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Turning Objections Into Benefits Through Verbal Aikido

“You cannot have a negative and a positive thought at the same time so you may as well have a positive one.” – Robert Stevanowski, Co-Founder of A.C.N.

“Don’t find a fault; find a remedy.” – Henry Ford

“Well I stand up next to a mountain, and I chop it down with the edge of my hand.” – Jimi Hendrix

A) Let Us Look At Objections In Your Business

B) What Is Verbal Aikido? Why Is It Different?

C) The Objection To Benefit Matrix

D) Benefits/Dangers Of Negatives

E) The Effect Of Verb Tenses

F) The Power Of Parallel Story Telling

G) The Power Of Visualising What You Want To Say

H) Word Play

I) Presuppositions

J) The Agreement Frame

K) Getting Through Secretaries and Other Gatekeepers

L) Magic Selling Words

A) Let Us Look At Objections In Your Business

On a piece of paper, think of three objections that you regularly come up against when selling your services. For each write down how you currently deal with this. Keep that to once side for the moment.

B) What Is Verbal Aikido? Why Is It Different?

Verbal Aikido is a method of objection management that avoids head-on clashes and utilises the power of the objection in our response. This is done by gaining access to something that already exists. It gets the future client to look at something differently – not differently our way, but differently his way. That is why it is so powerful a technique. The most important thing to remember is that everything is relative, an event only has meaning to an individual in the context of their own experiences and assumptions. Change the context or the assumptions and you change the meaning.

For Example: What does heavy rain signify?

Bad news if you have the washing out. Good news if you are a farmer suffering drought.

Bad news if you are having a garden party. Good news if you are at sea, without water.

Bad news if you have just polished the car. Good news if your house is on fire.

Bad news if you slip over. Good news if you can sell umbrellas.

The meaning of any event depends on how you look at it. When you change how you look at it, the meaning can also change. When meaning changes, so can responses and behaviour. Therefore, developing the skill of applying Verbal Aikido to events or situations in the prospect’s mind (that is, changing the way the prospect looks at the events or situations) will give you greater freedom and choices within the prospect’s model of the world. This is because the ‘event’ or ‘concern’ itself has been totally respected, therefore so will the new way of looking at their objection. Or to put it more simply, every cloud has a silver lining, if you look for it you will find it.

Imagine that a future client says to you, ‘Your price is too high.’ Ever had that experience? We tend to add our meaning to that statement, which is often quite different from the meaning intended. It could mean any of the following, for example:

He believes he is not getting value for money.
He wants something for nothing.
He does not know what prices involve or include.
He thinks that he cannot afford it.
He can get the same service more cheaply.
He hasn’t made comparisons.
He is out for a discount.
Benefits plus Service equals Price does not add up.
It is his job to say that.
He wants to know more.
He is testing you to see how you react.
The first thing that came into his head.
He may have a fixed budget in mind.
His previous purchase was cheaper.
Bad experience of service.
He wants to hear why he should pay this price.
It is a total red herring.

It could mean any of the above and a whole lot more. So before we deal with an objection we must ascertain what exactly he means. Depending on what he means will determine the best response.

Verbal Aikido responses are therefore found by asking these questions:

‘How can this objection/limitation/problem be turned to advantage?’

‘What is the useful value of this statement/opinion/comment/behaviour/fact?’

It is not enough to satisfy the prospect on an objection. Our objective is to actually turn it into an advantage. Therefore, objections should be received with relish as they will offer a short cut to the close. Your future client will be given more ways to look at problems, and the more ways you look at problems the more solutions there will be. They really adapt leads to the future client to these solutions rather than providing them. This way he answers his own objections in the way that is most meaningful and acceptable for him.

To save time I have classified thirteen techniques of Verbal Aikido. In different circumstances for different future clients, some will lead to a better outcome than others. It depends on the specific circumstances but they generally fall broadly into two categories. The first is where the context is changed and the second is where the interpretation of the meaning is changed.

