Navigating rejection and helping your potential customers move through their objections and reservations are the name of the game when working in sales.
What are the most common objections you get during the sales process? Do you find you get the same objections over and over? How do you handle them? Your approach makes all the difference in your performance.
Sometimes salespeople treat objections as a personal affront.
"What do you mean now is not the right time?!"
"It’s not too expensive…you are just thinking about it the wrong way!"
Don’t do this. When you’re in a hole, you should stop digging.
Handling objections is actually a process — it’s not just providing the answer to a problem. Years ago, I worked for a great Boston Consultancy called the Forum Corporation. They’d researched the tactics of high-performing salespeople and created an objection-handling process that was effective and easy to follow.
What is the four-step method for handling objections?
To handle sales objections, follow these four steps: encourage and question, confirm understanding, address the concern, and check.
Let’s walk through each step in detail.
1. Encourage and Question
When you get the "too expensive" objection, your first instinct may be to lay out the ROI of your solution. And that makes sense — but it’s still too soon for a business case. The first thing you should do is "encourage" the objection and ask the prospect open-ended questions.
It might sound counterintuitive, but you need to lean into the objection and encourage your prospect by saying, "Tell me more. Is your concern the outright expense, or is your concern the longer-term impact of the cost?"Allow the conversation to continue so that you have more information if and when the deal moves forward.
Handling the objection this way builds your credibility. When you jump right to defending yourself by saying "Kellen, let’s look at the big picture here and talk about ROI," you are perceived as either not listening (best case) or trying to manipulate the person (worst case).
Encouraging and questioning, on the other hand, lets the prospect know you are truly interested in their point of view. It also helps you truly understand the objection and your prospect’s concerns.
2. Confirm Understanding
Once you have asked one or two clarifying questions, restate the objection. Here’s an example:
"Susan, it sounds like since this solution was not considered in your original budget -- that the funds are just not there for it. Your team has allocated the funds to other projects, and this is not one of them. Have I heard that correctly?"
This is called "confirming." Taking this step ensures you understand where the prospect is coming from, and shows you’re listening, which further enhances your credibility. Plus, you implicitly get permission to move to the next step.
3. Address the Concern
Providing a response to the "budget" objection (or any other) is what you are trained for. In this example, you need to know how to justify your solution and help your prospect prioritize this solution against the others under consideration. You might begin by acknowledging the real short-term budget impact and then building urgency by demonstrating the longer-term ROI.
Take a look at this example:
"There’s no question that this would have a short-term impact on funds. That budget would need to be pulled away from other projects, and I acknowledge that is very difficult to entertain at this point. As we move into the next few months, however, we believe the positive impact of this solution will begin to be felt (in X and Y ways).
And as we look out 6-9 months, the ROI tips strongly in your favor (because of A and B). So I suggest we look at this against your other solutions in terms of that time frame. Does that make sense?"
Now, you have provided a case in which your solution may be more attractive, and it’s up to you to help them understand that (or not).
You have provided a response to the objection, but you’re not done yet. High-performers do one more thing: They "check." The check means you say something like,
"Susan, you raised this issue of the budget, and we have discussed both the short-term challenge and the longer-term benefit. Obviously, we have not come to a final conclusion, but it sounds like you are considering the priorities of the various solutions. Should we move to the next part of our conversation, or do you have other questions about this?"
This step surfaces any of the buyer’s lingering reservations and reinforces the progress you’ve made before you move into the final stages of closing the deal.
To fine-tune your objection-handling skills, make a list of the five most common objections you face over a week. Write down each objection, then come up with several questions you would ask to truly understand the concern. Use these objections to practice the process out loud with a colleague. Until you practice, you will not realize how tempting it is to jump right down to the "provide" part and how hard it is to stay in the question and confirm steps.
Now you have the knowledge. The skill lives in the transition between the steps. It takes discipline to focus your attention on hearing your prospect and understanding. People appreciate those who listen.