EditorialsBy Matt Bud, Chairman, The FENG

Anyone involved in personal selling will tell you that one of the more difficult tasks faced by any salesperson is handling customer objections.

The easiest customer objections to handle are the ones the customer tells you about. Innocent sounding questions like “What colors does it come in?” can be answered by asking “What color would you like?” If the customer wants red and you don’t have it, you at least know the problem you are facing and can develop strategies to solve it.

The worst customer objections to handle are the ones they don’t tell you about. You can see you aren’t making a sale, but you don’t know why. It is a big problem.

Of course, the product we are talking about here is you. It isn’t a car. It isn’t a sweater. It is a person who has reached a stage in life when, like a used car, it may be an “oldie but goodie,” but under that new paint job and/or in that motor that has obviously been steam cleaned, a few flaws exist that may or may not be important to your customer.

The question you have to ask yourself is who should go first? Do you volunteer answers to questions that haven’t been asked or do you leave them unanswered? Well, it depends.

Let me point out that in today’s world there are lots of questions you can’t legally ask that are perceptually important to employers. For example, if you are a woman of childbearing years, they can’t ask you if you plan to get pregnant. If you are in this situation and you have no plans to get pregnant or you are actually past your child bearing years, I would recommend your letting that be known.

Age and seniority related issues also fall into this category. If the answer is easy, it is probably better for you to bring it up in the right way than leave somewhat obvious customer objections go unanswered. If you are applying for a very hands on job most likely reporting to someone much younger than you are, you need to come up with a series of comments that will make clear your comfort with the situation that don’t diminish your great skills. Pointing out that you have worked for folks younger than you are in previous positions and commenting how well it worked out can go a long way toward easing the obvious fears of your failure if they hire you. You have to be careful with your comments, but still say then in a casual way so they sound heartfelt and true.

The next area requiring careful consideration is what I will call discoverable facts. These are customer objections that come up after you leave the room. Many companies today require a physical and/or drug testing and many also do background checks. If you have something that they are going to find out about anyway, you are best advised to let at least one person, like the human resource director at the company, know what they are going to find. While I don’t recommend doing this at the beginning of the process, (you need to set the hook first) letting those responsible for hiring decisions be embarrassed just isn’t a good idea. As financial officers we live by the creed of “no surprises.”

One of our members a few years ago had a personal bankruptcy but didn’t tell his prospective employer about why it happened. Briefly, his spouse became seriously ill after he lost his job and he literally went broke trying to save her life, which he did. Frankly, I would have made the same choices. By not getting his story out and allowing this “fact” to be discovered, his offer was withdrawn.

Don’t confess to everything, but be smart about what you need to reveal and how you think it should best be played. I’m not suggesting you lie. I am only suggesting you position the truth in the best possible light. The appropriate spin that goes with your stories can carry the day.

If you are one of those of you who have been faced with these kinds of situations and you would be willing to share your story and how you solved it, I will give you two options. If you don’t mind your name being used, please send a note to Leads@TheFENG.org with the subject “Handling customer objections.” If you would prefer confidentiality, but are still willing to share your experience, please write to me directly at MattBud@TheFENG.org. I will compile a group of them for future publication.

As always, I think it is important that we share what we know. I look forward to hearing from you.

Regards, Matt

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