By Todd Smith, Lear LLC

What separates a mediocre salesperson from a metal-moving superstar? Not as much as you might think. Today, I want to focus on what I have found to be the most important quality in a salesperson; the ability to overcome objections during the sales process.

When salespeople tell me how they closed a customer and how much they grossed, I always wonder how hard they had to negotiate to make the sale. The real stories I like to hear are the ones that involve customers who refused to buy today, yet, an hour or two later, they walk out happily with their new vehicle, thanking the salesperson the entire way. 

The road to the real sale begins when the customer says: “No.”

I have learned through many years of sitting face-to-face with customers that the first thing to do when a customer raises an objection is to pause. Most salespeople try to overcome the objection immediately. This is a big mistake. Here is my five-step approach to overcome any objection you might face during the sales process:

1. Pause: Say nothing for at least 5 to 10 seconds

By not responding immediately, you maintain control in what appears to be a tense negotiating situation with the customer. There are two reasons:

First, you need to gather your composure before you respond, so you do not get defensive. You want time to collect your thoughts and prepare what you want to say in response. Second, there is actually a more important reason that is not addressed very often. Sometimes what salespeople perceive as an objection is really just prospects thinking out loud. If you wait a moment, prospects might “overcome” their own objection. For instance, once when I was selling a young couple a Tahoe the conversation went something like this:

Prospect: “I really wanted to bring my payment to under $500.”

You: Silence, 10 seconds pass.

Prospect: “But I guess $509 isn’t too bad. After all, we are paying $425 for the Camry, and the rate on the new Chevy is better. Okay, sign me up.”

Crazy as it might sound, this is a true story, and similar conversations happened on more than one occasion. If I had responded right away and challenged the prospect or went into my benefits statement with the prospect, the sale would have been lost in a flash. Sometimes customers use these non sequitur statements to lead us into a confrontation. The seasoned metal-mover avoids them by not taking the bait.

2. Empathize

Notice that I say “empathize,” not “sympathize.” There is where the “feel, felt, found” technique is effective, but you have to be careful. If you are talking to seasoned salespeople, you might want to change the words around. They might get annoyed if they recognize what you are doing. Then again, they might be impressed and even have a good laugh with you, not at you, as they will know what you are trying to accomplish. It goes like this:

“Mr. or Ms. Prospect, I do understand how you feel. Frankly, lots of my customers have felt the same way when they first heard about the payment range on a New Acura TL, but they found after further discussion that the benefits of owning a new vehicle heavily outweighed the limitations of their current vehicle. Maybe we should take a moment and look at the vehicle again so you are more comfortable with your purchase decision.” 

3. Probe, probe and probe

I disagree strongly with the premise that “buyers are liars.” In fact, it’s quite the contrary. They want to tell you what the real issues are and what is really on their mind, but you have to bring it out of them. Here’s a better statement:

“Buyers are liars- when the right questions are not asked.”

When customers object, you have to ask what they really mean with open-ended questions. For instance, “What do you mean by that?” or “Please explain.” Then make sure you are quiet to let them answer. The goal is to ask open-ended questions to get the customer talking about the real issues they are mentally facing — the ones that are stopping them from moving forward with their purchase. The key is to get to the root issues by asking questions. You must uncover the true problem before you ever have a chance of selling the vehicle.

4. Playback

If you make it to this point and the objection has still not diffused itself, it now becomes your turn to address the matter. But first you have to repeat back what you view as the objection — exactly as the customer stated it and slowly. Then ask prospects if you understand it properly. For instance:

You: “The reason you are concerned about the higher price is really because you want to justify spending the money for a new vehicle while also ensuring you are getting the best deal. So, really, the issue is not so much the monthly payment, but you want to make sure this is the right decision for you? Is that right?”

Prospect: “Yes, I guess that is what I’m saying. Explain to me how trading in my current vehicle will save me money during the time I own the vehicle.”

There’s the issue. The prospect does not want a lower price. No matter how much you reduce your price, it would not have been enough. This prospect’s issue was a lack of understanding or agreement that what you have is truly the best deal in the marketplace.

5. Solve

Only now, do you address the objection itself and try to offer a solution. It’s important that you utilize all the information you received in the first four steps; referring to the prospects’ words and needs will get you the sale. When you get that nod of agreement, then you ask for the sale. Now, and only now, have you earned the right to close the deal. Don’t miss it — or your chance to become a professional metal-mover.

This article reprinted with permission from Todd Smith.