Ad-libs: How to handle unspoken objections

Ad-libs: How to handle unspoken objections

By John Foust
Raleigh, NC

baseballBrandon is an advertising manager who wants his team to be prepared for all sales situations. “We spend a lot of time on sales strategy,” he said, “because that helps us cut down on unexpected surprises. To use a baseball comparison, we want to be able to hit the curveball.

“As any sales person will tell you, the most common curveball is an objection,” Brandon explained. “Most prospects have some kind of objection, even if they don’t say it out loud. Unspoken objections can be real sales killers. You’re sailing along thinking everything is going fine, then at the end of the conversation the prospect says, ‘I’ll think about it and let you know.’ That creates a real predicament for a sales person.

“There’s an old saying that silence is golden, but that’s not true in selling,” Brandon said. “Sometimes it’s your job to verbalize what the prospect is thinking. If you don’t, the objection that is lurking below the surface may never come to light. I disagree with the idea that you can’t answer an objection you don’t hear. An unspoken objection can sink your presentation just as fast as one that is shouted.

Brandon explained that the key is to be prepared to weave answers to objections into the presentation. The good news is that most objections are predictable. If a sales person has done his or her homework, there’s no reason to be surprised to hear a question about price, readership statistics, ad position or production.

“Take price, for example,” he said. “A prospect may be embarrassed to say, ‘I don’t think I can afford to advertise in your paper.’ You can address that by bringing up the objection yourself, then reassuring them that it’s natural to be concerned about price. I encourage our team to say something like, ‘Some advertisers wonder about the affordability of advertising in our paper.’ Or ‘People often ask how our rates compare to other media outlets.’ Or ‘You may be wondering how this could fit your ad budget.’ Then they answer the objection just like they would if the prospect brought it up.”

This is a variation of the old Feel-Felt-Found formula, which says, “I understand how you feel about price. Other advertisers have felt the same way. And they found benefits such as…” The difference here is that the sales person brings up the topic. But as Brandon cautions, don’t use the words “feel, “felt” or “found.” That formula has been around so long – and those words have been misused by so many sales people – that they can make prospects think they are being manipulated.

“Some prospects actually seem relieved when a difficult objection is mentioned by the sales person,” he said. “I’ve seen them nod their heads and say, ‘Yeah, I was thinking about that.’ In a sense, it clears the air and makes them more receptive in the rest of the conversation.”

In other words, your prospects probably won’t object when you mention their unspoken objections.

(c) Copyright 2016 by John Foust. All rights reserved.

John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information: