Joe Sugarman's Triggers - Turning Money Poop into Shinola
Just as it is important to show your dirty laundry early for your prospect to see, it is equally important to clean it as well. The examples in the preceding chapter all involved first determining the negative features or the objections to the sale and then bringing them up right away.
But then comes the hard part. You’ve got to resolve the objections. For example, if I were selling a thermostat (as I mentioned in the previous example) and the prospect was required to install it, I would bring up the installation issue right away, at the beginning of the ad. I know from my experience with other sales that consumers do not relate to installation of an electrical product where live voltages and wires are involved.
By bringing up the possible objection and then resolving it, I’ve removed a major obstacle blocking the sale. In the installation example, I brought it up and then explained that the thermostat wires were only 24-volt—not enough to hurt anybody. I mentioned that the wires were all color-coded, making it easy to install.
In contrast, I’ve seen many of my competitors avoid bringing up an objection, and never resolving it either. I’ve watched their ads fail, too.
Here’s a very important point: You can’t just resolve an objection without first raising it. Let me give you an example of this from my own observations.
I was piloting my own private plane and was about 50 miles from Palwaukee airport in Wheeling, Illinois, where I was scheduled to land. The weather was perfect for flying. It was a bright, clear day—one of those rare days when you could see for miles. But the air traffic controllers were unusually quiet as I approached Palwaukee.
As I got closer to Palwaukee, I could see, off in the distance, a big fire near Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. I landed my plane, parked, and walked into the airport flight office where I learned from a television broadcast that American Airlines flight 191 had just crashed on takeoff from O’Hare and that all its passengers had died.
That was May 25, 1979, and it was one of those memories that remain indelibly etched in my mind. The plane that crashed was a DC-10—one of McDonnell Douglas’s largest and most popular aircrafts. Immediately after the crash, it was determined that there was a hydraulic problem that, under certain circumstances, could cause loss of control and consequently a crash. McDonnell Douglas quickly corrected the problem, but for a while all DC-10s were grounded.
As if that wasn’t enough, the DC-10 was involved in two more crashes within a relatively short period of time. The last two were not related to any fault of the airplane, but the stigma of the American Airlines crash was still on the minds of the public. McDonnell Douglas realized that it had to do something to offset the negative publicity.
They picked Pete Conrad, a former astronaut, to write an advertisement and address the public concern. But instead of raising the issue of the plane crashes (as you would an objection) and then resolving it, the objection was totally ignored. The resulting ad was hollow. It talked about how safe the DC-10 was and how it was built to exacting standards and how 18 million engineering man-hours had been invested in the plane’s development. It went on and on. What was missing was the simple sentences, “No doubt you’ve heard of the recent series of DC-10 crashes. Well, there’s a few things you should know.”
I would then have brought out a number of things. First, that an unusual circumstance involving the hydraulic system caused the crash. Second, I would have explained what had been done to fix it and then gone on to reestablish trust in the plane’s safety by explaining the inspections and recently installed fail-safe systems.
In short, I would bring up the objections—thoughts that would come up in consumers’ minds—and then resolve them through the proactive measures that were already being taken.
Then I would say the things Pete Conrad said in his ad. Instead, the entire ad was focused on resolving perceived objections about the quality of construction of the plane, when that wasn’t what was on the minds of readers. Although Conrad resolved the issue of quality construction of the DC-10, he missed a major opportunity.
You are wasting your time resolving any objection unless you raise it first. And if you don’t raise the real objections that your prospects have in their minds, then you’re totally wasting your time.
The ad agency that created the DC-10 ad and the company who approved it may have had a different purpose in running their ad—more from a legal angle than from a marketing sense. But the ad nevertheless clearly failed to accomplish its intended purpose.
In the selling process, it is important to bring out an objection very early in the sales
presentation. It is equally, if not more, important to figure out a strategy for resolving the objection. By so doing, you solidly anticipate the resistance to your sales pitch and quickly resolve that resistance while getting respect from your prospect.
No matter what the problem is with your product or service, no matter how bad it may seem and no matter how badly you want to hide it, you must bring it to the surface early in the sales presentation and then resolve it. So the real question here is basically, “How can I take this problem and turn it into an opportunity?”
Very often, within a problem lies an opportunity so big it dwarfs the problem. Your job is to find the opportunity. Let me give you a few examples.
I was selling an ion generator. This product produced negative ions, which attached
themselves to micron-sized pollution particles and then precipitated the particles out of the air. The unit I was selling was sleek—a black, shiny cylinder with a slanted top that normally would look like a great art piece. But stuck on the very top of the unit, right in the middle of its slanted top, was this piece of metal that looked like steel wool. It was plain ugly and an eyesore. The problem was the eyesore—it did not make the unit look like it was an advanced space-age product.
