How to Successfully Turn a Client’s ‘No’ Into a ‘Yes’
Dave Chace (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is president of Training Allies, a
CE-focused training firm in Philadelphia.
September means that CEDIA EXPO is upon us, and many of you are attending the show to see what exciting new products are available and to develop or solidify relationships. It’s easy to get wide-eyed at the latest features and technologies, and envision yourself closing even bigger sales when you present them to your clients. It’s a pleasant daydream–imagining the customer eagerly agreeing to the big system installation and handing you a big check.
Now open your eyes and get back to reality. The more likely scenario is that you present your proposal, ask for their business (for help with this, see “Closing the Sale” in the July issue), and they answer with “Let me think it over.” Sound familiar?
The truth is that most customers will offer some degree of reluctance before making a substantial commitment. However they express it, it means “no” (or at least “not yet”), and to land the deal, you can’t quit now. You need to find out what’s holding them back, and help them get past it. This may seem daunting, but with the right tools and attitude, you can do it.
Start With Proper Perspective
In sales circles, this process is commonly referred to as “overcoming objections,” but I have never liked the phrase. It implies an adversarial dynamic–a battle of wills between you and the customer. Instead, if you’ve done your job right, you have built a friendly, collaborative relationship with the customer and are on the same team, working together to create a great solution. They may have a few concerns that you will need to address before they are ready to commit, but that’s normal.
So the first step is to adopt the proper perspective; you are not “overcoming their objections.” Rather, you are simply “addressing their concerns.” This will help keep your demeanor friendly and supportive–a critical element, because the customer will then be more relaxed and willing to work through their concerns with you.
Get to the Heart
The next step is to uncover the true cause of their concern and the reason why they are reluctant to buy. Unfortunately, most customers won’t come right out and tell you, for instance, that they think the system will be too confusing, or that they don’t think it’s worth the money. Instead, they typically offer a more vague response like “we need to think about it.”
To get them to divulge their real concern, point out any specific element of the system and ask if this is the cause of their hesitation. For instance, “Are you concerned that the touchpanels will be too cumbersome?” You can pick any element, but make sure you name something specific. This is because if you ask them a specific question, then they’re more likely to respond with the specific (and real) cause of their concern. It’s human nature; if someone guesses wrong, we’re compelled to provide the correct answer. “No, the panels are OK…it’s just that this is more money than we anticipated.” If you do not get the real answer right away, repeat the process, and eventually they will reveal what’s really eating them.
Once you’ve uncovered your client’s real concern about moving forward with a project, you are not out of the woods. You still need to effectively address that concern before they will commit to buy.Solve Their Problem
Once you have uncovered the real concern, you are not out of the woods. You still need to effectively address that concern before they will commit to buy. More often than not, their concerns fall into one of two categories: price or value. Price is easier, because it usually means they like the system but just need to find a way to afford (or justify) the cost. You can find various ways to help them with this.
Value is tougher, because it means that while they may have the money, you haven’t convinced them that the system is really worth it; and so you will need to do a better job of connecting the benefits of the system to the customer’s specific needs and desires that you hopefully uncovered early in the sales process.
Lastly, remember that the best strategy for addressing concerns lies in developing a great relationship with the customer throughout the sales process. Consider this: do your kids stop asking when you say “no” the first time? Not likely. That’s because they know their relationship with you is solid, so they feel more courageous in pushing for a yes. Customers are no different. A great relationship with them will provide you more latitude to turn “no” into a “yes.”
No one likes to hear no, and it takes some real guts to hear it and push forward anyway. But getting comfortable doing so can have an amazing impact on your business.