How to Work Through Market-Based Sales Objections with Your Customers

There is still uncertainty surrounding our lives, like rising inflation rates, gas prices, and the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re feeling the effects, your customers are too, which may be causing them to hold onto their dollars a little tighter. Today on the Atlanta Small Business Show, we’re pleased to welcome back Jeff Shore, expert sales trainer and founder of Shore Consulting, to discuss calming customer fears and handling sales objections.

Transcription:

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Jeff, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to join us once again on the show.

Jeff Shore:
I always enjoy talking to you, Jim. Let’s have some fun.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Great. So we’re all aware of the impact of 8%, or better, inflation rates in the US. It’s just amazing, it’s astonishing, and we know many of our customers are feeling the pinch, obviously. So what do we do to deal with financial concerns that some of our customers have?

Jeff Shore:
Yeah. It’s really interesting, in a really robust economy, something interesting happens in the market, and that is that the market provides confidence. When I’m going to make a decision, I am confident in that decision, all of the signs point in the right direction, I feel good about that. Everybody else is doing it. I want to be a part of it. If interest rates are low and money is cheap, that makes it even easier. So you have all of this market-based confidence, and confidence is critical to a purchase decision. I don’t care what you’re buying, business, commercial, small, large.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Jeff Shore:
… that confidence is so very, very important. The problem is when we see a shift in the economy, when we see headlines that are saying 8% inflation, the worst inflation in the last 40 years and all of this stuff, that market-based confidence begins to erode. So I think the customer is left asking the question, “Uh-oh, I have a lack of confidence. Now, what do I do?” And in my opinion, that’s where sales professionals come in.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right. So how much of the customer’s concerns are related to buying capability and how much is really just about fear and maybe some panic?

Jeff Shore:
Well, that’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Jeff Shore:
Because if you’re a sales professional or a business owner and you’re trying to work with a customer who is struggling right now with economic conditions, you don’t want to be trying to solve the wrong problem. I mean, for some people, the rising prices, rising interest rates might very well turn them into a non-customer.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Jeff Shore:
It happens.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I know, I know. It’s true.

Jeff Shore:
Or they can’t buy what they wanted to buy before. That’s a different animal than the person who is just afraid because they’re-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, just concerned.

Jeff Shore:
… listening to the bad news and they’re hearing all of the horror stories out there. See, it really starts with discovery to figure, well, tell me specifically what you’re concerned about so that we can take a partnership view on this. Rather than just trying to “get the sale,” how do I come alongside and help them through this? My opinion, Jim, is that a whole lot more people fall into the fear category than under the capability category. Certainly, I can’t get as much for my money. We all know that. But that doesn’t mean I can’t buy. I think more people are just psychologically hurt by all the headlines these days.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right. And forgive me for saying this, but sometimes the salespeople, the sales professional out there can be their own worst enemy, right?

Jeff Shore:
Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I’ve heard it before and I’ve been on showroom floors before where I actually hear the salesperson bring up the negativity that’s out there in the media right now. They’re the first one to bring up inflation rates and gas prices and wars and concerns. You’re saying to yourself, “Why did that person just shoot themselves in the foot with this customer that’s there to purchase their product to go, ‘Yeah. Hey, how’s it going? Geez, you suffering through these gas prices, and how about that inflation?'” I know it’s an easy thing to go to in conversation, but why is the salesperson dragging this in to the discussion with a new prospect that goes, “Oh yeah, that’s right. I forgot about that. This really isn’t the right time to be buying this product right now.”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And you think to yourself that if that salesperson could just step back and look at themselves and what they just did to sabotage that scenario, you shake your head and say, “What was that person thinking?” Now, I know they’re trying to build commonality and they’re trying to build a relationship and a rapport that we’ve all been taught, you got to build a rapport. Well, don’t build it on negative content and negative news that’s out there to think, well, I’m going to join forces here with the customer. And then all of a sudden it starts to get into these stories. The customer then says, “Yeah, I just passed the gas station where it’s $6 a gallon.” “Oh, yeah, I know. I just filled up my tank and was a…” Well, now you’re in the middle of this terrible situation, this terrible cesspool of negativity that you, yourself, as a salesperson put yourself into. Why do that, right?

Jeff Shore:
And there is a psychological foundation to what’s happening right here. If I’m a sales professional and I’m reading the news and I’m catastrophizing, and I’m buying into how bad things really are. Now what’s going to happen is I’m projecting that sales are going to slow down, that it’s going to be a tougher sale. And so there’s something that comes into play here called fundamental attribution error, and what I want to do here is that if I’m not getting the sale, I want to make sure that it’s not me. So I start looking for blame-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yes.

Jeff Shore:
… even before the conversation begins and I start looking at the…

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s exactly right.

Jeff Shore:
… economy and the war and the gas prices. So I bring it up. I can look it, I go, “Well, it’s not me.”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
It’s not me.

Jeff Shore:
“I mean, what’s a guy going to do?”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. It’s the economy.

