The days of mass production, when companies would churn out goods, assured that they’d soon be snatched up, are long gone. The truth is that today’s salespeople probably hear “no” more often than “yes.”
Yet the sales show must go on. And while “maybe” does not a done deal make, objections, when handled well, can be a stepping stone on the path to closing. This guide lays out valuable insights and techniques to make that a regular occurrence at your company.
What is Objection Handling? Why Should I Care?
To be clear, objection handling is when a sales representative listens to a prospect’s concerns and responds in an attempt to alleviate those concerns and move the prospect toward a sale.
The sales rep, in such a case, is handling the prospect’s objection.
Yet objection handling needs to be a two-way street – it’s not about bulldozing through a “no.” If the prospect gives a hard “no” and shows no willingness to talk, it’s time to back off and follow up with other leads.
In comparison, a “but” or “maybe” is actually a good thing. It means the prospect is thinking critically about your product or service and wants to discuss further. This sort of objection could mean the potential customer misunderstands your product or its value offering.
Alternatively, the prospect could just be fishing for a discount. It’s the sales rep’s responsibility to figure out what’s going on, begin to address the issue and move toward a deal that satisfies both sides.
Sales reps that have mastered objection handling build stronger relationships with customers and streamline sales efficiency, close many more deals than teams that have yet to figure it out.
Tips to Overcome Sales Objections
Here are seven tips to ensure your sales team accepts objections, then addresses and overcomes them.
1. Prepare in Advance
Before you meet your prospect or make that cold call, consider the objections you might face and formulate responses. If you’re still honing your sales script, test it out on family, friends, and other reps to see what objections they come up with.
Once you know the areas of concern, you can either patch these holes in the script or leave them as natural openings for an objection. Customers like having their voices heard, so engineering a chance for them to ask a question helps you build a trusting rapport.
Just be sure to craft sharp responses that alleviate the customer’s concerns, then reread and review them so you’re able to deliver them with confidence. The alternative is being caught off-guard and appearing like you don’t know what you’re talking about.
2. Research Your Prospect
Before you make your sales call, research the prospect and their company.
Understanding the company’s background is much more likely to help you than understanding the prospect, but you should also learn about the individual company representative you’re negotiating with – their education, experience, and main skills, as well as their position and responsibilities. Also, do they have the authority to make the purchase themselves, or will they need to speak to and persuade their boss?
In addition, it’s wise to take the time to research the company and the challenges it might be facing. Perhaps management recently changed, or the business, or a relevant department, went through a major restructuring. It’s also a good idea to see what their competitors are up to; maybe the company is about to fall behind or has a chance to gain a real edge.
Check the Better Business Bureau, LinkedIn, social media platforms, and the company’s website to get a full sense of the company and its situation. The more you know about the prospect and company, the better you can tailor your pitch and value proposition to their needs.
3. Invite Objections During the Sales Pitch
The longer a person holds an opinion, the more deep-rooted it becomes. That’s why your sales pitch should include plenty of opportunities for buyers to ask questions: if you can alleviate concerns as soon as they arise, you’ll have a smoother progression through the sales cycle.
Instead of saying “Do you have any questions,” here are some specific phrases you can use to bring out concerns:
- “Do you have any concerns about X?”
- “How confident are you that [product] can help you succeed?”
- “At the moment, do you see any obstacles that would stop you from buying?”
4. Have Empathy
Your sales pitch should come from a place of empathy and desire to solve your potential buyer’s pain point, not from a place of greed. Keeping their needs and interests at the forefront of the discusison will make it easier to anticipate objections and address them in a way that is reassuring.
Pay attention to the way you phrase your sales pitch: is it full of “I” statements or “you” statements? Reduce your use of “I” to help frame the pitch around the customer’s vision.
5. Make It a Conversation
It’s hard to believe, but on successful B2B cold calls sales reps spend nearly as much time listening as they do talking (55% to 45%), according to a study by Gong, a CRM consultancy. So while you should make your pitch, your buyer needs to have a chance to explain their position, pain points, and objections.
Rather than asking yes-or-no questions or monologuing, pose thoughtful, open-ended questions to draw out your buyer’s position and views. Follow up with clarifying questions, guiding them to the root of their concerns and pain points.
