Every sales pitch will have objections, but they do not have to derail the engagement. If you find your discussions sidetracked by an objection, here are five steps you can follow to successfully address the customer’s concerns and loop them back on track towards closing: (1) Stay Calm, (2) Listen, (3) Acknowledge, (4) Investigate, and (5) Respond.
One of the most common things salespeople ask me about is how to deal with sales objections. I welcome sales objections and you should too.
Master this objection loop process to supercharge your sales effectiveness and build stronger customer relationships.
Nothing strikes fear into the heart of salespeople faster than an unexpected or difficult sales objection. In reality, objections are the norm in any sales engagement, and they represent opportunities.
Far too many sales opportunities are lost because the salesperson either gives up too easily when faced with an objection, or their confrontational reaction and poor response ends up damaging the rapport they had established.
Instead, think of an objection as a means to help you better understand the customer’s thinking, allow you to demonstrate your support for them, and strengthen their perception of your problem-solving value.
In fact, objections are good – it means you are still engaging! The only impossible objection is the one you aren’t even aware of.
Whenever a customer is expressing concern or asking for something that will be difficult (or even impossible) for you to give them, they’re telling you that they still want to buy from you!
The sales process is defined as the journey from initial engagement through to a finalized sales agreement. Ideally, we want to make a bee line from start to close but things seldom unfold exactly as planned. That bee line typically becomes a bit of a zig zag, which is okay as long as we can keep redirecting back towards a successful close.
An objection is potentially a serious zag, so we need to turn it into a loop that has us circle around to overcome the objection and then land back on our original path towards a close.
Very often an objection expressed by your customer may not be the real underlying objection so don’t assume anything and do not give up!
The path of least resistance for the customer may be to indicate something obvious like price, competition or delivery rather than to explain more complex issues such as: their project isn’t fully funded yet, or they are not the real buying authority, or your company is small and that is viewed as a risk.
Anticipate objections and be prepared for them. Big or small, hard or easy, they will certainly appear so don’t be shocked.
Complex sales engagements rarely ever close successfully without any objections. Not receiving any objections can be a warning signal that you are not getting the full story.
Don’t panic! The other party will be watching for your reaction when they throw an objection at you. They may just be testing you, and how you react can either make things much worse or extinguish the fire. Instead of freaking out or tensing up, stay composed and make sure you continue with the same relaxed body language and tonality. Breathe, it’s not a personal attack!
Focus on maintaining your rapport with the customer while you explore to understand their objection before determining your response.
As important as listening is throughout the entire sales process, it is critical to listen carefully when being hit with any objection. Do not get frustrated, jump to conclusions, or assume you know where this is headed. Avoid the temptation to respond immediately and never, ever contradict or rebut the objection at this point.
Listening will demonstrate your intent to hear them and help them find a good solution.
Acknowledge the customer’s concern by restating what you are hearing back to them to show that you have listened, and you are trying to understand. This will immediately calm any potential tension and have a positive impact on maintaining rapport. Everyone wants to be heard.
Show empathy about their concern but avoid agreeing with it. Demonstrate positive optimism that we can figure this out together.
Now is the time to ask great questions and dig deeper to make sure you understand what they are really objecting to. The most common objection is that the price is too high, yet in B2B sales, 94% of deals close based on a deciding factor that is not the price. The real question is why is the price too high?
We’re using price as an example here, but regardless of what the objection offered is, you need to work on uncovering the real objection because it’s often not as simple as the one expressed. The single biggest reason for objections is that the customer is not completely convinced yet. They are asking for your help to gain complete certainty that this deal is right for them, right now.
Use open-ended, non-threatening questions to uncover what their real concerns are.
This is where you will propose solutions. Rather than trying to completely refute the objection, work on coming up with creative ways to reframe the problem so that you can offer an alternative, a revised proposal, options, added value, different terms, or whatever.
A well-crafted response may not even be required. By working together with the customer in steps 1 through 4, the objection may have diminished or completely gone away by this point. This sounds idyllic but often the customer will help come up a solution or even decide that this isn’t a deal breaker after all.
Address their concerns and offer solutions.
As you work through these steps and offer feedback, regularly check that you are still in alignment with the customer by using confirming questions to ensure the objection has been fully resolved in their mind.
Master these 5 steps of the objection loop and you will consistently close more sales, build stronger relationships with your clients, and position yourself as a trusted partner to capture incremental and repeat business.
Chris is one of the experts working as part of the team at Stratford Management Consulting. With 25 years of experience leading global sales and marketing organizations, Chris has worked with clients by coaching sales managers and teams to help maximize their success and advising C-level leaders and executive teams on sales, strategy, growth, and leadership.