The resolution was simply to title the ad, “Miracle Fuzz” and call attention to the piece of steel wool (or “fuzz” as I called it) as being the miraculous secret in the entire process. After all, it was the emitter for the ions and played a critical role in the product’s performance. The perception of the ugly fuzz was immediately transformed in the mind of the consumer from being a funny piece of steel wool into a miracle and the basis of this new appliance’s effectiveness. The ad ran for years and was one of our most popular ads.
Whenever I have come up with something I can call a problem, it triggers a reaction in my mind that says, “Where’s the opportunity?” One of the most satisfying things my customers used to tell me about my advertising was that it was totally disarming. They appreciated my raising problems with products that nobody else would consider raising and then resolving them in a completely satisfying way that transformed the problem into a major benefit.
You can do that easily in the selling process. Just list on one side of a sheet of paper the objections your prospect might have about your product. Then, on the other side, list ways you can resolve those objections and turn them into opportunities. But be careful. Here is where common sense comes into play. If you raise an objection that really isn’t much of an objection in the mind of your prospect, you are raising a red flag that doesn’t need to be raised, let alone resolved. The objections should be the serious concerns that your prospect typically will raise. It could be about competition, pricing, delivery—whatever the objection, raise it early in the sales presentation and then resolve it with a creative and proactive solution.
If your prospect raises an objection you totally didn’t expect or even realize could be a problem, you have the opportunity in the personal selling situation to resolve it right on the spot. Then, the next time you sell the same product to a new prospect, you’ll have a resolution ready for that objection if it is mentioned again. It won’t be a shock.
In my mail order ads, I had to anticipate all the objections my prospects might have, or I would not make the sale. But in personal selling you have the tremendous advantage of knowing precisely what the objection is, if indeed the prospect brings it up.
What happens when something unexpectedly bad happens during a product presentation?
The bad thing that happens then automatically assumes the role of the objection in the mind of the customer. You now have to creatively resolve it.
A good example of this happened to me in August, 1998, while I was appearing on QVC in London—an affiliate of QVC in the U.S. I was selling BluBlocker sunglasses to an English audience when my show host, Rob, decided to show how strong BluBlocker sunglasses are.
In the past, he would throw the sunglasses on the floor and then step on them with his large foot. Nothing would happen to the BluBlockers, proving how durable and strong the sunglasses really were.
On this day, something totally unexpected happened. Rob threw the BluBlockers on the floor, stepped on them with his big foot and broke a pair right at the hinge. Right there and then, as the broken pair of sunglasses lay on the floor, the objection in the minds of consumers was raised big time. But if you recall, I mentioned earlier that each problem has an opportunity and each opportunity is often much more powerful than the problem. Here’s what happened.
While Rob was literally speechless, I laughed and then said, “Rob, I’m glad you broke that pair. I really am. Lots of people watching might think that many of the demonstrations we put on here on QVC are rigged and not really truthful and here we have one that shows that indeed this is live television and that these tests aren’t rigged. Furthermore, notice where the sunglasses broke. Right at the hinge, which I’ve been saying for a long time is the weakest link in the entire pair.”
I then picked up the two pieces of BluBlockers and said, “You see the broken hinge area and how it is reinforced? Despite the reinforced hinge area, the sunglasses still broke, but this is about the only part of a pair of BluBlockers that can break and if it does, then you simply return it to the BluBlocker company and we will send you a replacement pair during our one-year warranty. Even if it is your fault.”
I used this dramatic moment to resolve several objections that were raised in the minds of consumers and maybe a few that weren’t even there but appeared as a result of a demonstration gone bad. And I resolved them promptly and quickly, proving that we were human, that we indeed were on live television, and that we back our product no matter what happens to it. We even had the opportunity to dramatically show how much reinforcement we put in the hinge area.
The broken sunglass demonstration was the talk of many of the other hosts at QVC that day, but most of the commentary was how I got out of it in a positive way.
Keep this very important story in mind when the worst thing happens in a presentation and something goes wrong. Remember that what went wrong just raised an objection and it is now time to creatively resolve it. If you do, the prospect will have much more respect for you than he or she had without the episode happening, as was my experience at QVC. In fact, sales of that particular pair of BluBlockers were greater than normal, which we directly related to the demonstration that went bad.
Resolving an objection does more than build confidence, inspire respect, and reflect your integrity. It resolves a conflict in the mind of the consumer that must be resolved to consummate a sale.
Trigger 5: Objection Resolution
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