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Stump the Pro: The ‘I Can’t Afford It’ Objection

I was at Industry Summit last month to reprise my Stump the Pro workshop, with attendees in the room lobbing troublesome customer objections for me to handle. It was a fun exercise and the audience really put me to the test this year.

The one objection that seemed to come up often was the “I just cannot afford it” response. Yes, we hear it on a regular basis in the business office. We do our best to build value and justify the product, only to hear the customer tell us he can’t afford the bump in his monthly payment. 

Well, there is a way to handle this objection, but you have to make sure you follow the steps before you help the customer find the money. Now let’s get to it.

Objection: “I just can’t afford it.”

Confirm the Objection: The first thing you want to do in this situation is determined by whether you’re facing a payment objection or an affordability objection. If it is simply a payment objection where the customer is insisting on a lower payment, you will want to structure your payment relief accordingly. But for this column, I’m going to focus on the affordability objection. 

Get a Commitment: Before you proceed with the technique I’m about to show you, you need to first get the customer to confirm their interest in your products if you can make them affordable. That doesn’t mean you use the old “If I could, would you” line salespeople often use. Instead, try this more professional commitment question: “So you were telling me you would like the security of the products if they fit your budget, correct?”

Once you get a commitment from the customer, break down the cost of your products to the smallest amount possible. For example, a $30 increase in payment would only cost $1 a day. Now, before you try this, understand that we’re talking about incremental pricing. That means you must include tax and all applicable finance charges in that pricing. In other words, you need to be exact when using incremental pricing. Regulators don’t like it when you aren’t. 

Find the Money: What we need to do now is help the customer find that additional $30 in his or her monthly budget. That means you need to find out about their daily habits and the associated costs.

So, do they tend to purchase soft drinks every afternoon out of the vending machine at work? Hey, that’s $1 or $1.25 every time they do, and they may not realize how much those afternoon refreshments or snacks add up to every month.

If it’s soft drinks they like, suggest they try purchasing a 24-pack of water for $3 instead of dropping money in the vending machine every day. If they like to snack, suggest they buy a box of candy bars or a big bag of chips. Any of those suggestions could save them between $20 and $40 a month. How about taking lunch to work instead of going out? How about that cinnamon dolce latte they like to pick up at Starbucks? Can they brew their own coffee two times a week? 

Yes, those are small expenditures, but they do add up. More importantly, they do nothing to protect their vehicle — a point you need to drive home. And you need to do that by reminding your customers how important their vehicle is. It gets them to and from work so they can make their car payment every month. It also makes sure their kids get to school, soccer practice or whatever else they’re in to. And when you think about it that way, it only makes sense to have that extra protection, right?

So help your customers find the money in their lives. The key here is you’re not taking anything away; you’re just helping then find a more affordable substitute to the things they enjoy daily. Good luck and keep those objections coming.

Tony Dupaquier serves as director of training for F&I University, a division of American Financial and Automotive Services Inc. If you’d like his help on a troublesome objection, email him at


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