But YOUR customers are different

The Sales-Objection Gauntlet: Can Your Product or Service Make It Through?

Competition is fierce in many industries, wouldn’t you say? As tough as that competition may be, there’s an even-more-powerful foe to deal with, and it only weighs three pounds.

It’s the brain of your customer.

More specifically, it’s deep within that brain, between the laterodorsal tegmental nucleus and the Diagonal band of Broca, and it’s known as the Excuse Center.

This area of the brain is both primal and extraordinarily powerful. It causes people to ignore problems until they get so bad that the problems can no longer be ignored. Then it works to bat away any potential solutions before they can be chosen. And if a solution is tried, then it quickly finds a reason to abandon it.

If you have a product or service to sell, you had better understand in detail how the Excuse Center works to thwart your efforts at persuading prospects to become customers.

Let’s first look at an overview of the arsenal available to the Excuse Center, as shown by the infographic below. Later, I’ll lay out some interventions to counteract each excuse.

Now that we’ve mapped the Excuse Center, let’s talk about what can be done to address each excuse as it comes up, or even beforehand.

Denial Phase

Now that we’ve mapped the Excuse Center, let’s talk about what can be done to address each excuse as it comes up, or even beforehand.

Denial Phase

Don’t call it a “problem” because that’s fraught with negative meaning, as in “What’s your problem!” Call it instead an issue, challenge, etc. (For purposes of this document, we’ll just say “problem” as shorthand.)

Create a quiz: “Five signs that you may have Osgood-Schlatter Syndrome.”

Detach the person from the problem. In other words, explain how “You are not a procrastinator, but instead you sometimes procrastinate.” That lessens the perceived effort, because it’s fixing one thing about the person and not sounding like the whole person needs an overhaul.

The mere fact of showing how there may be a legitimate solution to this problem could get people to admit what they’ve thought for a long time, and finally take action.

Reconciliation Phase

“It’s possible that I may have a problem, but…”

Social proof can help here in the form of the right kind of testimonial, along the lines of: “I thought I’d have to live with migraines for the rest of my life. Fortunately I stumbled upon the Acme Method and tried it out. After a couple of false starts it actually worked great for me….”

Describe in detail the pain they’re going through. Here again a good testimonial would work great. Try to get one that says, more or less: “For years I suffered, thinking that my problem might cure itself, or I’d somehow grow out of it. No such luck. Fortunately a friend told me about the Acme Method….”

This is where pure motivation comes in, in the form of explaining why either the price will go up later, or it will be harder to achieve the solution later, or how “when things settle down” there will be another excuse about waiting until things speed up.

This is best addressed by finding out the common objections and handling them in a FAQ. With weight lifting, it could be the Arnold one, and how it’s impossible to accidentally look like Arnold. With other things like making money, the excuse might be “I don’t want to lose all my friends when I’m filthy rich and they’re not, and I don’t want them pestering me for money.” Your FAQ answer could talk about how other people didn’t lose their friends–except the friends that were dragging them down and poking holes in all their dreams.

This is a tough one. If someone is truly convinced of this–and is constantly being pulled down by relatives or others–then it’s pretty hard to counteract that. One possible solution is to say in a FAQ or elsewhere “Warning: Be careful whom you tell about looking for a solution to this issue. Certain people sometimes would rather that you not change, because that would mean that they maybe should change too, and they’re comfortable with the status quo.”

Realization Phase

“OK, I have a problem. It doesn’t seem to be going away, and I want to fix it.” Followed at some point (we hope) by…

Search Phase

You need to give people a reason to act now, instead of wait until someday. Someday usually means never. The reason could be a special bonus you include if people order before a certain date, or it could be a discount. Both ways have the effect of increasing the perceived value. Just be careful not to go overboard with “BUY NOW!! QUANTITIES LIMITED!!!” kind of language which turns people off.

You may be able to say something like: “If you’ve searched in the past for a good online course to teach you to play the piano, it’s no wonder that you didn’t find anything. That’s because only recently has it been possible to create the kind of video that’s easy to use and actually helpful.”