Remember that the effect of the above will be stronger if you have developed a deep rapport. The responses can begin with the following to maintain rapport:

‘I appreciate that, and….’

‘I agree, and….’

‘I respect that, and….’

‘That’s right, and….’

(Remember that disagreeing with matching body language will give stronger rapport than agreeing with mismatching body language.)

C) The Objection To Benefit Matrix.

On the next two pages are worked examples of the thirteen approaches to Verbal Aikido. The examples lists thirteen different responses to turn a first a pricing objection and then a no-change objection into a benefit. The actual choice of response will vary according to the context and the particular future client. Work through the examples for each heading, appreciating what is likely to happen in the future client’s mind with each response. Consider where the conversation and his thoughts are being led. Then when you feel comfortable with the worked examples, go to the next page and put in the first objection you listed in section A at the beginning of this chapter. Complete the list of alternative responses. When you have finished this, do the same on the following pages for the other two objections you listed. You will soon find that you begin to appreciate exactly why this approach is so powerful.

I have classified thirteen approaches fore every objection you are likely to have to deal with. Below I give a worked example of each approach for the common objection. ‘Your Prices Are Too High’. Remember is somebody says this, it does suggest that they are interested.

Redefine their statement: “Expense is relative, it all depends on where you are coming from.”

Assume a positive intention: “You are looking then for best value for money.”

Look for a counter example: “Have you bought something expensive before and been satisfied.”

Tell a parallel story that brings the prospect to a different conclusion: “I bought a cheap car once, it broke down! I’ll ever do that again.”

That is only one view of the world, there are others: “In comparison to what?”

Change the time frame: “Time will show the full story.”

Point out other evidence and opinions: “With respect that is your belief.”

Move the conversation to a higher level where you can get agreement: “Aren’t most things expensive these days?”

Move the conversation to a lower level to clarify and confirm the details: “What aspect of our service specifically do you think is too highly priced?”

Elicit their values and decision criterion: “What exactly are you looking for?”

Look for their objective and needs: “What are your objectives exactly?”

Point out the positive consequences: “The quality of your products will improve.”

Point out the negative consequences of not buying: “So you might miss an opportunity worth having.”

Here is another worked example for you to consider:

Objection: ‘It Is Difficult To Change Suppliers’.

Redefine their statement: “It’s not really difficult, it just requires thinking through.”

Assume a positive intention: “You will presumably consider all the options carefully then.”

Look for a counter example: “Has any successful decision you have made not been difficult in some way?”

Tell a parallel story that brings them to a different conclusion: “I have been finding it difficult to change my diet and lose weight. Yet I know it is a change for the better and must not let old habits restrict my future.”

That is only one view of the world, there are others: “That’s just your perception, in reality you may not find it as difficult as you think.”

Change the time frame: “With hindsight haven’t many previous changes turned out easier than you thought?”

Point out other evidence and opinions: “Believing that makes it seem difficult.”

Move the conversation to a higher level where you can get agreement: “Most worthwhile changes are difficult.”

Move the conversation to a lower level to clarify and confirm the details: “Only the first step is difficult.”

Elicit their values and decision criterion: “How have you got over this previously?”

Look for their objective and needs: “It’s difficult to get the best prices and service.”

Point out the positive consequences: “That ensures we will respect winning your business.”

Point out the negative consequences of not buying: “Present suppliers can take your custom for granted.”

Progress Now:
Now take your first objection from Section A and work it through the same matrix. You will rapidly become very adept at objection handling.

D) Benefits/Dangers Of Negatives

In your conversation take care when using negative words. There are two dangers. The first is that negative words suggest mental pictures sounds and thus feelings. Secondly negatives such as, “please do not hesitate to call” exist in language, but not in experience. For example, without adding further content what comes into your mind when you consider ‘The customer is not on the phone’. It is difficult to think of something not happening. We usually have to think of it first in the positive in order to consider it. To illustrate consider what comes into your mind after reading the following.

