You've been speaking with a prospect for a while and you have a sense of their goals and challenges — it seems like your offering is a great fit for their business.
You're ready to set a date for a product walkthrough and/or talk price — but then, your prospect says something that stops you in your tracks.
"Can we talk about this next quarter? It's just not a good time for us to buy right now."
Shoot. Not only is this a deal you had in your pipeline, but you've also spent a significant amount of time working with the prospect. Prospects often use this type of timing objection to stall or push you away.
Now, sometimes there are valid and true obstacles such as resources and budget that are stopping a prospect from buying — this is why it's important to maintain a level of empathy in all communication with prospects, no matter what their reasoning is for backing out of a deal.
But how can you combat this issue? By using timing objection responses, you can to the heart of a prospect's reluctance.
As a recap, here are some common objections you may have experienced in the past or hear from your prospects today.
Common Sales Objections Related to Timing
Sales objections related to timing can be difficult to overcome. How many of these objections have you seen or heard before?
- It's not a good time.
- Call me back next quarter.
- I'll get back to you with at a better time.
- We'll think about it.
- I'll have to talk to leadership.
So how do you actually respond to these objections in an effective way that resonates with prospects?
How to Respond to a Sales Rejection
As mentioned earlier, while considering any objection responses, keep the importance of empathy in mind — no matter what your prospect says to you, you don't really know for certain what they are personally going through or what the company they work for is going through.
Inject empathy and a thoughtful tone into all communication with prospects no matter their objection or final decision. This will make your responses more effective among prospects and keep you all on good terms, no matter the outcome.
Let's dive into your sales objection response options.
1. "If money and resources were no object, would you be willing to start with our product today?"
If your prospect says "no thanks" to your offer, they may not be convinced that your product is of value to them. If that's the case, try find out why — pin down the root of the issue. One way to get there is by taking price out of the equation and exposing any fundamental issues they have with your offering.
If your prospect says "yes" to this question, dig deeper to discover what logistical hurdles are standing in their way to determine whether or not you can accommodate.
2. "What's holding you back?"
By getting your prospect to talk through their reasoning for their delay or decision to back out entirely, you'll put yourself in a better position to address their hesitation and work to find some middle ground that suits both your business as well as the prospect.
3. "When would be a good time to buy?"
Maybe, your prospect really does want and intends to buy, but just can't swing it due to factors like budget, current needs, or timing. Depending on their response to this follow-up question, you might be able to adjust your offering to suit their needs now, or you can follow up in a way similar to what you'll read below, in number nine.
4. "What are your company's other priorities right now?"
It's possible that your prospect has several other pressing projects that need to be completed. If you have the whole picture, you'll be able to tell how much of an impact your offering can really make right now, or even better — how your product can help achieve the other goals.
If it turns out your prospect's goals are being pushed aside by management, follow up with the next question.
5. "How can I help you get the resources you need to sell this to the final decision-maker?"
Determine where your prospect's having difficulty gaining traction with their leader and/or team, then help get internal buy-in.
6. "Is X goal no longer or less of a priority for you?"
Tie your product to a tangible goal you and your prospect have discussed. This question moves the discussion away from the actual purchase process and back to the story of how your offering can improve your prospect's business. You can also follow up to this with the next question.
7. "What happens to your goals if you don't act now?"
What's your prospect's Plan B? Maybe they have a good one, and in that case your offering may not be a good fit. But making your prospect realize this is the best-fit solution for solving their problems will get you back in the game.
8. "When are you hoping to achieve X goals by?"
If your prospect can't define this, you're either talking to them in the education stage or their problems aren't severe enough to warrant solving right now. But if they need to hit a goal in the next three months, there's a clear pain point you can address.
9. "If I call you back next quarter, what circumstances will have changed?"
Maybe your prospect is in the middle of a massive internal initiative and doesn't have bandwidth to talk to you right now due to reasons beyond their control. Maybe there's an economic recession happening, or your prospect could be waiting on a round of funding to come in.