To get these sorts of people off dead center, it’s necessary to give them a reason to act now, vs. someday. It also helps to paint the picture of how nice it will be, in just a short time from now, when they will begin to reap the rewards of whatever you have. You can reinforce that message with a testimonial. Of course you need to get legitimate ones; I’m simply outlining what would be great for a customer to talk about. It might say: “I thought my solution would be way down the road, if ever. But I was pleasantly surprised when just two weeks after I tried your fitness app, I began to notice a difference….”

Evaluation Phase

“I may have found a solution, but…”

Classic #1 objection. Too many techniques to list them all here, but mainly they involve building the value proposition for the product. That’s because in the absence of value, price becomes an objection.

You should therefore describe why the product cost what it does, compared to the cheaper alternatives. How it’s made with rare materials, or handled more carefully, and so on. Need an example? You may also be able to explain how it will be an investment that pays you back, rather than a mere expense that never gets returned. It can also help to break down the cost into smaller time units, like daily cost; then compare it to other pedestrian, daily costs like coffee.

This can be addressed by social proof in the form of a good testimonial that reflects that sentiment: “I thought I’d have to pay lots more to for good, responsive web hosting, but when I compared Acme Hosting to the outfits I was thinking of going with, Acme had all the features I needed, and then some.” It’s also good to explain (if true) that the competition charges more because it has more overhead, or unnecessary features you’ll be paying for.

All the more reason for a quick-start guide, as mentioned elsewhere in this document. Make it clear that benefits will start relatively soon, and also paint a picture of how good it will be when the customer is enjoying those benefits.

This is another case where you have to explain that this solution has not been on the market forever (if that’s the case), or that it’s been refined. It’s also useful to explain how many people don’t benefit because they don’t follow the instructions closely, and how we now have a helpful video that walks you through the key steps, etc.

If your product or service comes in different sizes, then make that very clear up front. If it can be customized, make that clear. If unused portions can be returned, say so. If you have a great guarantee–which you should–then that may help people to relax a little and order one, even though they were hoping for a different size.

If you have proof that the thing works, then of course show the proof, either as testimonials, case studies, demonstrations, etc. If you don’t yet have proof, then GET SOME, as soon as possible. If you’re working on getting some, then meanwhile you can explain why your thing should work better than the competition, how so much care has gone into design and internal testing, how it solved a problem that no one has solved up until now. You can explain the story about how the product came about: “I was a frustrated user, and thought there must be a better way, so I tested and tested solutions and finally tuned it to the point where you see it today….”

Specifically mention the current year somewhere in your materials. So many businesses don’t bother to take this step, for two reasons:

1. They didn’t think of it; and

2. They’re lazy.

“But that will mean someone has to go into our site and change the month we mention!” Yeah, that’s right. All of 60 seconds to do that, if you’re slow.

What you don’t want is people thinking the website has not been updated for years, and that they’re looking at outdated, irrelevant info. The additional good news is that your competition will not bother to do this type of freshness dating.

You can reduce the perceived pain by talking about “trying” the product. Avoid language that marketers like to use about “deciding” or “making a commitment to change” because these sound scary. Those are actions that sellers wants buyers to take, often long before buyers are ready. Also consider future pacing them by reinforcing how nice it will be to enjoy the benefits of your gadget.

Do some user testing to get in the heads of users. What do they find confusing? Then do a quick-start guide to get them started even just a little bit, right away. That’s why some products come with bright stickers when you open the box, saying “Open This First!” It’s to get you over that hump of “Now I have this thing and actually have to expend energy to use it.”

Big key: Keep up the communication or they are indeed likely to stick it back on a shelf. This is something few marketers do but all marketers can do. Also, address how the system may look daunting but how they can benefit after just beginning it; no need to absorb the entire thing to start benefitting.

It depends on how narrow a niche you are going after. If it’s super wide (male/female, young/old, etc) then you need to show how it works for lots of different people. SHOW not tell. Again, have testimonials, show how many people are in your Facebook group, and maybe see if you can get mentioned in the media as suitable for different types of users.

Two approaches: First, reinforce how easy it is to TRY it and see if it works for their situation. This does not generate resistance because it acknowledges the possibility of someone with unique circumstances and for whom the solution won’t work.

