One can find a lot of great information when looking for tips and best practices on handling objections in sales. Many of these techniques can be highly effective in addressing the objection and helping the customer to see the big picture. The main problem is that customers have probably encountered a lot of these tactics before. One can also come off as being scripted and defensive when applying a lot of these techniques, especially before hearing the customer out. This can increase resistance on the part of the customer, who often immediately feels the need to push back harder or simply bail out of the call altogether.
I myself have found a foolproof way of handling objections: I don’t try to handle them. I am not recommending that you ignore objections. Instead, I find that it is more effective to wait until customers are receptive to hearing my reply, rather than immediately challenging them. It is best to first confirm that you understand their concern and then acknowledge that it is valid. I am not recommending that you simply pretend to agree with a customer, only so you can turn the tables after you have “softened him up.” Instead, emphasize that you agree with the customer’s concerns. Whether their concern is based on accurate or inaccurate information, the concern itself is always valid. (Needless to say, do not do this if you don’t genuinely agree with the customer. Also be very careful not to patronize the customer. Phrases such as ‘I’m sorry that you feel that way’ are much worse than any canned objection response.)
By acknowledging the validity of the concern (and even rewarding the customer for having it), you can build a bridge of understanding and communication that will allow the two of you to work through and address the concern together. Using simple phrases such as “I know what you mean” and “yes, it is a substantial investment” can go a long way in letting the customer know that you can have an open and safe conversation to get to the heart of the concern. At the very least, you are letting the customer know that you are not going to recite a canned objection reply.
Once the customer knows that you understand and agree with their concern, they will typically ask you to address the objection. (That is why they raised it in the first place.) You may also be pleasantly surprised to find customers helping you address the objection or simply taking it off the table themselves. Customers often just need to talk through their concerns with someone who empathizes before determining whether the concern is a showstopper. The last thing you want to do is interrupt the customer with a canned objection response while he is doing your job for you.
Below are a couple of examples of how I handled objections the right way and the wrong way, and the results I got each time.
Example 1: “We’re all set!”
Me: “How do you know you are all set? I haven’t even told you what we do yet.”
Customer: “I said we’re all set! …. click!” (By confronting the customer, I will get nothing back but a wall of objection and inevitably a hang-up.)
Now let’s try a softer approach:
Me: “Well, I guess I’m a little late in calling on you. I wish I called you before you got everything taken care of.”
Customer: “Well, what do you guys do, anyway?” (By not objecting with the customer, I made her feel comfortable staying engaged with me. The result is that they actually weren’t all set, and I closed a huge deal three months later!)
Example 2: They think we do something else, and they’re “all set!” (“All set!” is a recurring theme.)
Customer: “We’re all set, we don’t outsource lead generation. We have our own team of people who make outbound calls for this.” (A company I should be talking with!)
Me: “But, we’re not a lead generation company!”
Customer: “Yeah, as I said, we don’t outsource lead gen. Bye.” (They don’t care what my company actually does because I am making their life difficult at this moment by pushing back.)
Here’s how it worked with another prospect when I didn’t push back:
Me: “Well, I don’t blame you; I’m assume it works much better handling this yourselves.”
Customer: “Yes, we tried outsourcing and it didn’t work for us.” (Instead of correcting the customer, I agreed with him and rewarded him for being so smart. Now we have a dialogue going. Needless to say, I closed a huge deal here as well!)
Although these two examples take place during the prospecting phase, salespeople will get the best results by applying these principles at any time during the sales process. Better to be patient and agreeable than defensive. The customer will reward you for it.
Pat Morrissey has worked in his role of senior account executive with ConnectLeader, a leader in B2B sales acceleration solutions, since joining the company in 2013. Morrissey has worked in software sales since 1998, in both inside and outside sales roles, with companies such as Fourth Shift, Deltek and Micro Focus.