Objection or red herring?


Sometimes it is quite difficult to discern between the two and there are occasions when we can walk away from a sale because we have taken the objection at face value and not sought to dig into whether it is real or not. Usually, when it’s not, it is because we have somehow created doubt in the buyers' mind and they are nervous about committing. Whilst there are many reasons for this, it can be as simple as we have not explained our proposition clearly enough or perhaps even the pricing structure.


Conventional wisdom suggests that if you are encountering too many objections in the daily routine of selling your products then maybe you just aren’t ‘selling’ your products solidly enough in the first place resulting in more questions than answers. This would require a thorough examination of your sales story and exactly how you present your wares.


However, here we will have a look at actually handling an objection rather than whether you are getting too many. An objection is a name we give to that situation where the customer is experiencing doubt and confusion over the decision to commit and this manifests itself in a refusal to go ahead.


As a consequence, they will say things to put you off or ask for time to think about it, all of which will sound very plausible but the end result is, no sale (for now at least). If we view these objections as a real chance to cement the deal and fully answer their questions and queries then it really can be an opportunity to savour rather than a barrier to furthering your relationship.


So we have a chance to establish whether we are faced with a real objection that we simply cannot overcome or a buying signal that if we get just one more piece of the jigsaw in place, we have a deal. Objections often come in the shape of factual objections and emotional objections. If you hear, “As much as I would like it, I just cannot afford your product at £1,000 per unit so I have no choice but to buy a cheaper option at £300 per unit from another supplier”. This is an objection that you will struggle to overcome if you have a quality product that can’t be sold for much less than your asking price. You can point out the pitfalls of ‘getting what you pay for’ all day long but if your prospect genuinely doesn’t have the money then you are stumped. Unless you can persuade your company to produce a budget version of your product of course.


If there is a genuine price objection then you may want to consider the value statement you are making. Is your product aligned with your competitors for the same thing in terms of price and is it genuinely representing value for money to your customer? Sometimes, of course, the objection is nothing to do with money.


Early in my career as an advertising sales exec, I was tasked with trying to persuade the dealer principal of a major motor dealer to use our publication rather than the opposition, where he had been for years. When I made my pitch he said to me, “Do you know why I don’t use your publication? I asked him to explain and it turned out that some years before he had experienced a personal family tragedy which, our newspaper being the paper of record, published as a news story. It caused him a great of grief to see his private life in print and he pledged never to use us again and moved to the commercial opposition who would never have printed the story of course.


It took a great deal of time and sensitive discussion to finally get him to realise that as painful as it was at the time, the newspaper was simply doing its job. Being the paper of record was the reason that everyone in the town bought it and the main reason why he should be advertising in there as it was number one in the market and the best place for his products to be advertised.


It’s too simple to say, ‘don’t cut your nose off to spite your face’ as there was a lot of emotion behind his decision but we eventually reached a conclusion and he was coaxed gently back into our product. An emotional objection overcome by what we might call the ‘human element’.


Sometimes it is hard to unearth the real objection and careful questioning can help in establishing what is a real objection and what is a red herring. Re-selling the product is often required to get to this point and going over the features, advantages and benefits of your product again can often reveal the truth.


There are many different reasons why you may encounter an objection in the process of selling your products, ranging from price and value to previous bad experiences and the general attitude of your customer towards your company or indeed you as an individual – after all, some truths never change and in sales generally people buy people first. So if you think you have overcome everything but can’t work out why your prospect isn’t biting, well that may be the time to have a long hard look in the mirror and examine what you may be doing wrong.


Maguire runs a number of courses that can help you to learn techniques for improving your sales skills and dealing with objections, here’s a couple you might like to have a look at:

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