Patience is one of the most difficult thing for any salesperson to learn. But letting go of your personal agenda -- closing deals, making quota, winning sales contests -- is a key to success for both you and your prospect. By slowing down your sales process at each step, you’ll likely find that you are able to close at a better rate.
One part of the process that many salespeople rush is objection handling. It's a natural knee-jerk response to hear an objection and immediately want to respond. But this is one of the most important times to slow down and understand where your prospect is coming from.
Objections can be raised early or late in your process, and if you throw a canned response at your prospect or tell them they are wrong for thinking what they think, you will lose all the trust you’ve worked to build up.
Remember, your prospect will naturally feel a little bit defensive as they make their objection. People are wired to understand that once they make an objection, their conversational partner will probably push back and try to change their mind.
I like hearing objections, because I know that I have an engaged prospect who trusts me enough to share what they are thinking. If your prospect doesn’t trust that you have their best interests at heart, they won’t give their objection at all, but instead go dark. You can avoid that by working with a framework like this one.
Using the LAER Model to Handle Sales Objections
I’ll preface this with the fact that you must build trust and establish open communication with your prospect very early in your sales process. You are here to help them, not “sell” to them. When you have a mindset of being helpful, and your aim is to reach a good resolution for your prospect, the LAER framework -- Listen, Acknowledge, Explore, Respond -- feels very natural, and your prospect will feel understood.
Here's a step-by-step guide to using LAER to handle objections.
Let your prospect talk. Don’t interrupt. Ask them to discuss their concern, and hear them out all the way through. If you find yourself interrupting to give a response, call yourself out on it so that they feel comfortable enough to continue on with what they are sharing.
Repeat back a condensed version of what your prospect said to them. Be clear that you are repeating this back to make sure you totally understand what the objection actually is. This will accomplish three important things:
- Forcing yourself to repeat the objection slows you down, makes you process it fully, and confirms you understand the full issue.
- It will make your prospect feel more comfortable and help bring them off the defense. You’ll be reminding your prospect that you are listening and considering what they have to say. You should immediately notice less pressure in the conversation at this point.
- If the prospect has anything else to add or elaborate on, they will be more comfortable doing so. You’d be surprised how often prospects only say half of what they want because they don't feel fully comfortable in the conversation.
Hold tight. Don’t respond with all the reasons your prospect's objection shouldn’t be a concern. This is your chance to dig in and uncover the underlying reason for the objection. Approach this step like you're back in exploratory mode: Seek to understand, not to be right.
At this point, you should be having an open, comfortable conversation with your prospect. It should feel like you're sitting on the same side of the table, problem solving together. (I actually try to picture myself sitting on the same side of the table of whoever I am talking to. That always keeps me grounded and reminds me what my goal is.)
Affirm your prospect. Make sure your prospect knows they are understood, their objection is reasonable, and they are in good company with others who have been concerned about the same kinds of things but went on to see success working with you.
I use the “feel, felt, found” method to affirm my prospects, which demonstrates that I understand how they feel (I'm on their side), they aren’t the first person in the world to have felt that way (confirming they are being rational), and that others have found success in moving forward (even if reasonable, the objection didn’t stop things for others).
This is the final step. By this point, you've taken plenty of time to listen to your prospect, you’ve acknowledged their objection and clarified it, and explored the issue in deapth.
Now you can respond with your clear recommendation, based on the concerns your prospect shared with you. You should approach this step by helping your prospect come to their own conclusion about whether they should move forward (or not). You’ll notice this will feel very different from simply skipping to “response mode”.
The most important points to remember in objection handling with or without this framework are:
- Always stay on the same side of the table as your prospect.
- Keep their best interests in mind regardless of your agenda.
- Have patience, even when you are at the finish line.
- Listen carefully and never push.
Have you seen success using the LAER framework? Let us know in the comments below.