// Clearing Hurdles for Sales Success
by Clayton Sinclair
Overcoming objections is typically considered to be on a par with ‘closing’ as the toughest part of the sales process. It is the part of the process where, in effect, you are going head-to-head with the prospect. You have one position (they should join) and they have another (they shouldn’t). However, it doesn’t need to be this way.
Replace the idea of ‘objections’ with the idea of ‘hurdles’
The word ‘objection’ often implies a win-lose situation. The person with an objection usually wants their position to stand – imagine an objection to a building application, for example, where one party wants to build the 50 storey complex and the other party wants the permit denied. In a sales context, handling objections is often associated with friction and discomfort between the sales person and the prospect.
In contrast, the word ‘hurdle’ implies an obstacle that you are expected to overcome. If you imagine a sprinter, they want to clear the hurdles on the way to the finish line.
If you imagine your prospect as the sprinter, then you have the power to help remove or reduce the size of the hurdles helping the sprinter to get to the finish line sooner and more easily. Everyone wins!
A simple view of the sales process is to promote the reasons why the prospect should join, remove or reduce the reasons why they shouldn’t (hurdles), and then ask for a decision. If their motivations to get started are greater than their perceived hurdles, the prospect will buy when asked for a decision.
Most prospects will have to clear one or more hurdles before getting started; the role of the salesperson is to help them do so. If the prospect is focused on the positive feelings attached to achieving their goals they will actually want to overcome their own hurdles, and the salesperson won’t have to do much at all.
Plan to clear the hurdle before hitting it!
Sales training often focuses on responding or reacting to hurdles after the price presentation; i.e., you have asked your closing question and the prospect says ‘no thanks’, at which point you start the objection handling process. While this is an important process, it is more difficult to overcome an objection after the price presentation. Once the subject of money is on the table the prospect will tend to begin thinking more logically (money, duration, paperwork, etc.) and the power of their emotional motivators is reduced. Additionally, many prospects will become more conscious of the sales process at this point and become more guarded. This approach can be a bit like trying to clear the hurdle after you have run into it. Ouch!
A sprinter would obviously plan to clear a hurdle before getting to it. Indeed, they should have a clear mental image of clearing all of the hurdles before the race even starts. Applied to sales, this means having a plan to proactively address the most common hurdles as a structured part of the sales presentation. Keep in mind that the top three or four reasons will usually account for over 80 per cent of lost sales.
Therefore, it is much easier to help a prospect overcome their hurdles before money is discussed. During the early stages of a good presentation, a prospect is more likely to sense ‘customer service’ than ‘sales’. They will tend to be more open and comfortable about sharing their goals and their hurdles. Everything you say will tend to be accepted as the prospect’s thoughts are not clouded by the potential perception that you are just trying to get money out of them.
The process of clearing hurdles will usually begin by using a Fitness Review or Pre-exercise Questionnaire prior to touring the facility. This is used to guide the prospect through a series of questions that help to uncover their goals and their potential hurdles. During the process you will either confirm that there are no hurdles likely to stop the prospect from joining, or you will discover which challenges need further attention during the tour. As this process is about asking questions and letting the prospect build their own case for joining, there should never be any need for friction or pressure.
Even with a thorough approach to clearing hurdles, you will still get some objections after the price presentation. If it is one of the hurdles that you thought was cleared during your presentation, you can refer back to what the prospect said previously and re-test whether that challenge should really stop them from enjoying all of the benefits associated with achieving their goals. In many cases you will just need to help the prospect refocus on the benefits. Laying a solid foundation early in the presentation will usually make this much easier.
If you find that you continue to get the same objections after price presentation it would suggest that you need to go back and examine your process for clearing hurdles at the beginning of your presentation. What can you ask during the review that will help to stop that objection from occurring later?
The following tips will help you proactively clear five of the most common hurdles.
1. Lack of desire
It is much more fun to buy ‘wants’ than ‘needs’. Help to make sure that your service is a ‘want’. Help the prospect to be super clear on how great they will feel when they achieve their goals and maintain their results. Put simply, create excitement.
This is covered when the prospect indicates the results they would like to achieve and can be explored further by discovering their underlying motivations. Ask questions such as ‘what results would you like to achieve?’, ‘why do you want to achieve these goals?’, ‘when would you like to reach your initial goals?’ and ‘how will you feel when you get there?’
2. Lack of time
This is covered by the prospect indicating on the review the number of times per week they are hoping or expecting to train. We can explore this further, either now or during the tour, to find out when exactly they plan to train (before/after work, lunchtimes or at the weekend).
By helping them to find the time for two or three weekly workouts you have removed the chance of them using lack of time as an excuse not to join. After confirming how their program will fit into their schedule, say ‘Great. So can you see yourself making it in for these sessions to reach your weight loss goals ready for that upcoming holiday?’
This is covered by the prospect indicating how long they have been thinking about getting into a fitness program. You can then ask the following questions to confirm their resolve:
‘So, you’ve been thinking about getting into a fitness program for X months?’
‘So, you feel it’s time to start getting those results that you’re after?’
You should always give positive praise when they answer in the affirmative, to reinforce that they are doing the right thing by making a decision now – even if it has taken them over 12 months to do so!
4. Spouse objection
This is covered by the question on the review regarding whether their family is happy to see them start a fitness program. This is to remove the chance of a third party negative after the price presentation, e.g., ‘I really should ask my husband/wife before I join’.
If this objection occurs after the close, it may indicate a genuine need to confirm the purchase with a partner or it may just be a cover for another objection.
5. Lack of money
The review should include a question along the lines of, ‘If you had to put a dollar value on your health and fitness goals, what would you think is fair per week?’
If the presentation has been thorough, the buying decision should be conditional only on the affordability of the membership by the time you come to the price presentation. By confirming affordability early, the prospect is likely to have a more positive view of benefit versus cost by the time the topic of money arises.
Clearing the most relevant hurdle
While it is helpful to address the most common hurdles systematically, it is critical to address the hurdle that is most relevant to the prospect. The fitness review should contain a question along the lines of ‘What has been stopping you from getting started?’
The answer to this question is likely to be the biggest hurdle that the prospect still needs to overcome before getting started today. This hurdle is cleared, or further investigated, by asking:
‘You mentioned that X has stopped you from getting started in the past. Is that still a problem?’
If the prospect answers ‘no’ then you can move on. If it is still a problem, then you should ask further questions to get a full understanding of the situation.
You can then work with the prospect to overcome the hurdle.
You don’t need to be a sales guru for this approach to work for you. Asking these questions is just part of providing great customer service – but you’ll be amazed at the positive impact it has on your sales results
Putting this into action1. If you haven’t done so already, implement a fitness review/health profile/pre-exercise questionnaire into your sales process.
2. Make sure that the review confirms the prospect’s goals and motivations and addresses all of the key potential hurdles.
3. Practise, practise, practise!
As the managing director of Advance Fitness Marketing, Clayton has 17 years experience conducting large scale sales campaigns for fitness facilities throughout Australia and New Zealand. Advance Fitness Marketing campaigns have helped clubs recruit over 100,000 new members. For more information visit www.advancemarketing.com.au
NETWORK • SUMMER 2009 • PP19-21