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This post was updated Sept. 12, 2023.
It is a classic scenario: You have searched long and hard to find a prospective client and you finally have one on the phone. “We desperately want to buy a house,” they say. Excited, you press in to get a commitment to start the process.
Suddenly, they throw up a roadblock. “Actually, we think interest rates are too high right now, and so we’ll have to wait until they come down.” As you start dealing with this comment, they lob in another objection; “And prices are way too high as well.”
Scrambling, you begin countering this second objection when they erect another wall: “And all our friends think the market is going to crash, so it doesn’t make sense to buy right now, don’t you agree?”
Life is full of objections
Simply put, an objection is any concern someone raises in response to an action you want them to take. If the desired action is to sell a client a home, then any barrier they erect to that purchase is an objection that will need to be overcome to proceed to a sale.
The question is never, “Will I encounter objections?” but rather, “How do I deal with objections when they arise?” As an example, parents deal with objections all day long every day.
- “I don’t want to clean my room.”
- “I’m not eating this.”
- “Why do I have to be in by 10:00 p.m.?”
- “Why can’t I have that $300 pair of shoes – everyone else has them?”
With every objection, the parent has a choice: Respond with their gut — often incorrectly — or take the time to learn effective responses that will help nurture the child in a positive direction. As a parent of six kids, more often than not my response was off the top of my head and fell into the “totally ineffective response” category.
The good news with parenting is that our children will be there the next day so that, over time and with the help of a spouse, books and even counseling, we can improve our responses. Unfortunately, we often only get one shot with a prospective client. If we muff our response, they are gone.
Consequently, it is critical we do whatever we need to do to make sure those first responses to their objections are the right ones. This involves scripts, coaching and extensive practice. It also requires a systematic way of responding, a framework through which effective objection-handling can occur, regardless of the objection.
While objections represent one of the more difficult aspects of selling, they are not automatically dead ends. In fact, they represent opportunities.
The good news is that, since your client is talking to you, they really want to buy or sell a home. All you need to do is find a pathway forward for them to succeed. If you manage to help them overcome their obstacles and achieve their dreams, they will more than likely refer others to you as well. Therefore, learning how to overcome objections is a pathway to success.
Courtesy of Anthony Zapata, productivity coach with Forward Coaching, here is our four-step process for effectively responding to objections:
1. Approve and repeat
While most of us want to try to solve a problem right away, our clients first need to know we are actually listening. Instead of going into sales mode and trying to convince them of your solution, they must sense that you are on their team and that you genuinely care about them.
Since you are not trying to change their mind, this approach will minimize defensiveness and potential arguing. Once you have heard their objection, you provide credence by repeating it back to them. If you are not sure you understand, ask open-ended questions until you both agree that you have verbalized their concerns.
For example: “I want to confirm what you just said to make sure we are on the same page – you mentioned that you have heard that the real estate market might tank in the near future and you are concerned that if you buy now, your home may lose value? You are concerned that you may pay too much? Did I hear you correctly?”
2. Isolate the concern(s)
The next step is to find out if there are any other concerns. You want to be able to get everything on the table so that you are dealing with all their concerns – you do not want them to introduce a new set of trepidations after you have spent a lot of time working with them.
For example: “OK, I understand that you are concerned that the market might crash in the near future. Do you have any other concerns I should know about?”
3. Respond to the concern(s)
After you are sure you have heard them correctly and they are cognizant of the fact that you actively listened to them and understand their concerns, then you can begin to address the issues. The goal is to be able to remove their concern as a reason for not moving forward. Keep in mind again that they want to buy a home – you are helping them remove any obstacles that are mentally blocking them from moving forward.
For example: “I understand that you are concerned that the market might collapse. I’d like to remind you that the goal is to get a home, not make a short-term profit. Real estate prices fluctuate up and down continuously, but over the years, they have always increased in value.
As an example, after living in my home for 23 years, I recently sold it for five times what I paid for it. The issue is never the price of the home – it is whether or not you can afford the monthly payments.
I have a question for you: ‘What makes more sense to you – getting into a home now that you know you can afford and beginning to gain all the benefits that come with homeownership, or waiting – not knowing if prices and/or interest rates will go up or down in the future, contributing to your landlord’s retirement instead of your own and not having access to any of the benefits of homeownership?’”
Once you have addressed all of the objections, it is time to close.
For example: “Now that I’ve addressed your concerns, when can we get out and start looking? I have two slots available: This coming Saturday at noon or Sunday at 3:00 P.M. Which works best for you?”
A commitment to effectively handle buyer objections is also a commitment to practice. Author Jim Collins clarifies:
“Excellence requires more than just a lot of practice. It requires the right kind of practice. The natural tendency for humans, professional athletes included, is to fall into a routine once we achieve an adequate level of performance.”
I recommend that you develop a list of all potential buyer objections and then a script to handle each one effectively. Find a practice partner and rehearse all the scenarios until your responses are second nature. You should also consider getting a coach to help you with this – they may already have a list of objections and corresponding scripts.
At the end of the day, and especially in a volatile market such as the one we are currently facing, those who learn to effectively handle objections will be the ones who end up at the closing table with their clients. The rest will be doing … not much of anything.