I explored this nuance definition when talking about building empathy whilst delivering *shudder* an objection handling workshop.
A ‘cushioning statement’ is one aimed at helping make the buyer feel heard.
As it was first described to me; with an empathetic bent you repeat back to the prospect their negative comment using different words.
It was further explained with the example of when you hear the objection “I’m too busy to take sales calls”. The ‘cushion’ being something like “I understand you’re very busy and appreciate your time is very valuable…”
Now for me, anything that helps salespeople think of “empathy” when handling objections is a good thing.
It is indisputable that most sellers stampede towards an immediate “response”. The quota-busters on the other hand, spend most of their time empathising with and exploring said objection.
Adding an empathy stage into routines often works wonders. Even better if you can move beyond the canned feel-felt-found approach. (Did you get an even more thuddering shudder with mention of that?)
If you already demonstrate this as part of your sales dna, then virtually all of us could benefit from extending it. Adding a touch more meaning to show you’re genuinely on the same wavelength will similarly yield great results over time.
Intrigued by the appearance of soft furnishings in a sales context, I surfed for more.
The fact that neither of the only two real results that came back were from salesland portrays the lack of prevalence this thinking suffers. Which is potentially a missed opportunity.
The first was from something I’d never heard of, Model UN.
Apparently “an academic simulation of the United Nations that aims to educate…”. They believe a cushion allows people to “feel like they can trust you or that you care about their questions and opinions”. Examples include;
- Good question!
- I’m glad you asked…
- Interesting point.
- I haven’t heard that argument made yet.
- I understand, but…/and…
- That’s a legitimate concern.
Then the more interesting reading came from an American marriage counsellor from Dallas.
Heather Carlile uses the term to represent “a friendly, validating, assuring, clarifying, explaining or agreeable statement”. Her angle is that you use one “before communicating about a hot topic, a delicate subject, an objection or a complaint“.
It’s structurally reminiscent of the praise sandwich method.
Although there can be elements of empathy, hers are different to the sales slant. Nonetheless, I did like these examples and chuckled at how they’d sound on a cold-call;
I want to tell you something I think is useful… or can help… or is new…
It seems like you have already made up your mind.
I believe that, no matter what, we can find a way through this.
There might be some other options.
Maybe we could discuss this with others.
At times it feels like we are on opposite sides.
I don’t ever want to tell you what to do…
I’d like to share something; and you are free to agree or disagree. It won’t bother me one way or the other.
I want you to have the best.
I really want to help and I think this important but, I can’t…. I could …..
You probably already know this but, ….
This may sound crazy, and I don’t want to bother you, but…
I’m really interested in your viewpoint.
I understand how you feel. In this situation, I (or others) would probably feel the same way you do.
If I were you, I’d probably think this way too.
Is this a good time to talk? If not, I’m happy to wait until it’s convenient.
Finally I ought mention in America I was introduced to a piece of sales advice from the Dale Carnegie Training company.
A cushion is a statement that acknowledges that you listened to the prospect, heard the objection, and recognized its importance. When a buyer states an objection, your first action should be to cushion the objection. A cushion does not agree, disagree, or answer the objection.
Here’s one of their examples I really liked:
Objection: I do not think we’re ready to make a change at this time.
Cushion: I know you want to make the right decision at the right time.
Anyway, the point remains valid. Salespeople are prone to race straight to responding to an objection. “Yeah, but…” gets us nowhere.
How can you take a pause and show some empathy?