For example, “Can your company buy this for $700?” is not as good as “Do you think a price of $700 accurately reflects the value this can bring to your company?” The latter question is likely to spur your potential buyer to think about and explain their objection.
Be sure to listen to the prospect without interrupting or leaping to conclusions. It’s also a good idea to repeat their objection to be sure you heard them correctly. Only when you’re on the same page can you and your prospect work through the issue together.
6. Don’t Be Afraid of Silence
Whether you’ve asked a question or invited one, it may take a few moments for your prospect to collect their thoughts and respond. While waiting, you might begin to feel antsy and want to break the silence. Resist the temptation!
According to finance and strategic management consultant Maestro Group, it’s best to wait four or five seconds for your prospect to speak first after asking a question. Giving them the chance to say something, even “I don’t have any questions,” shows due respect and is likely to result in a more engaging and productive conversation.
Of course, you may have to get used to a bit of quiet. Take a second to sip your coffee, think about how the call is going, and realign your strategy as needed. Remember, silence is golden!
7. Know Your Limits
Before entering any negotiation, be sure you know your own position first. Sales objections are no exception. Before you begin talking to a prospective buyer, know exactly how steep of a discount you can give them and how much time you have for them.
Sometimes, people might not even have a true objection – they’re just hoping you’ll offer them a discount. Likewise, they might not have any intention of buying and are simply enjoying the banter. In both cases, ask clarifying questions on the proffered issue, reiterate the value of your product, and see if their objection can be handled with a simple discount or detailed response.
But if you’re asked to go lower than is feasibly possible or find yourself spending hours trapped in a maze of objections, it might be time to walk away and save yourself from a deal you’ll regret.
Techniques for Handling Objections
Other than general tips, what techniques might improve your sales objection handling?
The LAER process developed by Carew International, a leader in sales training, is a quality tool. LAER stands for listen, acknowledge, explore, and respond and aims to turn a sales objection into an opportunity to build trust. Let’s take a look at each step in a bit more detail.
Keep in mind that you can only have an honest conversation with the prospect if you give them ample time to speak and if you listen to their objection. Be attentive and empathetic so the potential customer can express their true views without fear of anger, judgment, or interruption.
Fully acknowledge the prospect’s concern by giving a supportive statement or restating the issue. In other words, let them know you’ve been listening and that you understand. Your buyer will take reassurance from the knowledge that they’re being heard.
If you’re selling in person, acknowledgment can also be a simple facial expression or head nod. Your body language should be open and receptive, with your body turned toward the client and your eyes fully on them.
Explore and identify the underlying issue of the objection. Rephrase and repeat their concern in a different way to clarify their objection, and from what you’ve gleaned so far, ask if there might be an underlying issue at play.
Your exploration of the issue shouldn’t sound like an interrogation. Remember our previous tips: come from a place of empathy, ask open-ended questions, and focus on the prospect’s opinion.
Finally, once you have the full picture of the prospect’s objection, offer an appropriate alternative, solution, or next step that addresses their concern and moves them down the sales pipeline.
This could be as simple as a reaffirmation of the product’s effectiveness in solving the client’s pain point or reducing the scope of the offering. In some cases, you may not be able to overcome the objection – maybe the prospect needs a manager’s approval or a demo. In that case, set up another appointment to continue the transaction.
If the issue seems to stem from personal conflict, take the opportunity to transfer the prospect to a different rep. The ultimate goal is to build a trusting business relationship and close the sale, but there’s no need to rush.
Let’s say the customer objects by saying they can get your product for cheaper from a competitor. Here’s how you would respond using the LAER framework:
I understand that you can get a similar product at a lower price from [competitor]. It seems that price is a very big concern for you. But compared to [competitor], our product has features that will help you save money in the long run by…
Common Sales Objections
There are generally four qualifications a prospect needs to meet before agreeing to a sale: budget, authority, need, and timeframe, commonly known as BANT criteria. Naturally, then, the most common objections relate to one or more of these.
Remember, if you’re facing a unilateral “no” or “I don’t want to talk to you,” you’re not handling an objection anymore – that’s a brush-off and unlikely to result in a sale. It’d be best to move on and spend your time nurturing another prospect.
