Take Advantage of Sales Objections

Barry Farber’s Guide to Handling Sales Objections (Career Press, 2004) can help retailers understand and resolve customer objections. Farber, a corporate trainer, discussed the book with JCK and highlighted areas of relevance for retail jewelers.

What lessons about dealing with sales objections can jewelry salespeople learn from your book?

If you build good rapport with a customer, learn everything you can about them, and gain their trust, that’s probably the best way to overcome potential objections before they arise. This means listening and observing; learning all you can about a customer; knowing your products and services inside and out; and, most of all, being yourself. People can see right through someone who adopts an artificial “sales personality.” I find that for customers who have a strong relationship with a retailer, price, the most common objection, typically isn’t an issue.

It’s still inevitable that you will be faced with sales objections at some point, so follow these six steps: Listen to the objection in its entirety. We often only half-listen to the customer because we’re getting ready to respond with our sales pitch. Define the objection. Ask the customer to elaborate. Rephrase the objection. Put it into a question and ask the customer if this is an accurate representation of the objection. Isolate the objection. Find out if it’s the only thing standing in the way of the sales so there are no surprises later. Present the solution. Close the sale.

Objections are really buying signals—the customer is saying they want to buy, but they need a problem solved first.

How do you relate the idea of developing relationships with customers before trying to sell to them to retail jewelers?

For a luxury business like jewelry, building strong customer relationships may be even more critical than for other businesses. A jeweler has to establish himself as an expert, a person with knowledge and connections. Word of mouth is huge to this kind of business. The only way you get that is through strong customer relationships.

Because most people don’t know a lot about diamonds, they rely heavily on the expertise of the jeweler. To spend thousands of dollars on something you don’t know a lot about, you need to have a strong trust and comfort level with the retailer. Establishing this comfort level turns a new customer into a customer for life—someone that comes back to you again and again. To get to this point, the jeweler needs to spend time getting to know the customer, taking care of them, and making them feel special. Follow-up through phone calls and postcards is a good way to keep relationships strong.

Finally, don’t sacrifice the relationship for the sale. Most sales trainers stress up-selling, but it can become a negative if you push too hard. Don’t try to sell people more than they want to buy. I’m a big believer in taking care of people, not making them feel like they were sold.

What major strategy or technique is lacking in small businesses like independent jewelry stores?

First of all, “the customer is always right,” but no one can make that work all the time. When dealing with difficult customers, follow the “80/20” rule: 80 percent of your business comes from the top 20 percent of your customer base. Do everything you can to keep these core customers satisfied and feeling special. They should be your top priority. Knowing when to walk away is a key skill that many retailers have not mastered.

Another simple thing is asking customers, “Is there anything we’re not doing we could be doing to serve you better?” Customers can give you tremendous insight into what you’re doing right and what you need to work on. Studies have shown that more than two-thirds of consumers leave a store and don’t return because they feel the retailer doesn’t care about them, but only want to sell to them. Ask your customers what they want, what’s important to them, and you’ll know what you have to do to retain them.