Get your prospect to evaluate whether anything — their budget, their priorities, their goals — will really be different when you speak in the future to determine whether following up will be productive, whether you can accommodate their needs now by altering the deal, or if you just think they're stalling to back out of the deal entirely.
10. "What's going to be different next quarter?"
A broader, rhetorical spin on the above response. Empathetically question your prospect's motivations for brushing you off without coming right out and saying it to better understand their point of view.
11. "How are you performing against your end-of-year goals [as they relate to your product]?"
This is a good way to remind a prospect of why they were talking to you in the first place and why they need your product or service. A prospect who saw absolutely no issue with their current business wouldn't have taken your call in the first place — so remind them that delaying a deal could make those problems worse.
12. "Here's the timeline for ROI if we start in X months. Does that work for you?"
Here's that sense of urgency again. Remind your prospect that implementing a new product doesn't produce overnight results. The question here is implicit — can they really afford to wait to buy, or can they agree to come to a middle-ground regarding the deal?
"I hit the mute button and wait to see how my prospect continues," says Dan Tyre, HubSpot Sales Director.
A prospect with a real objection will ask, "Are you there?" or wait for you to follow up, says Tyre. But, if your prospect starts to waiver more or talk in a stream-of-consciousness, it's a likely sign they're trying to brush you off.
14. "Do you understand [product's] value?"
"In all my years of selling, nobody's ever said no," says Tyre.
Follow up with the next response to really drive this point home.
15. "Which part of [product] do you think would help your company the most?"
This question gets your prospect to reiterate their goals and forces them to tell you why your product is a good fit for them, instead of making them listen to you talk about it.
It can also trigger important red flags — for example, if you've been focusing on one area of your product but they bring up an entirely different area, it's a sign you need to restart the conversation on different terms to reengage them.
16. "Is it the timing, or is something else concerning you?"
A timing objection may be a smokescreen. To find out what's really holding your prospect back, ask this question.
The prospect will either say something along the lines of, "Well, I'm worried about [different issue] … " or, "It's not a good time to buy because [valid reason] ... "
In both cases, you'll uncover the true issue, which you can focus on working to resolve.
Simple responses are sometimes the most effective responses. The prospect is probably expecting you to try and convince them it is a good time to buy, so this response will catch them off-guard (in a good way).
Once they've given you context, you can decide whether they're in a position to move forward or not.
18. "I understand, as a customer of mine was in a similar situation. They ultimately decided to purchase [product] because of [trigger event, challenge, opportunity] and [product's ROI]. In the past [X amount of time], they've seen [Y results]."
Your prospect has shared why they want to wait (see the previous question) — but you think it's in their best interest to act sooner.
Use a relevant case study to make your prospect think twice about holding off on the deal. After you've shown them evidence your solution works, they'll be eager to reap its benefits for themselves.
19. "Thanks for your honesty — I don't want to waste your time or mine until you're ready to make a decision. In the meantime, can I send you any valuable content I find on [prospect's industry, market, challenge, role]?"
According to HubSpot's Dan Tyre, this response works well with prospects who can't buy soon, no matter what you say. (They've already exhausted their budget for the year, the company's strategy is in flux, new legislation will go into effect soon and they need to gauge the implications, and so on.)
Pressuring them to buy will only make them screen your calls and emails. Instead, ask to periodically send them helpful, educational content to support them. You'll stay top-of-mind while adding value and building up your status as a trusted advisor.
When they are ready to buy, you'll be the first salesperson they contact.
20. "Sometimes when people say X, it really means Y. Is it safe for me to assume that's the case here?"
Sales pro Mike Rogewitz saves this question for those objections he just can't overcome. It's Sandler's Negative Reverse Selling methodology, and it goes something like this:
Prospect Sam: "I'm headed into a meeting; can you give me a call next week?"
Salesperson: "Sam, I've tried to connect a few times now. Typically, when this happens, it means this is a low priority for you at the moment. Is it fair for me to assume that's the case?"
Prospect Sam: "Well if you don't want to talk to me, then I'd rather not do business with you."
Salesperson: "Hey Sam, my apologies. I do want to talk, but I feel like I'm annoying you here with all these voicemails and missed calls. I'd hate to keep bothering you if it's not necessary. It might be best if you reach out when it's a better time."
