Since you are constantly selling in your everyday life, you have also undoubtedly encountered objections: your friend doesn’t want to see the same movie as you, your brother doesn’t want to share the car, your parents want you home earlier than you would like. When you attempt to convince someone or “sell” him on your point of view, you are not always successful. But each time you “sell” your idea, you usually have additional information or a fallback position so that you can get what you want while meeting the other person’s needs. You are probably more skilled in overcoming objections than you realize.
Occasionally in your sales career, you will encounter a situation in which you are able to close the sale directly after giving your sales presentation. Such a situation, however, is the exception not the rule. Objections are simply a natural outcome of the sales process. Each potential prospect has his own set of unique needs, and, though you may identify most of them during the preapproach stage of the selling process when you do your research, you will not be able to anticipate all of them. After all, you are not a mind reader. Besides, if all it took to excel in sales was to deliver a perfect script, anyone could do it. But that is not the case. The essence of sales is handling objections and truly understanding how you can help your prospect meet her needs. It is a demonstration of your skills as a salesperson to find the opportunity in these objections, listen to your prospect, and then respond.
The first myth to dispel is the assumption that objections are bad or an omen foreshadowing failure. On the contrary, resistance usually portends commitment. If a prospect is asking you questions, you can at least assume that they are interested in your product or service. In fact, in all likelihood, they already know whether or not they need or want to make the purchase. Thus, the reason they are objecting isn’t necessarily because your presentation failed to communicate the features, advantages, and benefits of your offering. Rather, they are objecting because they are seeking reassurance; they are on the fence of indecision, and they want you to provide them with the incentive that justifies an immediate purchase (Edwards, 1993). Supply your prospect with the right information, that is, show them why they want to buy your product or service.
What Are Objections?
Sales objections are generally defined as prospect questions or hesitancies about either the product or company (Moncrief & Marshall, 2005). While objection may sound like rejection, you should never assume that when a prospect asks a question or expresses a concern that you have failed to generate interest in your product or service. It is true sometimes that your prospect will object when he truly cannot or does not want to buy. Usually, though, objections mask—intentionally or unintentionally—a request for more information. They simply signal your prospect’s level of interest and alert you to what actions need to be taken to bring the sale to a close. If your prospect expresses objections, consider them invitations to continue to sell. Furthermore, leverage these objections into an opportunity to continue to build your relationship with your prospect so that you can continue to create a positive influence on the buyer’s decision. The fact is objections help you build your relationship and find the true reason for resistance. Think of objections as opportunities.
How Objections Build Relationships
As an analogy, consider asking someone out on a date for the first time. Even if you have hooked him in with a great pick-up line (approach) and dazzled him with your sparkling personality (presentation), he may still not be convinced that you are serious about him. Naturally, he might respond by playing hard-to-get. How you react will reveal to him your level of commitment. By allowing the relationship to grow slowly and organically, you demonstrate your patience, sensitivity, and sincerity. You establish a foundation of trust that eventually wins him over. On the other hand, if you respond by getting huffy and stomping off, he will probably be glad to see you go.
Objections as Opportunities
You might not keep track of objections in your everyday life (especially as they relate to dating). However, you may find it interesting to know that in sales, a prospect will say no an average of five times before they buy (Loew, 2020). That means that it’s more likely than not that you will experience a prospect who poses at least one objection: asking a question, requesting more information or time, or pushing back due to financial constraints. Without objections, you would have no way of knowing what a prospect is thinking, what concerns they have, or what barriers might be in the way of them saying, “Where do I sign?”
The fact is objections are an important part of the selling process. But thinking about overcoming objections might be the wrong frame of reference. The word “overcome” implies that you want to conquer, fight, or win (and, therefore, your prospect loses) (Morgan-Seager, n.d.). Instead, it’s best to think about objections as a perfect extension of the selling process. Think back to the steps of the selling process that you have covered so far: prospecting and qualifying, preapproach, approach, and presentation. Throughout each of these steps, your focus is on understanding your prospect’s needs and building a relationship based on trust. The same is true for this step: handling objections. This is all about learning more, finding common ground, and providing the solution that is best for your prospect. Objections and conversation help you better understand exactly what your prospect wants and needs. The bottom line is that you don’t want to avoid objections; you actually want to encourage objections and ask for them.
Consider Objections Before They Occur
If objections are such a positive part of the selling process, you might be wondering how to be prepared for them; how to think about them; how to consider them even before you get them. Here are some strategies for preparing for the objections portion of the selling process that will help you build your relationship.
- Understand your prospect and believe in your partnership. If you did your homework at every step of the process so far and put together a presentation and proposal that really makes sense for your prospect’s business, you should be confident in the fact that you are a true business partner to your prospect. Objections lead to sharing and learning and the ability for you to make adjustments in your proposal that will help your prospect manage her business (Rubin, 2005).
