No Doesn't Always Mean No

September 1998

For Your Staff

No Doesn't Always Mean No

In the sixth installment in our series titled "My Life as a Fine Jewelry Sales Associate," our novice sales associate learns how to turn objections into opportunities

by Christine Anzell
and Jack Levenson

Everything has gone well. Mrs. Jennings, the customer, likes the ring she's considering for her husband. Julie, the experienced sales associate, detected buying signals (see Professional Jeweler,August 1998, pp. 136-137) and has asked for the sale with a simple "cash or charge?" – two options that don't allow for a "no" response. And our heroine, a novice sales associate, is on the way to learning effective ways to close a sale. But unexpectedly, Mrs. Jennings replies, "I don't know, Julie; I want to think about it for a while."

In an ideal world, one of two scenarios will occur at the end of a presentation: the customer will say "I'll take it!" or the sales associate will ask for the sale and get a positive response.

But the retail world is far from ideal. At this point we often hear an objection, a concern that must be resolved before we can complete the sale.

Here is where we separate the pros from the amateurs. Unfortunately, the majority of sales associates deal with an objection by writing the style number and price of the item on a business card for the customer to take home. In fact, studies indicate 46% of us quit trying as soon as we hear the first objection. We watch customers leave and believe we've done our best to make the sale; we often even believe they'll come back.

How sad. We've spent all this time with them and now, when all they need is a little help to make their decision, we retreat for fear they may perceive us as being pushy.

Remember, we are sellers, not order-takers. We must help customers through their questions and concerns – not back off the minute we hear something that sounds negative. The most successful salespeople say many of their sales are made after seven or eight objections. Remember an objection is not a roadblock, only a detour; it's not "No," it's simply "Not yet."

In fact, a lack of questions might very well indicate no interest. The fact a customer raises a concern should signal a genuine interest. Julie, the sales pro, understands. Now we pick up on the thoughts of our novice as she watches Julie spin into action.

The Challenge
"I don't know, Julie; I want to think about it for a while." Uh oh! What's Julie going to do with that reaction? The first thing I notice is she remains cool and shows empathy. "I understand, Mrs. Jennings; this is a big decision." This puts Mrs. Jennings at ease and lets her know she won't be pressured into making a purchase.

(By the way, empathy is very different from sympathy. Empathy means understanding how another person feels; sympathy means feeling the same way. Sympathy can get us in trouble as salespeople; if we share the feeling that's preventing a customer from buying, we'll have a hard time persuading her to buy. On the other hand, if we understand how she feels but give her a reason to buy, that helps her get over her objection.)

In observing Julie and other successful sales associates here, I notice another element key to overcoming objections. Besides being empathetic, it's important to be confident. If a customer senses we doubt what we're saying, her uncertainness will be compounded. Where do we get our confidence? It comes from knowing about our product and our company. With this information, we can confidently discuss objections and help the customer feel comfortable about the purchase.

It just dawned on me; I now understand the purpose of an exercise I had to do during my training here. After attending classes and reading about the history of this company, I was assigned to create a "Top Ten List" of reasons to shop at our store. My list includes:

  • This is a third-generation company.
  • We carry fine-quality merchandise.
  • Our assortments are broad.
  • We are competitive in pricing, return policies and warranties.
  • We have gemologists and master goldsmiths and watchmakers available on the premises.
  • We are members of the top trade organizations.
  • Management encourages (and supports) the ongoing education of our associates.
  • Our people are customer-service-oriented.

It seems to me the majority of objections customers raise can be resolved by going back to points like these.

I think there's one more trait necessary when we deal with objections. We hear a lot of the same ones day in and day out and, if we're not careful, we might come off sounding tired and rude: "What do you mean you want to think about it, Mr. Smith? What the heck is there to think about?"

I must remember that while we deal with the same objections all the time, a customer buys jewelry rarely. I can't seem impatient when someone raises a concern. In fact, I probably should sound surprised – like I've never heard the concern before.

So the three factors I must remember when a customer raises an objection are:

  • To exhibit empathy.
  • To convey confidence.
  • To sound surprised.

Back to the Counter
Well, back to the issue of the moment: Mrs. Jennings and her "I want to think about it." True, there are some analytical types who won't make a purchase until they've had a chance to "sleep on it." In most cases, however, "I want to think about it" means something else.

Julie continues: "I understand, Mrs. Jennings; this is a big decision. What questions can I answer for you that will help you make your decision?

" I now see what's happening here. "I want to think about it" isn't really an objection; it's more of a smoke screen – an excuse for not making a decision right now. If Mrs. Jennings isn't ready to buy, it probably isn't because she wants to think about it. There's some underlying reason.

Julie's job – the job of all of us in this situation – is to get through the smoke screen and discover the true objection. In a non-threatening way, we can give customers the help they need to make a decision once we know what the real issue is. When Julie tries to blow away the smoke and get to the root of the hesitation, she'll probably uncover one of a handful of objections that come up constantly. Will it be the price? Value? Does Mrs. Jennings want to check another jewelry store first? Is she concerned her husband won't like the ring?

To be continued ...

Christine Anzell and Jack Levenson conduct sales training in the fine jewelry industry. For information about their copyright training manual or jewelry-specific Client Record Keeping Books and Client-Retention Program, call them at (800) 887-8902.




Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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