Time-tested methodology can create solutions and build bonds.
“Your price is too high!”
“This project is not getting done fast enough!”
“This isn’t the product we agreed on!”
As a painting contractor, you may have heard some variation of these customer objections in your career. Clearly, they can be tipping points from which your relationship with a customer could go downhill in a hurry. Or they can be a point from which you build a stronger bond with your customer, paving the path for future referrals and repeat business opportunities.
A noted sales consultant and author has developed a methodology that can be easily employed by painting contractors to help ensure the latter outcome occurs far more frequently than the former. Jack Carew, the founder and CEO of Carew International, has created the “Listen. Acknowledge. Explore. Respond. (LAER)” method of not only dealing with customer objections but growing the customer bond when they occur.
The following is a summation of LAER: The Bonding Process®.
The challenge for many painting contractors in sales mode often comes down to this: Can you stop talking long enough to listen to your customer, and listen to gain a true understanding of what their concerns are? Leaving space in a conversation for your customer to speak, at length, requires more discipline than one might think, according to LAER proponents.
“You can’t bond with a customer, or address their objection, or empathize with their situation until you have listened to them,” according to a blog post at the Carew website. “Listening demonstrates respect, interest, and care for the customer. Perhaps more importantly, it provides the means for collecting information relative to the customer’s attitude, fears, desires, challenges, and goals.”
Avoid interrupting or prematurely reacting to your customer, and focus solely on their words, not on a defense or response, according to the Carew methodology.
“If you are already formulating a response while the customer is talking, you aren’t listening.”
Acknowledgement of a customer concern can be as simple as a head nod. Or it can be verbal, such as, “I hear you,” or, “I understand why you may have such a concern.” To be clear, you’re not agreeing with the concern, but you’re also not challenging it. You’re demonstrating that you understand it, and you’re showing empathy.
If you haven’t done so already, be sure to turn your phone off for this part of the process, because it can be challenging enough without distraction. Here’s where you have an open-ended conversation and explore the prospect’s position in detail before developing a response. Let’s say, for example, that your customer’s concern is regarding your pricing. “How are you coming to the conclusion that our price is too high?” is a fair question to ask and could help inform an upcoming response. Perhaps you’ll learn that there was just an overall expectation that a painting job shouldn’t cost so much. Or you’ll find that they may have specific line-item concerns or are making bottom-line comparisons of your bid to others. In any case, your tone shouldn’t imply you’re conducting an interrogation. You’re simply gathering more information.
Once and only once you have spent sufficient time cycling through the first three steps to develop a clear understanding of a customer’s objections, it’s time to formulate your response. You’ve listened carefully, leaving gaps in the conversation for your customer to make their objection heard. You’ve acknowledged their concern and demonstrated empathy regarding it. And you’ve gathered all the information you can about how they arrived at their concern. Now it’s time to propose a solution that addresses their concern. It may or may not be satisfactory to your customer. But if you’ve done your due diligence in truly listening to their concern, acknowledging and exploring a greater understanding of it, you’re more likely than not to create a successful resolution and build a bond with that customer that can plant a seed for future business.
“The benefits go well beyond handling objections,” according to the Carew blog. “LAER is a communication strategy to improve understanding, common ground, and ultimately, the quality of the customer relationship.”