Q&A: Selling the benefits and dealing with objections

Contributor - Andrew Milbourn

Two hands. One with a thumbs up and the other with thumbs down

When trying to negotiate a sale, you might be faced with a customer raising objections. Andrew Milbourn, sales director of Kiss the Fish, explains how to deal with them and why you should focus on benefits not features

When selling should I focus on benefits?

Absolutely correct. People buy products and services for the benefits they provide, not simply their features. Think about a non-stick pan, for example. People don't buy it because of the coating, that's merely a feature. They buy because they don't want their food to stick to the pan while they're cooking, that's the key benefit. If all you do when selling is list a product's features, you'll bore potential buyers and you're unlikely to get the sale because you're not representing the product in its most attractive form.

How do I know which benefits to focus on?

Find out what key problem(s) your buyer needs to solve. Think about how the benefits offered by your product(s) meet that need. This should be the focus of your communication and marketing. You must be able to demonstrate how your product helps the customer – if this means saving them money or making life easier, these are powerful benefits. An important challenge for people new to sales is, for every point they mention to a customer about their product/service, they must be able to complete the sentence: "Which means you benefit because…"

Should I try to anticipate customer objections?

Obviously, you should research customers thoroughly and if you change your mindset to think like a buyer, rather than a sales person, you'll be tuned into what is of interest to customers before you meet. Objections can display a level of interest – or they can simply mean you've got no chance if the objection is for a valid reason. The key is to anticipate all the likely objections a potential customer is likely to raise and know how you will respond.

But dealing with objections is tough.

It can be less difficult if you prepare your responses in advance. Role-playing with a colleague can help. Your product or service is bound to have negatives, but that doesn't mean you aren't going to be the best solution or offer the best value at the right price. Don't be put off by objections; always find out the reasons and try to overcome them.

Are objections always justified?

Often they're not. For example, people will say something is too expensive, but this can mean they don't recognise the benefits – perhaps because you haven't explained them effectively. Knowing why someone objects enables you to try to move things forward. Remember, selling is about problem solving, so keep your buyer focused on how you can solve their problems and offer them value.

What if someone's objection is based solely on price?

Some buyers will always focus on price. It might even be pure ego – they want to win the negotiation. If your product is more expensive than your competitors', you must prove what additional value it provides. To stand a chance, you must get your buyer to look at the bigger picture. Buying a 'cheaper alternative' that soon breaks down isn't a cheaper alternative at all. If you can't get the buyer to put a value on reliability and agree a point of difference, you won't trade without discounting, which means failure.

And if the customer still has objections and asks for a discount?

Ultimately, if explaining why your product offers superior value fails, just politely say "no" and watch the reaction. If, ultimately, it becomes clear that they really aren't going to buy unless you discount, you must make the call. If you can afford it, walk away and come back next time better prepared. If, however, you really need the business, you'll have to trade.

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Andrew Milbourn

Graduating in 1982, Andrew joined Haymarket Publishing as a sales executive and was head hunted by an international marketing business to work with the Spanish car giant SEAT.

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