Do not think of a cheque in your name for £10,000.

Now keep not thinking of that cheque.

Chances are you found it hard not to think of it, and quite a nice thought to. The effect is even stronger if heard and not read.

Now consider these, which ones do you think you should use and which ones should you be careful to avoid.

‘Do not think that you have to decide today.’

‘Do not worry about the price for the moment.’

‘It is not expensive.’

‘I think you will agree it is not bad.’

‘I don’t want you to worry about delivery.’

‘Do not drink and drive’.

‘Do not walk on the grass.’

‘Do not smoke.’

‘No entry.’

F) The Power Of Parallel Story Telling

An analogy (or a metaphor) is a story implying a comparison. Communication through analogy can be a very elegant way of bypassing the conscious processes and influencing the unconscious mind directly. Metaphors are a powerful way of influencing. They can gain, by putting realism through colour, sound and movement into your description. They can add to appeal and effect by introducing emotive imagery or description. Stories are better recalled than bare facts, and at a deeper level.

The ‘Third Party Quote Technique’ is an example, ‘my previous call was to John Wheeler the Purchasing Director of Science Systems. He said, “I have tried out your products and despite the fact that they are cheaper than the competition the quality has proved to be at better.” What do you think of that?’ Somebody else saying it has more influence than your saying, ‘I know our prices are cheaper than the competition and that our quality is better.’

The quotes technique also has the advantage that if it goes wrong in any way, the position is recoverable because the statement is attributed to a third party and not yourself. It is therefore a good way to try out unsure ground to test the response before committing yourself. For example, ‘I’ve just left John Higgins of Science Systems, who said to me that the potential of this product is so great you have got to be crazy not to at least try a sample order.’ Less dangerous to try this by using the ‘Third Party Quote Technique’, isn’t it?

Another method is to make up a longer story introducing analogous characters, places, situations, decisions, etc, to the ones in the current situation; then leading to a solution in the story which the unconscious mind will automatically adapt for the present situation. Hence the term ‘parallel story’. This is perhaps more easily explained by example.

Which of the following two narratives makes the point more strongly?

‘In life it is best to make a plan and stick to it rigidly. Know clearly where you are going from the outset and not get diverted on the way. Studies have shown that people who adapt this policy tend to do better in their career than people who do not.’

‘A friend of mine went into Victoria Station and approached the ticket booth with a fifty pound note in his hand. He said, “I would like to go somewhere really nice and attractive. I am not really sure where but I am very determined to arrive.” The ticket clerk looked at my friend and said, “If you don’t know exactly where you want to go how do you expect us to get you there?”

Design parallel stories that are tailored to fit the problem of your clients. Future clients will have unfulfilled desires because of limitations in their model of the world. You can create specific parallel stories that expand the range of the future client’s world and guide him to fruitful outcomes.

To make a parallel story that helps you win sales:

1. Examine the problem/objection.

2. Identify all nouns/processes.

3. Select content of story.

Create a noun/process in the story for each noun/process in the problem.
Design the story ending for a desired response.
It is not necessary to think on your feet; all you have to do is prepare up to five worked-out and rehearsed stories that will parallel and deal effectively with any objections that you are likely to come across in your sales visits.

You could also design stories that use one of the main ‘languages’ referred to already in this book using the phrases outlined earlier.

I have a client Eurodrive Car Rental Ltd, and like Victor Kiam with his excellent razor was so impressed with them I bought shares in the company! On a recent visit I overheard a sales call being made by one of their staff.

“…..The Purchasing Manager of a local company, just down the road from you, recently wanted to rent several cars for visiting overseas executives. He eventually chose us Eurodrive Car rental Ltd and he told me why. He looked at more than half a dozen leading companies and considered what they had to offer and what he though of their service. He analysed their prices, guarantees and service differences. The more he probed, the more information there was to compare and the harder a decision became. He asked his MD for his opinion. ‘In my experience I have found that the best strategy in the long run is to choose the company where the staff in your opinion have the maximum integrity, honesty, etc. Then when they make a claim on a benefit you can believe it to be true. You usually get what you pay for and lower prices often mean lower quality somewhere. Therefore go for value for money and not lowest price. Be wary of quotes that have all sorts of hidden extras to be added to them. After-sales service is important and best judged from the quality of the people in the company. The Puchasing Manager later the same day placed his order via the web site at”.

