Just imagine: You know that a particular prospect would be a perfect candidate for what you're selling, and you dial them up. Perhaps they're an inbound lead who has come in through your website and downloaded an offer, or perhaps you don't have an existing connection with them at all. 

You dial the phone... only to be met with a resounding rejection that you don't know how to recover from. You've just run head first into a sales objection.

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If you gave up after every sales objection, your pipeline would wilt completely. It's a sales rep's jobs to understand what is going on in prospects' minds when they object so that you can handle those objections accordingly

This sense can be developed over time as you become more experienced with the organization's positioning in the market and start hearing the same objections across multiple calls. It does take time to gain that level of familiarity. 

The good news is that, no matter what you're selling, objections typically fall within one of four categories.

A successful sale usually happens because the budget was right, you had the authority to convince the prospect, they actually needed the service/product, and the timing was right.

This phenomenon is commonly referred to as BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, and Timing). Determining BANT should be part of your routine qualification process. 

It also stands to reason that sales objections would be the converse of BANT: 

1. Lack of Budget

"It's too expensive."

Objections based on price are the ones you'll come across most frequently. That's because purchases come with some level of financial risk.

As a sales rep, you'll want to consider the positioning of your product/service and how to demonstrate that value. This turns the conversation into one about risk vs. reward. 

By providing value and painting a picture of where your solution will take them, they can be convinced that it's enough reward to justify the risk.

2. Lack of Trust

"I've never heard of your company." 

People do business with those they like, know, and trust.

In an inbound sales conversation, the prospect will have likely interacted with your content or be familiar with your organization in some way. This objection could be overcome by jogging their memory, or you might consider your sales cycle and whether it's feasible to nurture them. 

However, not all conversations are inbound conversations, and they may have genuinely never heard of you. It's at this point that you double down on the value you provide with your elevator pitch. Be sure to emphasize the authority your organization has in the market.

3. Lack of Need

"I don't see how this can help me." 

This may seem like an objection on the surface, but it's actually an opportunity to give information to the prospect (and get information from them). Use open-ended questions to qualify the prospect and evaluate their need. If you find a fit, leverage it to demonstrate value.

4. Lack of Urgency

"[X problem] isn't important for me right now."

The goal here is to identify if timing actually is an issue or if the prospect is trying to brush you off. One way to do that is by asking them to elaborate on why it's not important or what competing priorities currently have their attention.

Listen closely to determine if their response involves concrete timing issues or vague excuses. If they're doing back flips to justify inaction on a real pain point, you may have an opening.

When all else fails, schedule an appointment with them at a later date.

What About Objections While Prospecting?

When we talk about objection handling in sales, it is often focused on the later stages of the buying cycle, usually during negotiations. We focus on pricing and timing issues -- the types of objections that prevent a deal from closing.

But what about the objections that occur before you're able to connect and qualify based on BANT?

A crucial yet overlooked aspect of objection handling occurs at the very beginning of the buying process, during prospecting. Sales reps who do their own prospecting and sales development reps encounter a myriad of objections in their attempts to connect with and qualify prospects.

Prospecting is hard. You are typically barging in on someone, so you'll hear objections such as, “I'm too busy, call back next quarter,” “Just send me some information,” “We don't have budget outlined for this,” and so on. The good news is you will begin to identify a set of common objections during prospecting. The key to success is to be prepared to overcome them and move prospects to the next step.

The vast majority of objections heard during prospecting are knee-jerk reactions from busy people who don't yet see the value in working with you. Nearly all objections at the prospecting phase of the sales process fit into one of two categories:

  1. I don't understand the value and I'm too busy to think about it.
  2. I'm not ready for a buying conversation.

Usually, there are only a few moments after hearing an objection that a sales rep can clarify the value proposition of the product or service before being perceived as too pushy -- or being hung up on. Here are our tips for handling the objection before we dig into specifics:

First, articulate value early and concisely. You can mitigate the value objection by simply respecting the prospect's time and explaining what you want early in your outreach. Every email, voicemail, and phone interaction should lead with an assurance that you won't take much time, followed by a short (30 seconds or less, or one to two sentences), buyer-centric, and customized value proposition. (For more on the quick value prop, check out this post.)

Second, don't sell the product, sell the next step. It does not matter if the prospect is ready for a buying conversation yet. How could they be? It's possible they've only just learned about you and your product from this call. Don't get into a discussion of the product yet. If they ask a product question, recommend that you show them in the next meeting.

Here are some specific objections you may face while prospecting and how to handle them:

Here are the most common objections prospectors might face, along with some very simple approaches to responding to them.

1. "Just send me some information."

We call this objection style "the brush-off." This objection varies in intent depending on when it comes up in your call with a prospect. If it comes up before you have had the chance to deliver your value proposition and explain who you are and what you do, it's very clearly a brush-off. If it comes afterward, but before you've had the chance to ask qualification questions, there may be interest, but the prospect isn't yet willing to talk about it further.

If it comes at the end of your call, after you've gone through both your value prop and qualification, the prospect may have decided this isn't valuable somewhere along the way. No matter where it comes up in the call, it's the SDR's duty to uncover what is really going on: Do they not yet understand the value, or are they not ready for a buying conversation? Why not?

