Recently, I was having a conversation with a sales manager about apologies. Quite often, sales people start a call with “sorry” and then do exactly what they just apologized for. Rather than offering up apologies that carry little weight, try relating to them. Let me elaborate…
Have you every started a sales call with “I’m sorry to interrupt” or “I’m sorry we keep calling you” followed quickly by your sales pitch?
Now, think about the last time this happened to you as the consumer? Has someone every offered up an apology that you could tell they didn’t really mean? It reminds me the kind of apology a 5 year old blurts out when they got caught doing something they weren’t supposed to, but they don’t really feel bad about it.
Even if you do feel bad about it, you clearly don’t feel bad enough to change what you are doing (because you are still “calling,” “interrupting,” etc.). So instead of offering up a meaningless apology, try actually listening and relating to the person on the other end.
The Feel, Felt, Found Strategy
More than anything, people want to be heard, and understood. Simply listening to a customer’s complaints is not enough. They don’t just need a sounding board; customers need confirmation that what they just said was received.
Start with Feel
Acknowledge that you heard their concern. You don’t have to be a wordsmith to make this strategy effective. You can do this by simply repeating back what they said and include the word feel. Let’s see how this would play out with a very common concern expressed by customers in most any industry…
A customer tells you, “Your prices are too high.” A common response to this very common complaint is to go right into an explanation about the value that they are getting for the cost. The problem is that the customer is not connecting cost and value in the same way you are. Chances are pretty good you won’t make the sale with this approach because you are arguing two different points.
Instead, start by saying “I understand that you feel the prices are too high.”
Right now, you have let the customer know that you heard their objection clearly and you are ready to work with them on it.
Progress to Felt
So now that the customer feels heard, they need to feel connected. If you are struggling to relate to their objection personally, consider the other times you received that same objection (don’t worry, if you are new and it’s the first time you are hearing it, you can make it up a little, I’m sure it won’t be the last). Also try to think about a similar situation you have had personally as a consumer.
You could follow up with “Others felt the same way you do.” This makes the customer feel connected to other customers who have been in their situation.
Now, let’s say for the case of this example that the customer is a small business owner. If you really want to connect to them, try saying “Other business owners have felt the same way you do.” This lets them know that not only has this objection occurred before and is therefore resolvable, but also that it was felt by others who are in their same situation (e.g., business owner).
Found for the Win
The last part of this strategy is to help the customer understand what actions others in their situation have taken and what the result was. The found phrase typically has two components; the first is what you want them to do (buy your product, sign up for your service, etc.). The second part is the positive impact that this action had on those customers, or how you resolved the concern previously.
Here’s how that would look: “They found that after purchasing our service, their expenses went down.”
.Now, let’s look back on what we’ve covered here. If you responded to “Your prices are too high” with “Our service will decrease your other expenses,” you are stating a fact, but not one that you customer can relate to or trust.
If you want your customers to know, like and trust you, they need to be heard and understood. Employing this strategy, we can respond to “Your prices are too high” with “I understand that you feel our prices our too high. Other business owners have felt the same way you do. They found that after purchasing our service, their expenses went down.”
A strategy for all
This strategy works for many situations, whether it’s an initial cold call, or a long time customer. Whether you are responding to an objection, or simply feel an apology may be in order. Consider the cold call complaint at the start of this post. You are aware that a prospect has already received numerous calls from other companies selling the same product you are (or perhaps even calls from other reps within your company). Instead of saying “I’m sorry” in response to “My phone has been ringing all day with people trying to sell me ‘X’,” use feel, felt, found like this.
“Thank you for letting me know how you feel about the numerous calls you have received today, I felt the same way when I filled out an online information request for ‘Y’ and what I found was [enter your microscript or resolution here]”. You have now related to them personally, they understand that you get where they are coming from and they are much more open to listening to what you have to say.