By Gregory Ciotti, marketing at Help Scout

Once in a great while, a single source of effort can yield extraordinary results.

For customer service, this comes in the form of an Objections Doc, a list made to understand and address the common objections customers have about your product. The experienced sales reps on your team may know these intimately, but what about developers? What about support? What about new hires?

In addition to providing clarity, putting objections on paper helps you devise better ways to address them. Here's a brief overview of common concerns addressed in an Objections Doc that can help you get started right away.

1. Competitor objections

Example: "What's the difference between you and [competitor]?"

Competitor statements always come down to this single question. Whether the customer is asking about specific features or overall value, the motivation is to find out "Why you and not them?"

You may have already answered this question on your alternative pages, where you go toe-to-toe with the competition through compelling copy. But you should know how to reply to one-to-one conversations as well.

First of all, be wary of people-pleasing responses. If this question hits your inbox verbatim you're better off asking questions in return to learn what friction the customer is facing. Perhaps they shouldn't pick you at all.

Once it's established that they are a fit, your Objections Doc should contain responses built from actual reasons why other customers have switched over. What didn't they like about your competitor? What got them really excited once they switched? What are things that made them feel they could "never go back?"

Real customers are giving you real answers (if you ask), so your job becomes to present them in a way that's professional and honest. It's all about framing the transition. Describe the process in terms of "your world before our product vs. your world after" instead of spending too much time addressing who they are coming from -- it's what confident companies do.

2. Price objections

Example: "Why isn't [feature] free?"

Product people will tell you: paying users tend to ask for better features, free users tend to ask for more features -- for free. Most of these questions will come from those on your free plan.

Outline why your first paid tier allows paying customers to get a little more than what free customers get. Highlight what your free plan already provides, but stand firm on your pricing. We often get asked why the first 3 users on Help Scout don't remain free after you upgrade to a paid plan. It's because the first 3 users on our Standard plan get much more, and we remind people of that.

Example: "[Your competitor] offers the same stuff for cheaper."

If you're getting a "money is all that matters" vibe, this customer is likely not a good fit for your product. However, being able to correctly portray the value your product provides is not "too sales-y" in the slightest. Price is what you pay, value is what you get -- reversing this objection is all about portraying value.

Even big companies will ask you about this. HelloSign CEO Joseph Walla shared an email he received after asking a company if they could match a competitor on price. He picked the more expensive option solely because the value to be had was clearly articulated.

Your team knows why your product is better, so why are you worth the price? This question is important in many ways, and not just for outlining on an Objections Doc. It quite literally pays to get it right.

3. Company objections

Example: "Your product seems new. How can I ensure that I won't get burned?"

A harsh but common question from organizations looking to switch from a more established competitor. If you're in B2B, you'll also have this question leveraged as a test by managers who (rightfully) don't want to take the blame for recommending the wrong product.

The solution is to remain unwaveringly confident and transparent. If it sounds like pleading, the customer will assume you are green.

See it from their perspective: they don't want to make a transfer only to end up with you closing shop two months later. They don't want to tell their CEO "this looks like a great fit," only to have your company vanish, the resulting hassle laid at their feet.

The loss of social currency for a department head is more important than the loss of money. So while you may not feel like addressing this objection, the customer deserves to be assured of your long-term viability. Who are you? Where are you located? How big is the team? Knowing the people (and not just the product) helps sway those who are skeptical in a world of fly-by-night startups.

Example: "What type of support do you offer?"

Many times, this question is used to feel out if you offer a service-level agreement. The problem is that some customers want you to act like a consulting company, even if you sell products.

Emphasize the quality and unlimited nature of your support (if that's true), and describe your open availability via email and/or phone. The support you give starts with what you deem appropriate for the product you're selling.

If you don't have dedicated weekend support, let that be known. Give assurances that your team will have people available during a crisis -- all support departments should have a policy for what's expected here, so start with informing your team first.

Example: "I really can't decide if you're a good fit..."

You should never push a customer if they aren't right for your product.

However, the first response here should be to investigate whether or not they've set up a trial. Some customers will try to evaluate you without signing up for a trial.

Assure them that they're more than welcome to sign-up, poke around, "break things," and then ask for help. Most will simply use this time to stop questioning and start testing the product. If this is relevant, tell them that anything they've set up during the trial will stay put, ready to rock as they transition to a paid account.

Example: "We need to talk with some references before signing up."

Politely inform them that any of the customers mentioned on your home page would be more than happy to serve as a reference and that they're welcome to get in touch, but unfortunately, you're not able to provide direct contact information. Link them to a public set of candid reviews, but don't place pressure on your customers to sell to a prospect.

4. Scale objections

Example: "We don't think your product will be able to handle [our volume]."

The basic scale objection; a specific version we see at Help Scout is, "I'm not sure if Help Scout can handle all of our incoming emails." The concern is mostly with potential extra charges or slowdown from email volume.

Part of writing a good response is understanding their reasoning -- we found that the question above usually comes from companies who are used to dealing with email quotas.

Start with the reason, then cater your response to describe how this situation is handled for your most active customers. We mention our unlimited storage and email processing limits (no matter how many users you have) and the fact that we process thousands of messages simultaneously every single day.

Example: "It seems like your product isn't ideal for a team of our size."

Support can play a major role in fixing the source of this problem. If you get this question a lot, the issue likely lies with your marketing copy.

Everyone loves being the simplest solution around, but remember that words like "simple" can be interpreted in different ways. If you're ready, willing, and able to handle larger customers, seeing this objection as a daily occurrence is a red flag.

Outline the fact that your product can work wonders for small and large teams alike (if true). Don't be afraid to throw out some relevant numbers -- respect the privacy of customers, but refer to the size of your top 5%.

Example: "We must have [this feature] to sign-up. How is this handled in your product?"

Tread carefully, because if you do not have the feature mentioned, you shouldn't hesitate to say that it isn't on the roadmap. Don't be afraid to politely say no.

Otherwise, these questions will generally stem from common features in your industry. Great software is built on the solving the jobs customers have, but certain features do become a staple. For help desks, "filtering" is one that everybody brings up. Our solution is called Workflows.

It made sense to have a separate section on our Objections Doc for this because it's so common and because explaining Workflows correctly is a big part in helping the customer identify if Help Scout really is a fit for them.

For inquiries like this, prepare a few simple follow-up questions. "What sort of Workflows can I create?" Your team should have a few compelling answers, and as with everything else, visuals are always a nice addition.

A simple process for acknowledging objections

Like many internal documents this is a living, breathing one. Your team should continually decide which objections are common enough to address.

I'd encourage you to consider the following:

Frequency. Obvious, but worth mentioning. If you get a particular objection many times, a write-up will help put thoughts to page and give you better ways to communicate.

Difficulty. It's a necessary measure for addressing objections that sales/support know well but that new team members may struggle with. When a question is too difficult, it should be passed on to the appropriate person, but assessing difficult objections offers a consistent way to onboard new hires.

Importance. Defined entirely by you. For some companies, getting people to switch from the competition is nearly everything. For others, the software is new enough that "How can this possibly work?" will fill the inbox. Create accordingly.

While the specifics are variable, creatively addressing these concerns is an upfront effort that pays dividends until you fall off the chair. An Objections Doc ultimately helps you better understand why customers push back, and everyone on your team will thank you for creating one.

Published on: Aug 30, 2016
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