain colors than the ones you show here?"
A: These questions are best answered by returning a question to the consumer. Therefore, my answer might be "Is there a special color you are looking for?" followed by "Which of these is closest to what you are looking for?"

Customer Objections
Objections, on the other hand, are not requests for information. They are obstacles laid in front of closing the sale that must be satisfied.

While I have yet to find a method that works all of the time, it's important to understand the body language of the prospect when dealing with objections. We also need to be in control of our body language during these situations. In very innocent ways, when faced with an objection, our voice and body language often go into a defense mode. Our prospect picks up on this and their defense mechanism reacts. Before long, we are not only dealing with the objection, but an objection with defense emotion. Once emotions enter the process, focusing on the best answer available becomes difficult.

The time-tested tool that still works in these situations is the three-part phrase: "I understand how you feel," "many have felt that way," and "however, they have found." Let's look at the three elements of this powerful helpful statement.

First, "I understand how you feel." There is nothing like someone telling you they know your feelings, be it a question for information or an objection to be overcome. It's huge to let your prospect know you really care.

Next, "many have felt that way." There may be circumstances where you have not known of the conditions that exist, but that will be very rare. It's soothing to let the prospect know that he or she is not alone and what that person is experiencing has existed before and there are answers and remedies to the situation.

Next, "however, they have found." This is a great transition statement to explain the options and the solutions available and propose the best answer for the question or objection at hand.

What makes selling such a wonderful profession is the fact there is no 100 percent sure way to handle all selling challenges. The satisfying part comes when you have developed not only the technical skills of your trade but have put together cognitive skills to handle and control the selling process. Your skill development in properly answering questions and overcoming objections will go a long way to controlling the sales process, having fun, contributing to your customers' needs and improving your sales productivity.