Here we will present a number of specific objections furniture and bedding customers can and will bring up.
Before reading further, you may want to review “I Object -Part 1” that ran in the September/October issue of Furniture World Magazine. It can be found on the furninfo.com website at http://www.furninfo.com/Authors/DavidBenbow/37
Address The Reasons
How many objections can customers raise? The number approaches infinity, or so it sometimes seems to frustrated RSAs. In almost every sales encounter, some sort of objection will arise before buying. Objections happen. They are a natural part of the sales experience. The RSA must not let this ruin the sale. There is always a REASON when the customer objects. Some reasons make sense and others don’t, but they are still reasons, nonetheless. It is part of the RSA’s job to find out what that reason is; then to address it, interpret it, understand it, solve it, and make the sale.
IS IT FEAR?
Most customer objections arise, from the primal instinct of fear. They must need what you are selling or else they would not be in your store. But, they are scared that they don’t know enough to make a smart decision. They worry that the store and RSA are not being honest with them. They worry about spending money. They worry that they won’t get a “good deal.” They worry that the product that they are buying will not meet expectations.
An objection, then, is the voice that expresses these fears. The RSA who best allays these fears and satisfies the customer’s concerns will get the sale. This same RSA will have a happy customer; a customer who will come back again and again.
ABSENCE OF URGENCY?
Some customers just don’t seem to be in a hurry. They have no urgency, or so they want you to think. They may be just trying to avoid making a difficult decision. They may be trying to get a better deal. They may not even know what they want. So, they toss out some objection. In the paragraphs below, we’ll name and number some of the more common ones and discuss briefly some ways to handle each objection.
The Unlucky 13
Here are 13 common objections that the unlucky RSA may encounter.
#1. “We are just starting to look.”
This objection can be heard at almost any point in the sales encounter. If you hear this after showing a few items, the customer probably means that he hasn’t seen anything that he’s impressed with. Now is NOT the time to hand him your card. I would suggest asking more in-depth qualifying questions. You need to have a better idea of what he or she is looking for. If he doesn’t find what he wants in your store, he’ll find it somewhere else.
#2. “We want to look around some more.”
This one is sort of like #1, isn’t it? The customer does not seem to be impressed with your selection. Now is a good time to pose the question: “Have you shopped other stores before you came here?” Or, you could ask, “Have you done any on-line shopping or research before you came here?” The RSA should be asking himself, “Why does the customer want to look around some more? If I don’t find something he likes, he will not BE BACK!” Again, more RSA qualifying questions are in order. If he wants to look around some more, then let him do the looking around inside your store, while you still have a chance to make the sale.
#3. “We need to think about it.”
This sounds reasonable to many inexperienced RSAs. Sure, why wouldn’t the customer want to think about it some more? The problem is, if the RSA accepts this answer, there is maybe a 1 in 20 chance she’ll ever see the customer again. To save the sale, the RSA needs to find out WHY the customer needs more thought. Has the RSA found the bed or furniture she really wants? If buying signals have been shown before expressing Objection #3, the RSA should encourage the customer to do her thinking right there in the store. If she has not shown buying signals, the RSA must start over with new qualifying or, consider turning the customer over (T.O.) to another salesperson.
#4. “I never buy at the first place I shop.”
Why not, the RSA might ask? Is the second store (or the third) the magic spot that has the perfect purchase? Why did the customer come to my store first? Just so I wouldn’t make the sale? The RSA should stop these thoughts, and ask himself; did the customer find something he liked in my store? Something he might have bought, except for his silly determination not to buy at the first store he shopped? Did he show buying signals? Make sure the customer understands the full value of the product he likes. Pour on the benefits. Create some urgency, if possible. Remind him that your store has the best selection in town and guarantees the best price and service (if it does). If he still insists on leaving, load him up with features and benefits, then insist that if any competitors of yours match or beat your specs and price, to come back and talk to you again, just to make sure he gets the best deal. If you can’t close the deal, try to do everything you can to set up the BE-BACK. For more detail on this subject, see the BE-BACK chapter in my book; How to Win the Battle for Mattress Sales, the Bed Seller’s Manual.
#5. “We don’t need it for another month.”