Expressing yourself by putting pictures into the client’s mind is a very powerful way of communicating your message. It can also be done in sales letters – as in the following that I use with very successful result:

To: John Smith

The Managing Director

ABC Company

Dear John

You asked specifically about applying NLP to building an entrepreneurial business. Let me start with a short story, that I know you will enjoy and make the point better for you. I dreamt last night that I was a salesman who went back in time to the Roman Invasion, taking with me a warehouse full of Cruise missiles. I approached local leaders communicating the benefits and using all types of closes. It sounded too good to be true, which made them sceptical. They had extensive battle experience, believed that they knew everything and that I was trying to dress up old products in new packaging.

I then woke up and thought about the dilemma of the dream. NLP promises to transform, not just increase, performance. Nobody was going to be convinced of what I could do for them just by being told about it. They had to see the results.

I decided to offer a presentation for management on their premises, called, “Accelerating Growth through NLP”.

If you have not experienced the acceleration of NLP to building a business, prepare to change your beliefs on what can be achieved, through profitable experience.

Please ring now to arrange a seminar.

Thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

Alex McMillan

G) The Power Of Visualising What You Want To Say

When we use metaphor or analogy in short phrases, it can be as powerful as a longer prepared story. If the customer’s mind is helped to ‘picture’ what you are saying the effect will be several times more powerful. Try replacing the first of each pair of responses listed below with the second (i.e. replacing a with b). Reading through you will start to see (literally) why response b is more influential. Learn a few by heart and get into the habit of using them – you will be startled at how persuasive and clear you become to your recipient.

a) I will try hard. b) I will give it my best shot.

a) You cannot refuse this offer. b) Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

a) Try it and see. b) The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

a) There must be some advantage. b) Every cloud has a silver lining.

a) You should prepare for all eventualities. b) To have more than one string to one’s bow.

a) Working hard. b) To be going full swing.

a) It is not difficult. b) It’s as easy as falling off a log.

a) No real gain. b) To rob Peter to pay Paul.

a) Let us both work on it. b) Two heads are better than one.

a) I think you are overemphasising the importance. b) To make a mountain out of a molehill.

a) I know that it is true. b) To stake one’s life on it.

a) Uncommitted b) To sit on the fence.

a) The same situation. b) To be in the same boat.

a) I will listen. b) I am all ears.

a) More than one benefit here. b) To kill two birds with one stone.

a) To ignore what is going on. b) To bury one’s head in the sand.

a) Do not take the risk. b) A closed mouth catches no flies.

a) Take action at the right time. b) Strike whilst the iron is hot.

a) It’s better not to procrastinate. b) Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

a) To waste money. b) To throw money down the drain.

a) It might seem better with closer inspection. b) To judge a book by its cover.

a) Take a chance and you will probably win. b) Fortune favours the brave.

a) Do something about it. b) Actions speak louder than words.

a) I agree. b) Great minds think alike.

a) It could be the same again. b) History repeats itself.

a) Let me be totally honest. b) To put ones cards on the table.

a) The wrong way round. b) To put the cart before the horse.

a) A certain success should not be put at risk. b) A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

a) If you want to win you have got to take a risk. b) Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

a) Best to be quick. b) The early bird catches the worm.

a) Do not be impatient. b) Rome was not built in a day.

a) To make contact. b) To break the ice.

a) It will increase quickly. b) To spread like wildfire.

a) To continue along the same path. b) To keep the ball rolling.

a) Be careful. b) To see how the land lies.

a) Be careful b) All that glitters is not gold.

Think of situations where the following might be used to make your communication power more influential:

To kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

There are plenty of fish in the sea.