Rogewitz warns, "It should never feel like you're taking revenge on an uninterested prospect by saying, 'You always say you'll call me back, Sam,' which turns the conversation into an accusation and, sometimes, an argument." He continues, "By keeping things constructive, you've put the negativity on yourself instead of on the prospect."
21. "Are there any large company events or initiatives coming up that would make this a priority?"
If a prospect is unable to commit to your timeline, it might be because their budget is uncertain, a large company announcement is on the horizon, or an important industry event is looming that would make your timeline difficult to implement.
Ask questions like, "The timeline seems to be a stumbling block for us. Is there a company/industry event coming up that might be causing you hesitation to pursue an aggressive timeline?"
If the answer is, "Yes, I'm actually worried my budget might be cut next week," you know what the objection is and how to proceed. If the answer is, "No, our company has a lot of red tape, and I'm worried this timeline doesn't reflect that,"you've still gotten to the bottom of the real issue and can move forward.
22. "Is there anything I can give you to make a stronger case to [decision-maker]?"
Sometimes, your prospect might be hesitant to move forward simply because they've received pushback from their manager or the ultimate decision-maker.
Ask if there's anything you can do to support your prospect and help them make a stronger case to their boss. This might look like a one-sheet of talking points, a case study, or an informative blog post. A simple, "How can I help," can be the difference between deal that's closed and lost versus won.
How to Respond to a Sales Rejection Email
1. Be respectful.
Rejection is a fact of life, but it can still be hard not to take it personally. If you don't receive the response you're looking for via email, don't bite back, be snide, or act unprofessionally when you respond.
Remember, just because they're not on board now doesn't mean they can't be further down the line. You want to keep the possibility of a future relationship open — that starts with remaining respectful in your follow-up.
2. Don't act like you weren't just rejected.
As an extension of the point above, you can't just disregard your prospect's decision. They said "no" for a reason, and you have to show you understand where they're coming from. So when you respond to a rejection email, acknowledge their stance — and let them know you respect it.
If your prospect emails you saying your product or service doesn't fit your budget, you can't immediately lead with something like:
"We offer custom pricing upon request. Can I schedule a 15-minute meeting to discuss that further?"
You have to cushion that response a bit. Try something like:
"I understand where you're coming from. Obviously, you can't purchase a product that doesn't fit your budget, but I still think our solution suits your needs better than anyone else's can. We actually offer custom pricing, revolving around the features your business needs most. Do you have a spare 15 minutes to discuss one of those plans?"
3. Offer more context.
Sometimes, a prospect sends a rejection email because they're not considering the big picture or have a limited understanding of your offering. If that's the case, it can help to provide additional context or introduce a new piece of relevant information that might make them reconsider.
For instance, let's say you're selling a project management solution for small businesses, and your prospect doesn't think it fits their company's tech stack. You might say something like:
"I see where you're coming from — obviously, you want solutions that can fold into your current tech stack. That said, I know you leverage the Microsoft Office Suite and Slack. Our product actually integrates with all of those applications, among others you either already use. Can I book 15 minutes to talk about how our solution can fit your operations and streamline your project management?"
4. Keep it concise.
Responding to a sales rejection email is an uphill battle. Your prospect is disengaged, right off the bat. They're not interested enough to continue the conversation as you've left it. If they were, they wouldn't have rejected your offer.
So, naturally, they're probably not inclined to pour through an essay on how incredible the solution they just passed on is. If your response is too long, imposing, or over the top, your prospect isn't going to take the time to read it — and that overzealousness might take away from your ability to sell to them in the future.
Respond to Your Prospects Effectively and Empathetically
These days, there are an array of reasons why a prospect may try or decide to back out of a deal. Try experimenting with some of the responses above to support these prospects in a way that shows them you're flexible, understanding, and empathetic — with this winning combination, your prospects will have an increasingly difficult time walking away from the value you provide.
Looking for more? Check out these tips to magically get prospects interested in you next.
Editor's note: This post was originally published inOctober, 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.