Jeff Shore:
Yep. Right.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, it starts to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it’s just people will bring up interest rates and everything else. So, at the end of day-

Jeff Shore:
But it’s the exact opposite of what our customer needs. Our customer lack confident. So if I come in with a lack of confidence on my own side, complaining about why it cost me $100 to fill up my tank. And you know what, I think part of it is the old saying is that misery loves company. I’m not sure that misery loves company. I think misery loves validation. So if I can commiserate, well, that’s great. We’ve really come to a meeting of the minds, and now I’m not going to buy, but have a nice day.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Jeff Shore:
I’d like to, but I’m taking my business elsewhere.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
You almost paint the customer into a corner to be, well-

Jeff Shore:
You really do.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
You’re an idiot if you buy today.

Jeff Shore:
That’s absolutely right.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
After all things we just talked about, you’re going to pay sticker price for that product because it’s hard to come by, and shouldn’t you put your money away right now because we don’t know what the future’s going to hold. And now the customer’s thinking to himself, “Now I’m going to look like a fool if I say, ‘I’ll take it.'” You know what I mean? To this salesperson that’s been helping me through this misery road here, but it’s just one of those things that, salespeople, if you’re listening to us, have this discussion, don’t be the cause, don’t be the problem. Be the solution.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
When a customer brings something up, see if you back me up on this, Jeff, change the subject to a feature of your product, or why so many people before you today, this week, these past months have purchased the same product and loved it. Don’t be that person that jumps on that bandwagon and go, “Yeah, man, it really is bad out there, and we don’t know what next layoffs are going to happen.” And you just shot yourself in the foot. You guys know who you’re talking about. The others that are doing good job in this area, God love you. So, from your perspective, what role does a sales professional play in helping a customer through market based objections?

Jeff Shore:
Well, I think more than anything else, it’s about providing the right perspective. And this is what you were just talking about. Anytime a consumer is going to go through or, a business is going to go through a decision to buy something, there are factors at play. There are motivating factors. There are inhibiting factors. So the motivating factors, here’s the problem that needs to be solved. Here’s what I see in your solution that works for me. The inhibiting factors, cost, fear, price, payment, all of those things.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Jeff Shore:
So the question is from, and this is the question to the sales professional, “What do we talk about first?” And that’s what you were just bringing up here, when we get into the negative first, the entire mood of the conversation is so dour, so uninspired that it’s difficult to pump it back up.

Jeff Shore:
So is there a time to talk about things like price and payment or those types of concerns? Yes, there is. But when we talk about those things first, there’s nothing to offset that. So I think the sales professional can say, we’re going to talk about all this, but if we don’t have what you’re looking for, none of this over here matters. So let’s just talk about what you need, and let’s just see if there’s a good match. If there’s not a good match, then we don’t have to have that conversation.

Jeff Shore:
But we really want to get that customer thinking in terms of, first of all, the salesperson understands their current problem. They know why they walk through the door or picked up the phone in the first place, but also that we can connect the customer with the right solution. Then we can come back. If the customer believes that your solution solves their problem, then all of these other issues surrounding cost and fear are going to be so much easier. They’re going to want to deal with those issues. They’re going to want to listen to your rationale as to why it makes sense to move forward. But when the cost, fear issues get in the way first, you’re almost assuring yourself you’re not going to get a sale.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I couldn’t agree more. I couldn’t agree more. And some customers, to your point, you said earlier in our conversation that customers come in and they realize that maybe they can’t buy what they originally wanted because of rates or inflation or what have you. Doesn’t mean they’re not going to buy. It just means that they’ve got to be shown options and be given options, I should say. So to say, well, instead of coming in and you want that loaded up SUV with everything in it, maybe you don’t need a sunroof. I have a sun roof in my car. I never use a sunroof. Somebody says, “Oh, you know what, maybe I don’t need that. Maybe I can just use this or use that,” or whatever the case might be. Low and behold, there’s still a buyer for your product. Just maybe a little bit less of a trim line, or maybe less of some of the benefits that might be on your product, right?

Jeff Shore:
Which is especially true if you know the need, if you know what’s going on in their life, the reason they’re shopping in the first place.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Jeff Shore:
They have to have what, the vehicle, the car, the golf clubs, whatever it happens to be, you got to know the need first. And then once you know the need, everything changes, and to validate that. I work a lot in the real estate space, and one of the things that happens here is that when interest rates go up, it affects your payment a lot.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Oh, huge.