A bird in the hand is worth two in a bush.

To let the cat out of the bag.

To see which way the wind blows.

To stand on one’s own two feet.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge.

Look before you leap.

You can’t have your cake and eat it.

H) Word Play

There are many ways in which we are subtly influenced or can influence. If you have something really worthwhile to offer and have a passion for it, then you first need to inform people it is available and match its benefits to their needs. Communication is best kept simple, clear and straightforward. For the written word there are some interesting techniques.

Notice how the underlined parts of the sentences links two separate ideas, which are not necessarily linked.

“I see that you have read the brochure and are ready to decide.”

The conjunction connects the reading of the brochure to the decision process.

“As you read the brochure, you will notice how relevant the product is to your needs.”

Connects reading to the assumption that the product is relevant and that you will figure out yourself in what way. Encourages you to keep looking until you have made the connection.

“While you read the brochure, you will probably find things that are useful.”

Connects in the same way as the above sentence but the word probably makes it a softer connection that would be easier to accept.

“When you try out this new line, you will understand why I thought of you.”

Connects trying out with a benefit to the person and adds a touch of mystery and curiosity as an added incentive.

Progress Now:

Think of three sentences that you could add to your e-mail signature applying the above ideas:

Personally I am always wary of listening to advertisements. If you want to lose weight, get out of debt, sell the television! This is unethical selling, creating needs in you for what they have to sell. Ethical selling is satisfying a need that is already there when that need being satisfied improves the real quality of their life. Next time you go shopping notice how many, “tricks” retailers use to get you to buy. Fashionable teenage/twenty something clothing, for example, that is designed to be outdated in three months, long before it wears out. Folded garments in a stack so that you struggle to refold them properly and more likely to buy. Fancy up market bags so everyone on the way home can see you as a quality shopper, whilst giving them a free advert. Managing customer flow throughs with wooden floors for the walkways and carpets only around shelving. Most common purchases at the back of the store. Window displays focused on 25 metres distances to draw you in.

People naturally put greater emphasis, marking out in some way (louder, softer, slower, faster etc) their most important feelings. As you develop your listening skills you will become increasingly adept at noticing these patterns.

Such techniques however can be used ethically. For example, if you were giving a motivational speech to your team or at a presentation something like the following might be useful:

“Hello everyone, take a seat so that you will feel more comfortable, we will go through some great ideas in a moment and I know that you are interested and motivated to hear them right now.”

Progress Now:

1.Record a speaker on the TV for five minutes. Play the recording back several times and try to notice as many patterns as you can.

2. Design a highly motivational line that you can use on many occasions, that improves the mood of the listener.

I) Presuppositions

The following sentences all contain a presupposition, shown in brackets. Note that the statements are not intended as lies but present a more subtle way of transferring information than stating it directly.

They always prefer my style of presentation. (There is a ‘they’.)

I like companies that give me the 10% discount. (There are companies that give 10% discount.)

If our major PLC customers didn’t get next-day service they would have gone elsewhere. (He has major PLC customers.)

If none of your competitors drop their prices, I’ll give you the order. (There are competitors in the frame.)

Several of the companies that have spoken to us left their brochures. (Several companies have spoken to them.)

It was our new price guarantee policy that has maintained us as market leader. (They are market leader.)

If you decide to go ahead you can cancel for up to a month. (I don’t expect that you want to cancel.)

What you’d like to order is probably from our new product listing. (You’d like to order something.)

What your competitor can do to get my account is lower their prices. (Your competitor can get my account.)

If you tell me your best price, I’ll decide now. (There exists a ‘best’ price.)

If your price is as low as your competitor, we’ll go ahead. (Your competitor has a low price.)

I respect customers who choose our de luxe services. (There exist such customers and de luxe services.)

If desperate sellers don’t get a deal they will drop their price. (Desperate sellers exist.)

It was our fast service that persuaded your predecessor to order. (Your predecessor ordered from us.)

