The scenario is a familiar one: you and your team have invested money, work, time and countless other resources into generating leads and shaping the sales cycle. When presented with an objection, a poor seller might respond by becoming overly assertive in their manner. Others might simply put down the phone and move on – but both of these approaches represent a wasted opportunity.
The key is to understand that objections are an inevitable part of the job. Think about it: if the potential customer had no reservations at all – whether in relation to the price of your product, its relevance to their problem, or their ability to buy – they would already have made the purchase.
In order to be a successful salesperson, it’s your job to accept these objections and to embrace objection handling as a vital weapon in your arsenal of sales techniques. The longer an objection goes unaddressed, the more likely the customer is to cling firmly to that opinion or perception.
When objections arise (as they inevitably will), the first step is to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and try to discover where their doubts come from. Think about your own sales cycle and the consumer decision making process. There are numerous reasons for customer objections, and you should be mindful of the possibility that two or more might exist at the same time.
You should also bear in mind that there is often a variety of complex reasons behind a (seemingly) straightforward “no”, and it’s your job to tease these out:
Do they relate to price (the most commonly cited objection of all)? Perhaps the customer has concerns about the source of the product, i.e. your company.
Do they consider it an unknown quantity, or have they read bad reviews? Perhaps it’s not the right time for the buyer (“We have other things to focus on this year”), or they need to consult partners or managers before making a decision.
Maybe they need to be persuaded of the need for your product within their organisation (“My printer works fine”), or they don’t understand why it’s relevant to their situation.
Your buyer might have an unspoken agenda, such as a financial incentive to use another company’s products in preference to yours, or a misguided negative perception about the product in questions (“That will waste energy”).
A further aspect to understanding the customer is to recognise your customer’s buyer personality. As well as having different organisational concerns and constraints, different buyers will respond differently to different forms of persuasion and selling techniques.
Does your buyer display the traits of a leader – dominant, with a propensity for quick decisions? Give them space and wait for them to ask questions.
Are they warm, engaging and chatty? They’ll set a lot of store by the quality of your relationship, so disengage “pitch mode” and focus on listening and reaffirming positive beliefs.
Are they a maverick with little time or patience for standard routines? Use your imagination to come up with an equally unconventional deal-driving incentive.
Are they detail-focused, cautious and thorough? They’ll need lots of reassurance and time for consideration, so be prepared for this and don’t pressure them.
The approach needs to be matched to the specific consumer decision-making process each buyer follows.
If you google objection handling, you’ll find a plethora of strategies for dealing with objections. The first thing to note is that not all techniques are suitable for every type of objection.
Understanding how to combine the right technique with the the right approach for influencing the consumer decision-making process in line with the customer’s personality is a key skill required for a sales person.
It will give you the best shot at defusing objections and guiding the prospect in your preferred direction. Remember that proactive objection handling is part of an effective closing technique.
This is a concern raised by even the most serious of prospects.
Here's how to respond:
Hold back on knee-jerk reactions like offering a lower price.
Similarly, don’t reduce the product’s value by focusing on price as a selling point.
Bring things back to the payoff over time and, if possible, how the product could solve one of your customer’s specific problems.
If your prospect’s organisation genuinely isn’t profitable enough right now, monitor their progress and see how you could help them reach a suitable position (e.g. by securing funding from executives).
In addition, be aware that price can be used as a smokescreen for other objections. Ask specific questions like “Is it the case that there’s no money now, but might be in the future?” Based on the answers, you’ll be able to ascertain whether there are underlying concerns to be probed.
Most variations on this theme should be treated as requests for information. A prospect might tell you that a specific problem isn’t currently important, that the product is too complicated, that they don’t understand what the product could do for them, or that you have misunderstood what their business is about.
Here's how to respond:
Remember that excuses can often be a sign of a prospect trying to justify their lack of action. If you sense this, use that to your advantage.
Without going into pitch mode, view this as a request for information.
Give a quick summary of how you intend to provide added value, and refer to other customers who have been in a similar position.
If they say they’ve heard negative or mixed reviews, thank them politely for sharing the feedback, and then try to understand the root of the issue as they've presented it. Follow up with a value proposition if appropriate.
View this as a gateway to getting decision makers involved.
Ask respectfully for the name of the relevant person and don’t agree to wait for a call – keep things moving by setting up a joint meeting.
If your prospect anticipates an issue with selling the product internally, offer to “ – after all, this is your area of expertise!
Try to determine whether you’re simply calling at a bad time or whether there’s a genuine business problem assuming higher priority. If it’s the latter, explain how your product could potentially help. Make a compelling case for purchasing now – perhaps by simplifying the buying process or offering attractive terms for a limited time only. Flexibility is an important sales skill.
If in the end this isn't a good time, consider putting them into a nurture journey via an email newsletter or event invite to give them space, but keep you top of mind. (Always ensure they consent to retaining contact, keeping in mind GDPR.)
Welcome this response—it means they’ve already identified a need for the product. Even if they say they’re happy with your competitor, dig deeper into the relationship – what’s working, what’s not – and ascertain what you could do better.
In addition, keep these general tips in mind for smooth negotiations with a low risk of conflict:
Don’t Interrupt: Even if you’re sure of what the objection is going to be, let the customer speak and feel valued.
Be Grateful: Thank your customer for raising the objection and giving you the opportunity to solve the problem.
Acknowledge and Respond to their Points: Agree with your customer to demonstrate understanding before giving your rebuttal.
If you find yourself losing your sense of direction, these twelve simple questions can help you examine where you went wrong (and right!) and what you can do to avoid the same situation next time.
Of course, objection handling is just one of a number of essential sales skills a seller must practise in order to progress successfully and quickly through their organisation’s sales cycle.
Keep these three aspects in mind:
It’s vital that objection handling techniques co-exist alongside more general techniques such as verbal and body language and organisation.
As you focus on developing a specific skill, don’t forget about basics like taking an interest in your customer’s’ challenges - making the cost of “no solution” seem real and present – and presenting multiple options within a proposal.
Remember, too, that if a customer is interested solely in a proposal and not a conversation, they’re likely just gathering quotes and might not represent the best use of your efforts and time. The same applies if you your contact refuses to put you in touch with a decision-maker after multiple conversaales cycle
If the prospect was already sold on the product, you wouldn’t even be having the conversation. Of course, not all prospects will be a good fit, and not every phone call will present opportunities to employ closing techniques and conclude a sale (when you do experience rejection as a sales professional, it’s important to know how to take it on the chin).
But as a selling technique, learning how to identify objections early and respond appropriately will bring you far higher rates of success than getting defensive over the product’s value or chalking it up to a loss and moving on - as appealing as this may seem at times. Start thinking about how you could improve your objection handling and sales skills today