The prospects are serious, but they're also a little wary and obviously nervous. They've given you several reasons why they shouldn't be buying this job tonight. But you're still there. And they're still there. They've listened and asked questions. They appear to be on the verge — the very edge — of signing. But suddenly they exchange glances, one or the other leans back into the sofa, or they shake their heads just slightly and say …
Objection # 1 We have to think about it. Thinking about it could take five more minutes — or it could take forever. Lurking behind this typical objection is anxiety. Anxiety that they might get an unfair price, a lousy job, or a bum product. At Illinois Energy, a $6.5 million window, siding, and door company in the suburbs of Chicago, “Think About It” is the first of the Big Three objections salespeople are trained to overcome. One way past it, says company president Dave Sonner, is the “Nervous Close,” taught to all reps. “I tell [the prospects] that I appreciate the fact that they want to think about it,” Sonner says. “It obviously means they're serious.” Big decisions always involve anxiety, he explains to clients, because they take us out of our comfort zone. Then he goes on to say something like, “On a hot summer's day, you go to Lake Michigan. You stick your toe in the water and it's cold. So, do you turn around and go home and never enjoy it?”
Sonner points out that the anxiety they're feeling is completely natural and asks prospects to imagine how they'll feel in a month, with their new windows installed.
One factor that helps close is that, as he points out, his company takes a risk on the clients, too. After a small deposit, customers pay nothing until they see the installed windows and express their satisfaction, at which point the balance is due.
Objection # 2 We need three estimates. Because many products are superficially similar, overcoming objections starts with a great presentation that differentiates your company and your product. “The biggest reason they want more estimates is that they don't feel comfortable with the contractor,” notes Bob Strong, a.k.a. The Window Man, in Athens, Ala. To head off that Three Estimates objection, Strong advises, “sell yourself and your company.”
Strong works hard to establish that comfort. Windows, he points out, may all look alike, but it's what you don't see that's important, meaning the way the product is installed, because 70% to 80% of window failures result from faulty installation. Strong acknowledges that clients can buy many kinds of windows from any number of contractors, but says, “you're not going to get our installation, our reputation, or our guarantee from the other guys.” He then produces a list of testimonials “as long as your leg” and backs it all up with a promise that if prospects can find a similar product with similar features at a lower cost, he'll give them their money back. The whole point, he says, is to move the conversation away from price.
Objection # 3 That's too much money. Don Rittenhouse, sales manager for Owens Corning basement finishing systems at TaylorMade Construction in Edgewood, Md., says that introducing price is typically the least considered or systematized aspect of the sales presentation. “If you pooled 20 reps from 20 companies, you'd get 18 ways price is presented,” he says. But reps need to prepare, Rittenhouse points out, because if they simply present a project price, there's a “100% chance” that prospects will raise this objection.
Price objections can be overcome by putting price in perspective and by offering pricing alternatives. For that reason, Rittenhouse suggests breaking down the price into components. His reps start by stating the retail cost, then mentioning that half of that amount is the required deposit for the job (the company's average project cost is $35,000). The sales rep then indicates the possibility of monthly payments based on a loan at high interest, say 29%. Four times out of five, Rittenhouse says, clients respond by saying the interest rate is too high. The rep's response: “What kind of interest are you used to paying?” Then the prospect might say, “I wouldn't pay more than 9%,” Rittenhouse says. “Which is a strong buying signal and allows the rep to move forward.” The point, he says, is to discuss the project as an investment, rather than as a purchase, and to identify alternatives — different interest rates, design adjustments — that will move the conversation past the price stumbling block.
Objection # 4 I have to talk to my wife/husband/son/daughter. Third-party objections are particularly common with elderly prospects, notes Jim Lang, president of MWS (Maine Window & Sunroom) in Kennebunk. Older people frequently want to consult with their adult children before making a major buying decision, and in Maine, where many people come north to retire, the third parties are often out of state. “You have to be very sensitive with older people,” Lang says. “Their fear factor is higher. We tell them a patio room is twenty grand, and they think: We paid twenty grand for this house. So never argue with that one,” he advises.
What MWS will do is write up the contract, based on whatever offers or promotions are current. These could be either factory promotions or monthly company promotions, set to expire within two to three weeks. The company also injects some urgency into the situation by offering prospects a 2% to 3% first-call discount. But many times, Lang acknowledges, wrapping up that deal takes a second call, and that's where having the paperwork already prepared and a price agreed upon is extremely helpful.