Second, break the product or service down into separate benefits, so that readers can see “OK, so it seems this widget will take care of most of my needs–maybe not 100% but most. That’s a start….”

This may be an excuse you can’t counter if it’s just an excuse to not take action and not a real objection. Just make sure that you reply to your one-star ratings from within Amazon!. For example, if the product arrived busted, then reply to that customer with an apology and swift offer of a replacement. Worst thing you can do is not reply to a one-star when that one-star might be bringing up a legitimate objection that now goes unanswered and therefore gains credibility.

If you do a good job of creating a useful product or service, and of taking care of your customers, you’ll also find that customers will spontaneously go to bat for you with the one-star reviews. They’ll leave comments like “Don’t be an idiot and ding the product because the delivery guy left it out in the rain.”

Two ways to address this: First, reduce the risk by having a great guarantee. Talk up how you don’t have to “decide” anything right now; just try our solution and see how it works for you. The second method is to hone your Unique Selling Proposition. Say “We’re the only solution that includes both A and B. We’re also the only ones that include both phone and chat support, and a money-back guarantee for a full 3 months”. Why choose you over all the other competition? If you can answer that, then you answer this objection.

Application Phase

“I found a solution, but there’s bad news (always my luck):”

Don’t have crappy directions! Don’t print them in tiny type in 18 languages, all bound together. Don’t have lawyers or engineers write them, unless your customers are all lawyers and engineers.

Do test them on regular people to see if they’re in fact easy to follow. Do consider both written and visual directions in the form of a YouTube video, even if it’s low cost and nothing fancy.

This is huge: Your support area (maybe that’s just you) is the best source for answering customer objections and increasing sales. Question/objection comes in…it gets answered effectively we hope. That’s where most businesses stop. It’s much better to have a feedback loop so this point gets built into the up-front sales process. Few businesses bother. They’re too busy having their lawyers write the manual in 18 languages, in the smallest-possible print, because that saves .01 penny on paper. Besides…ha ha!…we’ll already have the customers’ money by the time they receive the manual!

You can address this in the quick-start guide. “We strongly suggest that you follow our instructions when you make your first few batches. That’s because we have some special ingredients or steps and they require just the right handling. We’ve already experimented with the procedure and what you’re seeing is the very best way to do it. Now, down the road, feel free to experiment. But we suggest you do that only after you’ve successfully followed the steps as we lay them out. If you have any questions or concerns, just contact us [here] and we’ll be glad to explain why some particular step needs to be done that way.” And if it’s usually one or two steps that people skip, then explain the rationale right in the material they receive.

It’s important to include “fast-start” instructions, so people can get started with even the tiniest portion of the product or solution. Sometimes incentives can be effective, along the lines of “We have a special offer if you are able to complete the first task by June 15th.” Then you need to make that offer something they in fact really want, and not just a few bucks off your other product.

Make it really super easy to contact you after they receive the product. Not crappy limited hours only on weekdays, either. Consider 24/7 and by phone and email, depending on the value of your product. Too expensive for your blood? Test it and see if the ROI is there. Consider sending an email or placing a follow-up call to the customer, asking if there are any questions and how things are going. Just the act of doing that will be enough to get some great word-of-mouth action.

Don’t be that company that’s all over prospects before they become customers, and then move onto greener pastures, leaving customers to figure things out for themselves. Get close to customers through email and maybe even phone outreach, and see if that reduces returns and increases engagement.

This is a tough one if you’re dealing with a person who truly has no interest in finding a solution. However, it can help if you load up the social proof in terms of lots of testimonials and case studies, and you get ones that are as recent as possible.

Also it will help if you can make it clear how yours is the only solution that does certain things. That way, new “shiny objects” can pop up, but they may not meet all the criteria that you list about your solution.

If you’ve done your best to address these objections, and some people still don’t buy, then first make sure you’re not hearing still other objections. If others exist, then answer them. If not, then you’ve done your best. Some prospects never had the slightest serious intention of buying, but love to kick the tires.

Sometimes it’s a good thing that high-maintenance people don’t become clients.

Have you observed other
Excuse Center activity to add to this list?

If so, let me know.

And if you need even more ways to counteract a particular excuse, let me know that, too.

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