- Remember WII-FM. WII-FM (What’s In It For Me) is the radio station that everyone listens to. Never lose sight of your prospect’s buying motivations. If time is mission-critical to his success, know what you can deliver and by when. If national reach is important to your prospect, be sure you address it in detail in your proposal.
- Understand risk. Understand what your prospect considers a risk (e.g., time, money, changing suppliers). When risk outweighs reward in the mind of your prospect, chances are she will find a reason not to buy. Understand her risk factors and address them head on. This will allow you to employ a “risk-removal” strategy, rather than a selling strategy (Gitomer, 2005).
- Anticipate objections. Think about every possible objection you might get—before you get it. That means making a list of every objection before you even make your presentation and building in the response into the presentation. (Karasik & Benson, 2004). Your success as a salesperson will largely be determined by your ability to anticipate and handle objections (Philip, 2004). Write down all the possible objections and go back and incorporate them into your presentation. Then, give your presentation to a friend or colleague and see if they can find any additional objections. Although you can’t make your presentation “objection proof,” you can anticipate and be prepared for most objections that will be raised (Verrecchia, 2004).
- Raise objections first. Since you have done so much preparation and you understand and have a good relationship with your prospect, be proactive and be prepared to raise objections first. When you raise an objection, you actually turn it into a discussion point rather than an objection. It shows your prospect that you are thinking about the sale from her perspective and helps you build the relationship. (Rubin, 2005).
Objections should not intimidate you or dissuade you from continuing the selling process. Rather, you should consider objections opportunities to learn more about your prospect’s needs. The more you understand about your prospect’s needs, the greater your ability to determine how your product or service can satisfy them or how your product or service can be improved to satisfy them. Remember, selling is about solving problems. The solution that you offer will demonstrate to your prospect whether or not you truly understand his needs and whether or not you have his best interests at heart. By embracing your prospect’s objections and handling them effectively, you will inspire his trust, confidence, and most important, loyalty. As a result, both you and the prospect benefit.
Power Selling: Lessons in Selling from Successful Brands
At iCore Networks, a leading VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) provider, handling objections is an everyday learning experience. Sales reps gather at 8:00 a.m. sharp every day to discuss successes and failures from the previous day and role-play overcoming objections and then put what they learn to work in the field all day. The commitment to coaching and being in front of customers works for the company and its sales force: the average compensation for a first-year sales rep is $92,000 (Hofman & Joyner, 2009). Learn more about how iCore sells in the following article: A Sales Force Built Around Cold Calling By Mike Hofman in Inc. To thrive in a recession, the sales force at iCore Networks focuses on cold calling.
Why Prospects Object
While prospects may voice their objections in different ways, just about every objection comes down to one of four reasons: no or not enough money, no perceived need, no sense of urgency, and no trust (Ye, 2022). As a selling professional, you have control over each one of these objections. But it’s too late if you address it only when the prospect objects. In other words, you are actually handling objections at every step of the selling process. For example, you can avoid the price objection with thorough qualification during your first step of the selling process (Leotta, n.d.).
If a prospect does not have a perceived need or high sense of urgency to buy your product or service, your challenge is to understand the drivers of his business. Every business has challenges, and your role from the time you qualify the prospect is to understand your prospect’s “pain points,” those issues that cause problems for him and his company and present barriers to growth. If you truly understand your prospect’s business, it is much easier to present a solution that addresses the perceived need and reasons to buy it now. “There is no reason for buyers to buy today unless we build in that sense of urgency and give them a reason to buy today,” says Dana Forest, director of sales at Simons Homes (Kendy, n.d.).
Many objections are raised because the relationship between the prospect and the salesperson is not fully developed. business-to-business (B2B) selling is dependent on trust. If the trust is not there, or the relationship is not yet fully developed, it can be difficult for a prospect to make a change or finalize the purchase. If this is the case, prospects will frequently delay or stall before making a decision, which can be an attempt to derail the sale.
When Prospects Object
While you may not be able to predict your prospect’s every objection, you can at least predict that he will object. Knowing when to expect objections is the first step to handling them: you will eliminate the chance of appearing caught off guard or unprepared to discuss the product or service that you are selling.
Of course, it is possible that the prospect may object at any time during your sales call—from introduction to close. Still, there are specific points in time during the sales process where these objections are more likely to occur: when you are first trying to make contact, when you are making a sales presentation, and when you are attempting to close the sale, or make a trial close. A trial close includes any attempt to close the sale but usually focuses on asking the prospect’s opinion: “What do you think about the turnaround time?” A trial close may occur at any point during the selling process. In other words, if the prospect indicates that she may be interested in making the purchase, it is an opportunity to make a trial close.