What happens in a month? Why then and not now? When this happens, the RSA should say, “Let’s find the right item for you now, so that when you need it, it will be ready for you. You won’t have to look anymore. It will save you time. This is one thing you can check off your list.” If the customer does not have the money for the purchase, offer to hold it for a reasonable deposit. Always go for the deposit. Remember, if you have a deposit and they change their mind, they have to come back in to recover their deposit. You then have another chance to save the sale.
#6. “I’m going to wait until they go on sale.”
Customers who say this, seem to think that if they wait, they will get a better price. So, the RSA and Sales Management have a decision to make; to hold the price and keep working to get it, or offer the item at a sale price that’s either real or made up. The answer to this objection often depends on store policy. Flexible, negotiable pricing can shorten the sales process and allow the RSA to get on to the next customer, but it costs the store margin. The other option is to insist on, and work extra hard, for the full price by telling them,“it’s not going on sale” or “it’s on sale now”. Of course, determination to get full price could possibly lose the sale altogether.
Objection #6 is also a Price Objection. “I’m going to wait until they go on sale,” probably actually means they will buy now, if you give them a better price.
#7. “I just don’t want to spend that much.” Or; “I did not realize that it was going to cost this much.”
A lot of customers get “sticker shock” when they find out how much it costs to buy a good mattress or nice furniture. When they see the enticing ad, “Gentle Firm Queen set, on sale this week for only $299!!” They think, “Gentle Firm! That sounds exactly like what we are looking for! $299 sounds like a lot of money, but we are desperate for a new mattress!” They go to your store, show the ad to the RSA and say; “Show us this one.” The greeting RSA, following company orders, responds, “You don’t want that one; let me show you a better set.” He then marches the unsuspecting couple over to the $3999 queen set. Is it any wonder that sticker shock ensues, followed by a price objection?
Handling Price Objections
So, what is the best way to handle a price objection? First of all, a price objection might not have arisen at all if the simple “budget” qualifying question had been asked. “What kind of budget are you considering for your new furniture?” Their answer does not necessarily mean that they will absolutely not spend more than the stated figure, but it at least gives a starting point. Remember, educating the customer is a big part of the job. As the customer becomes better informed during the sales process, he/she probably will also become more adjusted to the idea of spending more money, and therefore, the price of what they like will become less of a shock.
The RSA who encounters a price objection has three choices.
- Pour on the benefits of the selected product until the customer is overwhelmed with the force of your argument.
- Find a product more in line with the customer’s budget.
- Lower the price of the product that they like.
Numbers two and three are the easy way out. Number one should be the choice of professional RSAs most of the time. We don’t have enough room in this article to fully discuss all the different nuances of persuading the customer. That subject will be left for a discussion of closing the sale in a future article.
#8. “Your competitor, has a better price on the same product.”
All RSAs hear this statement a lot. The RSA must find out. If your store has developed a dossier on your competitor’s “Five Groups of Knowledge,” this objection could probably be handled without too much trouble (see ‘RSA Boot Camp For New Hires’ on the Furniture World website at http://www.furninfo.com/Authors/DavidBenbow/37
). Barring that, some questions must be asked really fast. Here are a few ideas.
- “What was the price?”
- “How much cheaper was it?”
- What made you think it is the same product?”
- “What else did the price include?”
- “Did that store give you any brand names or specification lists on that product?”
- “Did they give you a card with that information?”
There are a lot of variables that can go into probing the reason for this objection. How much cheaper? If the price difference is small, the RSA needs to find out if free delivery, etc., is included in the price. If the price difference is significant, the competitor store probably has a “knock-off” of some sort that just looks like your product.
Of course, it is also very possible that the customer is just NOT telling you the truth. They do that sometimes to try to get a better deal.
No matter what the customer says about the competitor’s product, the smart RSA should take careful notes and discuss the customer’s responses with the sales manager later. Maybe the competitor has floored a product that leaves your store with a competitive disadvantage. If so, your store must correct that disadvantage as quickly as possible. A mystery shopping expedition to the competitor should also be considered.
Here’s one more point about prices and objections or non-objections. Some customers may tell you that price is no object. Watch out for these. Price is almost always a consideration. If the same person that says price is no object then asks if your store has credit, you may be wasting your valuable time on somebody who will buy anything at any price if he can get credit. Make sure they can pass a credit check before killing hours on a dead end.
