5 tips to overcoming sales objections

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salesIf you’ve worked in sales, you’ve probably heard all the typical objections: “It’s too expensive.” “I saw the same product cheaper at the store down the street—can you match it?” Even responses like: “I’m just looking” or “Let me think about it” serve as a warning sign that you’re probably going to lose the sale.

Thankfully, experienced salespeople know how to deflect common objections such as these—as well as other impediments to a sale—in their quest to seal the deal. Floor Covering News rounded up a few experts to get their advice on how to handle such situations.

  1. Disarm the customer

The most effective way to contend with common sales objections, experts note, is to “disarm” the consumer. Fairly or unfairly, many shoppers are skeptical when it comes to salespeople, especially those who might appear pushy. Combatting this perception begins with building a rapport with the consumer.

“I’ve been in sales for 25 years, so I always try to do things to build trust with the customer prior to any of those objections even happening,” said Robin Kemper, a top sales rep with Sterling Carpet & Flooring, Anaheim, Calif. “When someone says, ‘I’m just looking,’ I remind myself that it’s definitely a process. I tell them I understand they have to weigh out their options. Or, if they’re not sure what they’re looking for, I will usually ask them some questions to point them in the right direction.”

That’s similar to the approach taken by sales representatives at Grigsby’s Carpet, Tile & Hardwood, Tulsa, Okla. As Penny Carnino, COO, explained: “No customer likes to be hounded, but they certainly like someone to be available when they have questions. We have found that if you engage the customer in conversation, most of the time the sale is yours if you have the product they like. People want to buy from someone they like, so be helpful and interested in their project.”

  1. Develop a rapport early on

Hence the importance, experts say, of making a positive first impression on the consumer. RSAs need to take into account that most new customers probably haven’t shopped for flooring in years and might not be familiar with the process.

“Overall, I just try to be really lighthearted,” Sterling’s Kemper explained. “I’m never a ‘salesperson.’ I feel like you don’t have to sell. People came to you looking to buy, and you’re just helping them buy.”

So when shoppers tell Kemper they’re “just looking,” she knows exactly how to handle it. “When they say they just want to look, I’m like, ‘OK, I’ll let you two talk, look around but I’m going to be right here if you have questions.’ I don’t ignore them, though; I check in with them. I know there’s a fine line between being helpful and being annoying, so I want to give them their space.”

Travis Carlson, vice president of Carlson’s Flooring America, Fort Myers, Fla., has a witty comeback when he hears the “I’m just looking” line. “We say, ‘Great, we have a lot to look at. What can I do to help narrow down your selections?’”

Once customers have had an opportunity to peruse the offerings on the showroom floor, experts recommend shifting the conversation to make it more personal. “I’ve always felt like building a rapport with the client and relating to her—whether it’s one of the kids who’s with them or the car they drove up in—just establishing a relationship [showing] they’re not just a number,” Sterling’s Kemper added.

  1. Be genuine

Others, like longtime retail guru Pami Bhullar, agree wholeheartedly. Although he currently serves as vice president of business development at The Dixie Group, he has long preached the gospel of developing a rapport with the customer via his many years of educational training sessions when he worked with Invista. His teachings hinge on a philosophy known as “right-selling,” which keys in on making a sincere connection with the customer, all the while listening for cues that might be instrumental in the qualification process.

For Bhullar, it’s all about the exchange. “Customers must like you to believe you,” he stated. “They must believe you to trust you and trust you to do business with you. How can you expect him or her to give you $3,000, $5000 or even $15,000 if they know nothing about you?”

When it comes to building a sales rapport, Bhullar stressed the importance of that initial greeting. “It’s good to acknowledge the customer in less than 30 to 60 seconds; even one minute in a strange place is very long. If you are sitting in your chair, get up and welcome the new guest. But rather than saying, ‘Can I help you—which triggers the body’s defense mechanism, followed by the usual response of, ‘I’m just looking,’—say something to the effect of ‘Welcome to our store, my name is Robert.’ Get on the first name basis to create that relationship.”

Of course, knowing “how” to ask the right question is key. “When someone says, ‘I’m just looking,’ we say: ‘I would be happy to point you in the right direction,” Kemper said. “What type of project are you doing? Have you seen any design ideas that you love?’”

  1. The nitty gritty

Once a sales rapport is established, and the consumer gets more comfortable working with you, it’s time to drill down to specifics. Chances are the customer has shopped home centers or other big-box stores. At the very least, she has done quite a bit of research online via websites or social networks. That means she has likely gotten a feel for what a particular product or project might cost. What’s almost certain is that she has already established a budget for a particular remodel or redesign. However, she’s no expert—and many different factors go into the cost of a job. It’s at this stage where the customer is most likely to experience sticker shock.

“If your customer is sticking to a budget you may want to offer financing,” said Jerry Levinson, a former retailer who currently runs Profit Now 4 Flooring Dealers—a company that provides sales training, processes and systems for flooring dealers to help them grow their business and profits. “With financing, it’s a lot easier to pay $450/month [over several months rather than] $5,400 out of pocket right now.”

RSAs can also minimize sticker shock by tweaking their quote process, according to Levinson. “Oftentimes the price seems high to the consumer due to presentation,” he explained. “Instead of line-item quotes, which the customer will try to leverage to save money here and there, I recommend one all-inclusive price in your quotes. This will seem like a much better value, even if you are more expensive than your competition.”

  1. Explain why you’re different

In the event you do find yourself in a price war with a retailer who may have quoted your prospect a lower price, Levinson advised using this opportunity to justify why you charge more. “You don’t have to come down to the other company’s price, but you are giving your customer added justification to go with you,” he advised. “Remember, when a customer calls you back after they got a better price down the block, the reason they are calling you back is because they prefer you over the person who gave them a better price!”

Sticker shock can also come into play if consumers are not aware of the different grades or types of materials available on the market today—especially in the hyper-competitive hard surface arena. In these situations, it’s best to exercise patience. As Sterling Carpet & Flooring’s Kemper explained: “Go through the process of showing them the difference in the qualities of the material. For example, if I show them a product that they’re looking at, clearly you see a $5 or $6 LVP, for example, and then they say, ‘Whoa.’ Then I’ll say, ‘Well, what budget are you trying to stay around? I’ll show you what you can get for that.’ And when you show them the difference in a $3 product and a $6 product, you’ve created the value for them there and they see what they’re getting.”

Flooring America’s Carlson suggested consumer credit as a means to finance a purchase in situations where customers balk at a high estimate. “Explain to them that it’s an investment into their home,” he said. “Explain to them that for the average homeowner, flooring is the third most expensive purchase they’ll make. First is their home, second is their car. It’s an important decision for them because they have to look at it every day.”

In rare situations where customers comparison shop, Carlson has an answer for that as well. “As a Flooring America dealer, we have a low-price guarantee,” he explained. “If it’s apples to apples, we will match price on material if provided with a written quote. However, when it comes to our labor, our price is our price. We back everything we do with our Lifetime Installation Guarantee. If the customer doesn’t see the value in dealing with a company that has been in business for 45 years and stands behind everything it does, why should we lower our pricing to try to create that ‘value’ for them?”

Like Carlson’s Flooring America, Grigsby’s will try to match the price on a product, providing the customer has a written estimate. “We ask the customer if she has a written quote so that we are comparing apples to apples,” Carnino stated. “We are very competitive. We would love the opportunity to beat their price.”

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Jan. 24/31, 2022

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