Elephant in the room

It’s one of the most misunderstood aspects of ad sales: an objection raised by the client or prospect. Some see them as akin to a door being slammed shut but objections are actually a normal part of the selling process, not a rejection of the proposal, the seller or of doing business.

“They’re buying signals, an indicator that a client is interested and willing to provide insights into their thoughts and concerns,” Jeff Schmidt, Senior VP for Professional Development at the Radio Advertising Bureau, told a webinar audience Tuesday.

If prospects or customers aren’t raising any objections, it often means the account exec isn’t engaging them enough. “Objections are the sparks that start our most persuasive and effective conversations,” Schmidt said. They simply mean that someone is interested.

During the webinar “Welcoming and Handling Objections Like A Pro,” Schmidt made the case that objections help build relationships because they give a seller the opportunity to clarify communication and revisit their rapport with the prospect. The best way to handle them, he said, is to be thorough in every part of the selling process. “It’s a good idea to anticipate objections by reviewing your presentation, write down every possible objection, and build it into your presentation.”

Getting an ad proposal across the finish line requires the ability to successfully address objections. But many sales people throw in the towel too early. According to research presented by Schmidt, more than four in ten (44%) salespeople give up after the first objection, 22% fold after the second objection, 16% bail after the third and 10% bow out after the fourth. In fact, only 8% of salespeople continue to sell after the fourth objection. And yet 73% of clients will buy after the fourth objection.

The key to handling them is to take your time and listen carefully, he said.

All advertising objections fall into seven core buckets, which Schmidt identified as:

Lack Of Perceived Value

This doesn’t refer to the price paid but rather the value of what the client receives. “The value objection is more about belief in the outcome,” Schmidt said.

No Urgency To Invest In Growth

With its business humming along just fine, the prospect doesn’t have any motivation to upset the apple cart by attempting to grow its company.

Perceived Competitive Inferiority

“They look at the competitive landscape and say there’s no way I can compete.” This is common among local retailers that are intimidated by ecommerce giants like Amazon, eBay and Walmart.

Lack Of Funds To Invest In Growth

With businesses still dealing with restrictions from the pandemic, this is a real concern. But research shows that those that kept advertising are winning market share. “We have to be empathetic and sensitive to these types of situations,” Schmidt warned.

Perception That It’s Safer To Do Nothing

Also known as risk aversion, this type of objection has only intensified during the pandemic. “Safer to do nothing from an advertiser's perspective means you stop inviting people to do business with you and know you before they need you, and that’s a recipe for disaster.”

Personal Issue With The Seller Or Company

Radio has a fairly significant turnover rate among salespeople and that can be frustrating to advertisers. Or they may have a problem with the premise of the company or the CEO. “Personalities sometimes clash,” Schmidt observed.

Internal Issues

This encompasses decision-making conflicts and power struggles within the prospect’s own company.

From there, the learning session included the four steps for successfully handling objections, or what Schmidt called the “CRAM” process.

Clarify: When a client gives you an objection, resist the temptation to immediately respond and use a clarifying question instead. Examples include, “What do you mean by that?” Or, “Tell me why you feel that way.”

Restate: Use the client’s words and repeat them as closely as possible. “If you’ve done a great job clarifying, this is where the objection starts to sound silly or awkward and the client will likely change their position.”

Answer: After clarifying and restating, you may not need to use this step as the client will have already resolved their objection for themselves. But if needed, this is the place to tie specific information from your prepared materials into their concern or objection.

Move On: Once you’ve clarified, restated and answered, it’s time to continue to the next step, which could be another objection or a scheduling issue. The key to being able to move on, said Schmidt, is to ask if they are satisfied with the answer.