Other Annoying Objections
#9. “I need to bring in some one else to look.”
Don’t give up on these so-called “one legs.” Sometimes, I have found, they really don’t need the other person, at all. It may be just an excuse to throw off a persistent RSA. But, what they are telling you might be true. Treat these ups seriously. Not only should the standard qualifying questions be asked of the customer; the RSA should also inquire about the tastes and wants of the person not present. Also ask, “How soon can the other person come in to look?” The more insight obtained about what is really going on in the customer’s head, the better chance of making the sale. If the other person does show up later, the RSA already is way ahead in establishing rapport.
Try to close the sale, no matter what (assuming, of course, you find something that they like and they show buying signals.) Don’t count on that other person to ever come in. Don’t forget, it becomes a BE-BACK situation then, and we all know how most of those turn out.
#10. “I like the one better that I saw at another store.”
This objection resembles Objection #8, but it is not the same. This objection is more serious. The customer may very well be telling the truth and not just fishing for a better price. What should be your response? Unless you are intimately familiar with the competitor’s product in question, and can honestly refute the competitor’s sales pitch, the only way the sale will be made is to find another product that at least matches the competition in the customer’s affection. Only then do you demonstrate your store’s product and close the sale.
#11. “I’ve never heard of this brand.”
Customers are unlikely to have heard of more than three or four mattress brands. Furniture companies have not done a very good job over the decades of “branding” themselves. And, with imports now dominating the furniture market, brand recognition is even rarer. This means the store, sales management, and the manufacturer need to develop a good presentation for the RSA to “romance” the product, as we used to say in the old days. Today we talk about developing stories for products that resonate personally with consumers. It’s more or less the same thing.
Knowing product specifications comes in handy for the RSA at this point. Also, knowing and comparing the specs of your product and a famous brand name can be effective, if correctly executed.
#12. “The store down the street said they’d add an extra five years to the warranty at no extra charge.”
We all know that “extra warranty” is worth exactly what the customer is paying for it, but the customer may not know that. This is an occasion where the RSA is wise to be well versed in Warranty language. Warranties should then be carefully explained to the customer. “They cover defects, period!” If you don’t find a defect in year one, or year two, or even year three, it probably doesn’t have a defect.
#13. “You don’t carry the brand I’m looking for.”
A lot of RSAs give up on this one. Some “polite” RSAs might even say, “Oh, you can find that brand down the street at We-Carry-Everything Furniture.” For once, don’t be polite. The first question out of your mouth should be, “Do you mind if I ask why you were looking for that particular brand?” Don’t knock the brand; it is probably a very good product. But, you won’t sell your brand until the customer is convinced that what you are offering is superior to the brand he is asking about. Why does he want that brand? When you find out, show how your brand has everything the other brand has and then some, and he can have it for a better price.
We’ve just covered a few of the most common objections the RSA may hear. Customers think of new ones every day. Remember, the objection is a defense. The customer is protecting his territory and his money. He may dream up fantastic objections in a panic to avoid making a decision. The patient, professional RSA must allay the customer’s fears. Never ridicule or belittle an objection, no matter how silly it sounds. The customer really does want to buy. Why else did he visit your store?
David Benbow, a twenty-three year veteran of the mattress and bedding industry, is owner of Mattress Retail Training Company. Dave’s company offers mattress retailers a full array of retail guidance; from small store management to training retail sales associates (RSAs.) Dave’s many years of hands-on experience as retail sales associate, store manager, sales manager/trainer and store owner of multiple stores in six different American metropolitan areas uniquely qualifies him as an expert in selling bedding at the retail level.
David is the author of the recently published book, “How to Win the Battle for Mattress Sales, the Bed Seller’s Manual”. This book is the first book to systematically present a complete, organized, but easily read and understood text book for mattress and bedding retail sales associates, beginner and experienced professional alike. It is a complete training course in one 292 page book. The book can be purchased on-line at http://www.bedsellersmanual.com.
He also offers hands-on training classes for retailers on a variety of subjects and issues as well as on-line classes that can be downloaded from the websites mentioned above.
David can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or in person at 361-648-3775.
Read other articles by David Benbow