Hundreds of books and articles have dealt with overcoming sales objections – typically implying that sales objections must be countered or corrected. This implies you, as the sales professional, can change someone’s mind if the right information is shared or that you can convince someone their point of view is incorrect. Neither countering nor correcting makes the potential buyer feel good about the sales process emotionally. They may even agree with you just to escape the conversation, possibly “ghosting” you afterward.
Yet, the key to managing sales objections is more sophisticated than that. Often, the real resistance or specific objections are unspoken. So, you need to uncover them proactively.
Once the objection is shared, its clarity is less vivid than the original words. They may have filtered something they read or heard to mean something totally different than what you intended. A word may mean one thing to you and another thing to them. As a sales professional, you must ask clarifying questions to get to the issue’s core.
The real challenge lies in the approach of becoming proactive. Too many people are afraid to ask about concerns or objections, as they would rather not hear bad news. They feel it is easier to avoid any problems unless the prospect brings it up. This is just lazy, timid selling!
If you are sensing concerns or hesitation, it is crucial to ask them about it. Being proactive helps uncover the concern or objection’s significance, so that you address it. Then you can be a facilitator in clarifying the issues before mutually collaborating to resolve the objection.
Ironically, objections can present salespeople with valuable opportunities for engagement and collaboration. Here are three actionable steps to transform sales objections into a positive situation for more transparent conversations and deeper relationships.
- Gain Understanding of the Real Objection
A calm, non-defensive approach and tone are required to get real clarity about the concern or problem. Objections are commonly expressed as logical statements, such as “The price is too high,” “The transition period to a new provider will take too long,” or “I am worried about your lack of experience with our company. We are very different than most companies.”
Before responding to the objection statement, it is crucial to uncover more about their viewpoint and the underlying issue behind it, such as an emotional concern or personal belief. It could be their preference or loyalty towards a competitor, a similar situation where they were hurt by a different vendor, or facing potential risks from someone above them who is pushing for success by a certain date.
Inquiring with empathy makes your client feel heard and important. Demonstrating patience and a genuine desire to understand their perspective is vital to gaining true transparency. Repeating their words back in the form and tone of a question is a proven means to show a desire to understand them. This typically results in them elaborating on their point, as most people do not like awkward silences and like to talk to be heard. You can repeat this technique several times to get to the core issue.
If they share more, you can personalize the inquiry by asking “What are the implications to you if… (restate the objection).” Be patient and wait for the answer. It can take them some time to think through how they want to share that personal response. You may need to explore it further, but when ready, conclude with “so the issue that we have is… (conclude with what the real objections are).”
- Brainstorm Possible Resolutions
Now is the time to shift into collaboration mode and explore all the different options that could minimize or neutralize the concern or objection.
Start the conversation with any of the following:
- “What if we could…”
- “If we were able to change…”
- “How would it affect the situation if…”
- “What difference would it make if…”
- “What options do we think we could consider…”
By initiating the conversation with empathy and fostering a collaborative environment, you greatly increase the likelihood of progression. Working together to solve the objection creates a sense of being on the same team rather than negotiating against each other.
At the end of the collaboration, summarize which ideas provide the best pathway forward for both parties. If one party comes out on top, make it the client as an investment into your relationship, but keep it reasonably balanced. Gain confirmation that they agree your summary provides the best positive outcome for both parties and addresses the core concerns or objections.
You might summarize the situation like this: “So we have agreed that the core issue is that the board of directors needs the initiative to be completed by the end of the year. We have agreed that if we can bring the teams together and take out some ‘nice to have’ components we identified from the solution, we both can be confident about the timeline of success. So, then the issue of price and timing is solved. Does that summarize it accurately?”
- Map the Action Plan
A good action plan requires actions from both parties to achieve a resolution. It is important to agree on the specific steps each party will take and establish a timeframe for implementation. If either party sees a delay in their steps, agree to notify the other immediately. This forms the start of your trusted working relationship. Agree on when you should meet next for an update on the progress and preferably the best time for a meeting afterward.
In conclusion, the traditional approach of simply overcoming stated objections falls short. Instead, manage objections by proactively asking about any concerns and objections. Do not get defensive when asking for more clarity about the concerns to truly get to the core issues and the underlying reasons behind them. Then facilitate a collaborative conversation to build trust, empathy, and understanding about each other… ultimately leading to resolution and mutual success.
Engage with one of your colleagues and practice handling objections through collaboration. Pick the most common objectives your team encounters and try the new approach until you are comfortable and confident. When they share objections and concerns, practice repeating it with a question format and tone, so they elaborate on the issue a few times. Practice collaboration with your colleague as though they are the client and see how they feel after the interchange. You will be surprised at the positive feelings created by this approach.