Responses: There are a few potential responses to this one, depending on what stage the call is in.

  • Before you've delivered the value proposition: "Can we take 30 seconds now for me to explain what we do, and you can then decide if it's worth a follow-up?"
  • Before qualification: "Can I ask you a couple questions now to better understand how we might help?"
  • After qualification: "Typically, people find it more valuable to see how this works in a demo."

2. "We already work with [Competitor]."

This is where it's important to know why you are unique, and be able to explain that value clearly. Your prospect just heard, “Hi, we do X” and thought, “Oh, we have a vendor for that, we're good.” Your prospects are busy -- they don't want to fix things that aren't broken. It is your duty to change their mindset, and explain why they need the specific value you provide.

Response: "At this point, we aren't asking you to rip anything out. A lot of our customers used to or still use Competitor X. We'd just like the opportunity to show you how we are different and how we have provided additional value to our customers. We can present some use cases of other companies like yours who work with us and with Competitor X. When is a good time to schedule a follow-up call?"

3. "Call me back next quarter."

Prospects are busy. They will push anything off to tomorrow because today is swamped. Don't let them! You have a solution they needed yesterday. Reassure them that this is not a buying conversation. You just want to show them what you do, and see if there's value for them.

Response: "Of course. If it really is bad timing, I'm happy to do that. However, I would still like to set up a five-minute call to show you what we are doing and how we might help. That way, if it's not interesting, we don't have to worry about me chasing you next quarter, but if it is, we'll have more to talk about then. When is a good day/time for us to chat?"

4. "We don't have the budget."

If budget is an important part of your qualified lead definition (e.g. traditional BANT) this may be a stopping point. Even with BANT, however, it is important to dig a bit further to understand what not having budget means. Can they not afford it? Has your buyer burned through her personal budget for the year? Could your buyer find the money elsewhere if you show enough value? In most cases, the prospect doesn't need to have a budget at this stage of the process, and SDRs should leverage this fact to overcome this objection.

Response: "That's okay. We don't expect you to buy anything right now. We'd just like the opportunity to share what we are doing and see if it's valuable to your company. Can we schedule a follow-up call over the next couple days?”

5. "Does your product do X, Y, and Z?"

This isn't so much an objection as an obstacle to closing a call with a prospect and getting them to the next appointment, (e.g., a demo, or a discovery call with the sales rep). However, it is one of the most common obstacles that prevent an SDR from converting the lead to an SQL. Not only does getting in the weeds waste time, but you also run the potential of devolving into a features/benefits conversation. The good news is this generally means the prospect is interested. Use this fact to end the conversation and set up the next appointment.

Response: "I am glad you asked that. I think it will be helpful to set up a time where we can answer this question and others with a specialist. When is a good day/time for us to talk?”

6. "Sorry, I have to cancel. I'll get back to you with a better time."

People don't like to say "No" -- and that includes your prospects. This manifests in ghosting, procrastination (as mentioned above), and asking for more time.

Sales pro Mike Rogewitz swears by Sandler's Negative Reverse Selling strategy to overcome tricky non-objection objections like these. "You want to call out your prospect's lack of interest and get them to admit the answer is 'No' without going too negative," says Rogewitz. "Essentially, you're getting them to realize they're bullshitting you." Here's the formula:

Prospect:XYZ fluffy response.

Salesperson:Typically when I hear someone say XYZ, it really means ABC. Is it fair for me to assume that's the case?

By using this simple script, you'll nudge your prospect into giving you the final answer you need to move on.

Response: "Typically, when someone cancels and says they'll get back to me, it means they're just not interested in what I have to offer right now. Is it fair for me to assume that's the case?"

7. "Hello, you've reached [Prospect's Name] ... "

Does your prospect avoid your phone calls like the plague? Do they take a while to get back to you and always need approval? Do they give vague answers when you ask about budget and priorities for the year?

If you answered "Yes" to any of these questions, you might be talking with an individual contributor. They're usually not as comfortable talking on the phone as managers or decision makers, they need a lot of internal approval, and they aren't privy to important budgetary information or company-wide priorities.

It's important to gain the gatekeeper's trust and learn as much as you can from them -- but then you need to move on and build relationships with the people in the company who can actually choose your product/service.

Response: "Have you ever purchased this type of product/service before?" "Who will be in charge of this buying process?" "Would you be able to connect me with that person?"

When an Objection Means No

Prospects often don't give you a chance to explain the value you think you can provide. They are too busy, and have too little faith in the hordes of SDRs and sales reps that reach out to them on a daily basis. Unfortunately, they have learned through experience that these knee-jerk objections are the best defense against people wasting their time. This forces salespeople to be more assertive and persistent.

That said, at a certain point no means no. The responses to the common objections above give you a way to pierce through the reactionary objections prospects give without thinking. However, if you have said your piece and the prospect still objects, let it go. Nobody is going to buy against their will. Get as clear as you can on the objection and try to determine what your prospect is really concerned about, but don't push past the prospect's point of comfort. Rule of thumb: if the prospect says an objection twice, it's real. No means no.

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Editor's note: This post was originally published in January 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Originally published Jul 7, 2020 12:45:00 PM, updated August 27 2021


Objection Handling