There’s a saying in sales: “An objection unanswered is a sale missed.”
I was reminded of this after listening to an interview with Bret Thompson, one of Australia’s top copywriters, in which he spoke about the idea of addressing readers’ objections in order to be more persuasive.
Thompson argued that if you can address the objections of your most cynical client, you’ll go a long way towards alleviating any concerns someone may have about using your product or service. He told a great story that demonstrated this, and which taught me one of the most important lessons about sales and marketing I have learnt to date:
Pre-empt each and every potential objection a reader could have – then answer them.
If we’re talking to someone in person or on the phone, one on one, we have the chance to hear their objections and respond to them accordingly. But when we’re writing copy for our business website, brochures, or marketing emails – we don’t have this luxury. In order to dispel readers’ objections, we first need to pre-empt what they might be. Do this by putting yourself in the reader’s shoes and imagining what concerns might arise after reading your claims. Put your cynical hat on and be as negative and sceptical as possible. Try to find faults in the claims.
If you have the luxury of existing market research and feedback from clients, then use that to round out your list of possible customers’ objections.
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I usually go through this process of exploring all the possible customers’ objections before I start working on a piece of copy.
Once I understand what the product or offer is, I ask the client: “If someone were to play devil’s advocate, what would be the worst things they could say about your product?” or “Why would someone see [XYZ] as a benefit when I can get it for free here?” More often than not, there are very good answers to these questions.
This process also helps when reworking existing copy – to look at your sales messages with fresh eyes, as if you’re the potential customer.
That’s where you’re really going to find where the rubber meets the road. Anyone can wax on about how great their product or service is, but if the reader can find one chink in the armour – one unanswered objection – it damages the credibility of all the other claims and gives them a reason not to proceed.
Only by addressing the negative objections can we truly make the positives seem tangible and believable, at the same time removing obstacles in our sales process.
An objection could be as simple as “this sounds too good to be true… what’s the catch?” If your offer sounds too good to be true, it’s likely to set off alarm bells in the reader’s mind. To avoid this, spell out what you stand to gain from the offer. You might say something like: “Why am I offering this deal, which is likely to make me actually lose money? Because I am hoping you will be so impressed with my service that you stick around afterwards and become a long-term client!” There, you’ve alleviated that objection and the reader can now move forward in the sales process.
This goes against the golden rule of not focusing on ourselves in our marketing, but sometimes it’s necessary to mention our own interests insofar as they relate to the reader. It’s sort of like saying, “hey, don’t worry, I’m gaining from this too, so it’s not too good to be true…”
By addressing these potential objections before they have a chance to take root in the reader’s mind, you’ll present a more balanced, believable proposition, which will likely see an immediate change in reader reactions.
Cast a critical eye over your own marketing copy. Can you spot any unanswered customers’ objections?