But though objections to one of the BANT criteria may sound like a deal breaker, they’re actually an opportunity for you to elaborate on your product and emphasize its value proposition. Below, let’s explore the forms a BANT objection might take and the best rebuttals.
A pricing objection is the most common. To work around it, don’t focus on the dollar price. Instead, highlight the value of your offering, how it alleviates their pain point, and the likely return on their investment – tangible or intangible.
If they genuinely lack adequate funds at the moment, you could negotiate a smaller deal or set a later appointment to revisit the offer once the prospect’s company is more flush. In some cases, a prospect will state a pricing objection but actually have an issue with something else.
Because salespeople are sometimes perceived as only interested in money, they might think the fastest way to get rid of you is by claiming they don’t have any.
Get to the root of the matter and overcome these objections by using the LAER method. Ask: “If price was not a concern, do you see yourself buying this product?”
An authority objection means the person you’re talking to lacks the authority to confirm the purchase. In these cases, ask for the name of the deciding authority and see if they’ll put you in touch with them.
In other cases, the person might have the authority but fears they’ll be unable to justify the purchase to their firm. That’s where you come in! Work with the buyer to anticipate objections and build a strong business case they can present to higher-ups. This is the essence of sales.
The buyer might be part of a buying group, in which several firms align to increase their purchasing power and receive lower prices. However, your price might still be better than what the group is getting.
In any case, ask for details about the buying group; if it’s full of strong prospects, you may want to become one of its approved vendors.
Prospects may claim that they don’t need your product to achieve their goals or that your product isn’t a good fit for them. If there’s no perceived need for your product, sales are all but impossible.
To respond, ask for specifics on the buyer’s goals and problems, and hone in on your product’s value proposition. While their company might not crumble without your product, highlight how it will improve productivity or efficiency or move the firm toward its mission.
Your prospect might not see an immediate pressing need for your product – in that case, refer back to the previous section.
In other cases, the buyer might say that now is a bad time, citing competing priorities or lack of personnel. Ask for more specifics, and if they give a valid answer and otherwise seem interested in your product, set up a future meeting to revisit their situation later.
If you’re selling a CRM or other productivity software, a busy buyer might actually be a good thing. The issues taking up their time might be a pain point your product can alleviate. Again, ask for specifics on what’s stealing staff hours. You might find another opportunity to sell your value proposition.
What to Do After Overcoming Objections
Once you’ve overcome the objections and finally closed the sale, follow up to make sure the client is satisfied. If you rebuked an objection that later proved valid, the fallout will likely be worse than if they’d never mentioned it. Plus, being seen as a pushy, dishonest salesperson could ruin your reputation.
Whether you made the sale or not, take a moment to reflect on your objection handling. See where you did well and where you might have done better, and learn from the experience. Hopefully, you’ll glean something that will help you better handle the next objection.
An objection during your sales pitch isn’t always the end of the line. If your prospect is truly interested, a good salesperson can leverage some of the above tools and techniques to work through the buyer’s concerns and move the discussion toward a sale.
Whether you close the deal or not, take the time afterward to review your objection handling. Consistently and honestly examining performance will give your sales team, and your company, the best chance at serious success.
FAQs on Objection Handling in Sales
What is objection handling?
Objection handling is when a potential buyer voices concerns about a seller’s product and the seller acts in a way to alleviate these concerns. Objection handling is a cooperative conversation between the buyer and seller – the seller shouldn’t act forcefully or coercively.
Why is objection handling important?
Objection handling is important as a technique because it turns more leads and prospects into sales. Buyers are understandably leery of spending money and investing in an unknown, and will default to “no” when approached with a sales pitch, giving objections on why they can’t purchase. But if you can overcome these objections and convince them of your product’s value, they have a greater chance of becoming a paying customer.
What are some tips for successful objection handling?
Seven tips for handling objections smoothly are to prepare ahead of time, research your prospect, invite objections, have empathy, make it a conversation, embrace silence, and know your limits.
What techniques can I use for successful objection handling?
A strong technique you can use to overcome objections is the LAER method – listen to the objection, acknowledge it as a valid concern, explore ways to alleviate it, and respond intelligently.