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Objection handling, Pt. 1: handling the "trust objection"Article added by Joe Anzalone on October 9, 2009
Joe Anzalone

Joe Anzalone

San Diego, CA

Joined: August 21, 2010

By now, many of you are aware that there is no shortage of advice on handling objections in the world of business. The purpose of this series of columns is to provide all of you with a simple, reliable process that is effective in most situations. This month we'll address a specific group of objections revolving around the trust issue so prevalent today among our prospects and clients.

What are trust objections?

Simply put, you will get trust objections from clients and prospects that have either had a bad experience with a financial advisor or have an overall lack of faith in either your profession or the products you represent. Indeed, these types of objections are rampant in the industry today (Bernie Madoff, anyone?). For example:
  • Is the annuity FDIC insured?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • How many of these have you sold?
  • What's your commission on this?
  • Can I talk to another one of your clients about this?
  • Who is this insurance company? I've never heard of them.
  • Sounds good, but I don't want to make any big decisions right now (the "immovable client").
As with most objections, your prospect is saying one thing but means something significantly different. They are afraid of buying, but, as we know, most people will not simply declare, "I don't trust you, because I've lost money, and so have all of my friends. Who are you, anyway?" Rather, you will hear one of the statements above. This kind of objection is common but is especially ubiquitous nowadays, for obvious reasons. To handle them effectively and have a productive interview, there are four simple rules to follow.

Rule No. 1 -- "Flash card" methods don't work. There is a time-honored belief that there is some sort of ideal answer to any number of customer concerns. Early in my career, I was trained this way. As part of my two-week training program, my sales manager gave us a series of objections to study, along with the answers. We were then quizzed with flash cards, and we role-played the conversation. What resulted from this type of training were sales interviews that sounded like this:

Prospect: How many of these have you sold?

Salesperson: Well, I've been in the business for 10 years. In fact, I've sold more than two dozen this year, so I really understand this product. What questions about the product do you have?

The problem with this answer is it doesn't address your prospect's true concern: they are afraid to buy right now. They are not interested in any more risk. Fundamentally, they don't trust you. Therefore, it will not be effective to answer the question on the surface, because the prospect will still doubt you; you have not attacked the real problem. It does not help to tell them that no, your product is not FDIC insured, but insurance carriers are safe, or that while your commission is 7 percent, it does not come out of their pocket. Remember, this is, first and foremost, a trust issue.
Rule No. 2 -- Empathize, give the answer, ask open-ended questions

So, what do you say? Remember that your prospect may not trust what you say initially, but the more they confide in you, the more credible you become. Proper listening and questioning is essential when dealing with a trust objection, so follow these three keys: empathize, give the answer, and get specific by asking one or more open-ended questions, so the trust issue surfaces in the interview:

Prospect: How long have you been in business?

Salesperson: I'm glad you asked. We have been in business for 11 years. What type of experience are you looking for in an advisory firm?

Prospect: Well, something like that. I want to be sure whoever we deal with has seen our situation before.

Salesperson: I understand. What is your situation, specifically? Everyone is unique.

The key here is this: By using this method, the conversation continues, with the prospect dominating the exchange. That is exactly what you (and the customer) want. The trust issue will melt away with every word spoken by the prospect; as they vent and confide in you, listen carefully and continue to probe.

Rule No. 3 -- Remind them of their original interest

Remember, they're meeting you for a reason. Something captured their attention. Unfortunately a certain period of time has elapsed between their initial feeling of interest and your face-to-face meeting. In the world of trust objections, a few days can be an eternity; indeed, time is your enemy, especially now. Since the day the appointment was set, any number of things may have occurred -- completely outside of your control -- which affect the tone of your meeting. For example, your prospect could have seen something on MSNBC that made them question your profession, or they could have torn open their monthly 401(k) statement the morning of your visit and been reminded that they only have half the money they used to. Customers today -- especially those members of the baby boomer generation -- are busier than ever. They may have forgotten why they were excited to meet with you in the first place. Help them to remind themselves through open-ended questioning:

Prospect: Who is this insurance company? I've never heard of them.

Salesperson: I'm glad you asked. This company ... (point out ratings and financial strength). Their products are well-suited for your goals. Remember, when we had the workshop, what issues did we raise that you wanted to talk about?

Prospect: I remember that thing about tax-deferred growth you mentioned -- you showed that graph.

Salesperson: Yes, and there was one more thing...

Prospect: Yeah. I didn't want to lose any more money.
Salesperson: Right. This company has good solutions for those objectives. What else would you like to know about them?

By probing and having this type of exchange, the customer is reminded of their contribution to the buying decision.

Rule No. 4 -- Point out the risk in not acting

Finally, some customers are simply afraid of any decision that smacks of risk. The fear of further risk has them paralyzed, and they have associated the buying decision with danger. Certainly, in many of your prospects' cases, there is a great deal of risk in staying put. Moreover, for your prospects that have significant assets in positions that have already dropped considerably, remind them that it may be time to stop the bleeding, at least for a portion of those assets. For those prospects afraid to "lock in their losses," they often don't realize that an all-encompassing transaction may not be necessary; the following strategy can be effective:

Prospect: Sounds good, but I don't want to make any big decisions right now.

Salesperson: I completely understand. When you say "big decision," what does that represent to you?

Prospect: Well, you know, moving all of these accounts.

Salesperson: Sure. Given your goals, it may be a better idea to see how just a couple of these positions can be enhanced by implementing the strategy we discussed. We don't want to be too risky, but there's plenty of risk in not acting. Wouldn't you agree?

As you may have noticed, the consistent theme in handling trust objections -- and for that matter, all objections -- is skillful questioning. As this objection-handling series progresses, these questioning techniques will be featured even more. Give some of these strategies a try, and happy selling!
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