Objections are likely to occur at several points during the selling process, including the trial close. It’s best to be prepared for objections at every step in the selling process, including the qualifying stage. Know your prospect and be ready to incorporate objections into your sales presentation.
Setting Up the Appointment
Imagine that you are in the middle of a cold call and you are attempting to set up an appointment to meet your prospect. You have barely uttered your name when your prospect exasperatedly grunts, “Don’t waste your breath. I’m not buying anything you’re selling.” How do you respond? This scenario is meant to illustrate the fact that you may meet resistance as soon as you try to establish contact with your qualified prospect. Hopefully, you will have reduced the rate of this problem occurring by properly qualifying your prospect beforehand and preparing for the most common objections. Nonetheless, anticipate resistance from the beginning. Asking questions can help turn the conversation around.
No thanks, I’m satisfied with my current supplier.
May I ask you who you are currently using?
We work with Advanced, and they have been doing a good job.
Advanced is very good at what they do. Did you know that Symone offers a money-back guarantee? In other words, if you are not completely satisfied with the conversion or the service, we will completely refund your money. It would be worth thirty minutes of your time to learn more about it. How does Tuesday at 8 o’clock look?
When you are giving a sales presentation, very often the prospect will ask you questions as you go. It is unlikely that your prospect will wait until you have finished your presentation before asking you questions. However, the experienced salesperson will actually encourage questions throughout her presentation since she knows that responding to them supplies her with precious time that she can use to further demonstrate how her offering can solve her prospect’s problem. As a rule, you will want to acknowledge objections as they arise. If you feel that the objection will be addressed at a later point during the presentation, you may postpone your response, but you will need to communicate this information to your prospect. For example, you might say something like the following:
I’m a little concerned about the financing.
I’m glad you brought that up. I’m going to address that in the next slide, which I think will provide you with the information you are looking for.
During the Presentation
Otherwise, he may think that you are avoiding the question and that you are trying to hide something, are unprepared and do not know how to respond, or are simply not listening—all kinds of impressions that you do not want give.
During the Trial Close
Recall that you can test your buyer’s readiness after your sales presentation by employing a trial close. If your prospect hasn’t expressed any opinions at this point of the selling process, then the trial close is your opportunity to seek them out. If your prospect responds positively to it, then congratulations! This response indicates that you have skillfully executed each step of the selling process: creating rapport, gaining the prospect’s trust, listening, identifying his problem, and presenting products and services that will provide them with solutions and value (Jim, 2013). From this point, you can move to the next step of the process, the close.
If, on the other hand, an objection is raised, then you will use this time to respond to it. Always remember that an unacknowledged concern lessens the opportunity for a sale. Responding means fully listening to your prospect’s concerns and objections, asking clarifying questions to determine whether or not you understand them, identifying the types of objections they are, and meeting them. To be clear, “meeting” an objection does not mean saying what you think the prospect wants to hear; you should never make a promise about a product or service that you cannot deliver. How you meet an objection will depend on the type of objection you are dealing with. Simply put, meeting the objection means returning to the presentation stage, elaborating on your product’s capabilities, and emphasizing in what ways they benefit your prospect. For example, assume you are making a sales presentation for a software product to a B2B client and she presents an objection about the timing of the installation.
This is really an interesting option for us to pursue, but we are planning on launching our service much sooner than your timeline suggests. I’m not sure your implementation timing will work for us.
When are your planning on launching your new service?
We want to have everything in place and tested in less than forty-five days.
So it sounds like the biggest challenge is the installation date. I can talk to our head engineer and see if we can change the installation date. If we can guarantee installation within thirty days, will you commit to the two-year agreement?
In this example, it’s important to note that the objection led to the prospect sharing information that was not previously known: the date of the launch. This is valuable information that the salesperson can use to potentially overcome other objections and provide service that will help the prospect meet his goals.
After you think you have responded to and have overcome all your prospect’s objections, you can proceed with another trial close. If you determine that your prospect has new objections, then you will want to repeat the response process. You may have to use a trial close several times before moving to a close. Keep in mind that the sales process is not perfectly linear; rather, it is iterative. Depending on the prospect and the product, it is perfectly appropriate to repeat steps.
When you are certain that you have addressed all your prospect’s objections and that he has no further objections, move to the close. Don’t be shy! You have earned this right and, besides, your customer expects you to!
In the same way, you should never allow yourself to become defensive or antagonistic when a prospect makes an objection. Since your goal is to build and sustain an enduring customer relationship, you will want to handle your prospect’s objections with as much delicacy as possible. For example, avoid persuading the customer by responding to objections with statements beginning with “but”: “But our service is more affordable” (Jim, 2013). It’s better to respond in a positive way, such as “I understand your point about price being a factor. In terms of durability, what level of quality are you looking for?”
“10.1 Objections are Opportunities to Build Relationships” from Selling For Success 2e by NSCC and Saylor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.