I think this product line will continue to do well. (It has done well.)

J) The Agreement Frame

‘The Agreement Frame’ is the result of extensive studies into top performing communicators. Tests have shown that when someone makes this technique a habit their results significantly increase. When someone says a sentence and then says ‘but’ or ‘however’ the message communicated is that they don’t believe in what they just said. In selling if this is stating the prospect’s viewpoint, you are setting yourself up for a difficult position, at worse argument. When on the other hand you get into the habit of using a conjunction the conversation will flow far more smoothly and as you have not insulted his comments or objections your points will be listened to as they build upon what he said. People who are good at winning arguments might do well as barristers, they do not do well in making sales. The technique is simply that, to exchange ‘but’ or ‘however’ with ‘and’. Thus:

‘Yes, but…’ becomes: ‘Yes, and…

‘I see what you are saying, however…’ becomes: ‘I see what you are saying, and…’

‘I appreciate that, but…’ becomes: ‘I appreciate that, and….’

‘I agree, but…’ becomes: ‘I agree, and….’

‘I agree with that, however…’ becomes: ‘I agree that, and….’

‘That’s right but…’ becomes: ‘That’s right and….’

Consider the following:

Client: ‘Frankly, the service we had from your company last time we did business wasn’t all that it could have been.’

Sales Person 1: ‘I appreciate that, but things have changed now and you need not worry anymore.’

Sales Person 2: ‘I appreciate that, and I will personally do whatever it takes to ensure that you receive the best possible service.’

K) Getting Through Secretaries and Other Gatekeepers

Many entrepreneurs at the early stages have to do a lot of selling because they by definition do not have a client list yet. Every company has to get a first customer some time. One of the objections you need to overcome to grow your business is getting through to the right people. The first challenge is to decide which companies and companies/individuals are most worthwhile to get through. This often turns out to be senior managers of companies. So I am often asked how do I get through secretaries and other gatekeepers, people whose job it is to filter calls.

I am asked this question so often and I answer it with another question. Why get through them? Why not recruit them to your objectives? Why not make them an ally and a friend? Why not get them to give you valuable information on who does and decides what in the organisation? Why not treat them really nice, with respect and develop rapport. When you have done that ask them for their help and advice. Why not have your brochure passed to her boss with the words, “I spoke to this company they are very nice people to deal with.”

People want to get through secretaries because they are not decision makers. Well possibly, but they are definitely decision influencers. Actually in practice you might be surprised how many decisions are left to them.

As soon as you use a “sales technique” their unconcscious is alerted and responds with a “defensive technique to a sales technique response”. If you don’t come over as a sales person you will not be treated as one. People tend to avoid sales people because their focus is to get you to give them money.

People ask me advice on dealing with difficult people. Stop believing that they are difficult or stop dealing with them. NLP defines that the meaning of your communication is the response you get. Take responsibility:

“What are you doing that is making them difficult?”

“What make you think they are difficult?”

If they are difficult then having them as a customer will be harder for someone to take their business away for you. The question focuses on their needs and what they need to do is focus on the needs of the people they are selling to. Stepping into their shoes will show you the way.

L) Magic Selling Words

The following fifteen words have been found to be the most frequently used by top performing sales professionals. What do you think might happen if you adopted them?

1. Discover

2. Good

3. Money

4. Easy

5. Guaranteed

6. Health

7. New

8. Proven

9. Your customer’s name (in the same way they address you)

10. Results

11. Safe

12. Save

13. Own

14. Free

15. Best

All positive words have a magical effect. If you use words that conjure up mental pictures, sounds, memories then this will lead to the reader feeling good. Getting people to feel good is a good start to selling, (unless you are selling life insurance when you want them to feel fear!).

Progress Now:

Now, return to the exercise at the beginning of this chapter and complete section C with how you would now respond to the objections in A. You may be surprised at just how many alternatives you could apply to your business.

Want to recruit a sales team that can handle objections call us now on 0203-6759099 or email