Jeff Shore:
But that doesn’t mean that people don’t buy anymore. What it means is they buy fewer features, they buy further out, but they still buy. And so we have to be flexible along those lines and say, as you say, maybe you don’t get the foot-activated trunk release with this particular car, but can we still solve your problem? Yes, we still can.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right. And getting back to the real estate, my sister is a real estate broker in Palm beach and she sells homes down there, and she said because of the increase in rate, this one customer came across and said, “Well, I don’t know. I don’t know if we can afford it now. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to qualify, or at least our financial picture monthly is going to cost us a little bit more for this home.” And she said, “Well, didn’t you just tell me that your company just closed down the offices, and now everybody works from home, right?” And she said, “Well, yeah, we do.” And she said, “Well, how much will you spending each month in gas to commute the 40 miles down to Miami for your job?”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Oh my gosh. It was like $250 a month that they’re going to be saving. Bingo. That’s the $250 that the mortgage is going to cost you more on this home, okay. So have you looked at your overall budget? She said, “You know what, you’re exactly right. We’re saving a little bit here. We can spend a little bit more here to get what we want.” So sometimes it’s just a consultation with consumers that they want to be, calm down, let’s take a look at everything, put everything on the table. And lo and behold, these people actually ended up with a net savings on the new mortgage payment and the savings they didn’t have dry cleaning because they’re not going to the office. They didn’t have gas. Every single time that they went to work, they paid $10 for lunch. You’re going to have now $220 a month in lunch savings because you’re eating at home rather than coming out of your office. So it is interesting. This is why good salespeople are so vitally important today. Right?

Jeff Shore:
That’s correct. That is absolutely right. This is where great salespeople earn their keep and our customers are, they’re freaked out. I get it. I would be too if I was spending that kind of money, but what are they looking for? They’re looking for somebody to come along and they’re saying, “Help me. Help me with perspective that I don’t currently have. Help me.” That’s what the plea is.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, no question about it. And to maintain the news that so many others have purchased this same product before you in these times. Because they don’t want to be the only one. They don’t want to be the one on the island, every point, not laughing saying, “Oh my gosh, you just bought a new whatever I can’t believe it.” No, no, no. It’s not the case. Sales are alive and well, and which is a perfect segue into my next question. A little bit different turn here, but how can sales professionals stay mentally sharp in light of the pressures that they face day after day?

Jeff Shore:
Yeah. That’s an important question. First of all, we have to understand our job is to not just to give out facts and figures. Our job is to give out positive energy. People buy more when they’re enjoying the process, when they’re happy, when there’s a positive energy environment. So part of our job is, and I don’t mean that means you have to be over the top peppy like a Jack Russell terrier on red bull here. But, I do think that we have to give out positive energy. Well, you can only give out that which you have inside.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Jeff Shore:
So it starts with what you’re fueling into you. So turn off the news. The news will find you. Turn off the news.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Absolutely.

Jeff Shore:
And instead use that time, especially early on the day, to fuel something positive. If your mindset is positive, that becomes adopted. If your mindset is negative, that becomes adopted. So you have to think about what goes into your brain like you think about what goes into your body. And when you eat nothing but crap, you’re going to feel crappy.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Jeff Shore:
And so it’s the same thing with our brain. When we bring in positive, we carry positive, and then we give out positive. And those are the people that people want to deal with.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
There’s no question about it. And I know it’s tough for people right now, sales people to go out there and say, “Oh wow, it’s a great day,” in light of the fact that everybody’s dealing with some of these challenges in the marketplace, but you are so spot on with that. In the gym, I would listen to CNN or Fox News or whatever I was tuning into that day to figure out, okay, where’s the truth here, somewhere in the middle. I would listen to all of this and my wife said, “You come back from the gym in the worst mood. You got to change what’s on your phone and what you listen to.”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And sure enough, just like you had mentioned, I did. I started listening to motivational talks and conversations and Tony Robbins and so many others. And I got to tell you, I flew out of that gym every night. I still do. I’m like, you know what, you’re exactly right. I thought I would use that time to catch up on my news before I head into the office, boy, big mistake. To your point, stay the hell away from that. Why fill up your mind with all that garbage out there because that’s all that it is right now.

Jeff Shore:
And it’ll find you anyway, it will find you. The news always finds you.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I was just going to say, I love what you just said there, it will find you with little news alerts.

Jeff Shore:
That’s right, exactly.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
It’s almost to the point you want to shut off the news alerts.

Jeff Shore:
It’s true. It’s true.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I want to get motivational quotes sent to me throughout the day as a reminder.

Jeff Shore:
Yeah, that’s the way to do it.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. Jeff Shore sales trainer, keynote speaker, author, founder of Shore Consulting. For companies out there, you want to turn up your sales effort and bring in somebody that will do just that, work with your sales professionals and your managers. So many companies sit there and think, “Well, you know what we need? We need more leads. That’s what we need. We need more leads.” I’m here to tell you, I’ve been 40 years in sales as a dealer, as a manager, as a sales manager, as a sales training manager, the answer isn’t usually leads. The answer is to make sure that your sales department is well trained with their head screwed on right every single day. Much of the things we were talking about today, and Jeff Shore brings that to your company. So Jeff, thank you so much for visiting with us today. This is invaluable information, and we appreciate it. I know that our subscribers do as well. So thank you so much.

Jeff Shore:
Always fun talking to you. Have a good day.


The Atlanta Small Business Network, from start-up to success, we are your go-to resource for small business news, expert advice, information, and event coverage.

While you’re here, don’t forget to subscribe to our email newsletter for all the latest business news know-how from Atlanta Small Business Network.