Sales Skills

by Jeremy Cassell and Tom Bird

Meeting objections

In traditional sales training, salespeople are often taught to ‘overcome’ an objection. If you were buying, would you really like your objection ‘overcome’? You would surely feel more comfortable if any objection was handled sensitively and addressed sensibly.

An objection is a reservation or concern about some aspect of a service/product that may prevent a sale taking place. The old adage here is correct – objections can be buying signals. They suggest that there is interest. Stony silence or a definite ‘no’ indicates you have less chance of completing the sale! Objections may just be the buyer suggesting

  • Give me more information before I decide
  • I need a little more proof that your product really will fill my needs
  • I’m almost convinced, but I need just one more reason to justify me saying yes.

Your task is to understand the reason for the concern and help provide a response that meets the concern.

Exercise

What sort of objections do your buyers voice? Think about this question and list the most common objections that you encounter.

Typical objections involve

  • Price
  • Resistance to moving to a new supplier (resistance to change is often a key motivator for objections)
  • Concerns about some aspect of the product/service
  • Support offered
  • Timing (as in ‘let me think about it’).

Begin with the right attitude. Never appear nervous or hesitant when an objection is raised – hesitating or diverting the eyes loses trust. To remain calm, remember that objections are opportunities to learn more about the client’s needs. Top salespeople are eager to discuss whatever issue a client raises.

Often the best way to handle objections is to get them on the table at the beginning of your presentation or address them directly in your proposal:

I would imagine there are certain areas in which it would be important for you to gain some clarity... I will directly address these during my presentation.

Whatever the reason for an objection, the customer is, in effect, saying...

‘I am not yet totally convinced that your solution addresses my needs...
I am not sure I see the value of the benefit’.

The 4A model

So here is a four-step process for handling objections successfully. It is known as the 4A model:

  • Acknowledge the person who has made the objection – ‘thanks for raising this; I can understand why this is an important area for you’. Empathise and ensure they recognise you are treating this ‘issue’ seriously.
  • Audience – Ask some questions, to the individual or the panel if there is more than one person, to get clarity about the nature of the objection and give you a bit of time to think:
  • ‘On a scale of 1-10 how important is this?’
  • ‘Does everyone else share this concern?’
  • Answer
  • Ask

There is life without your product or service and there is life with your product or service. The prospect will experience one of these two scenarios... guaranteed. The question is this: do they see enough difference between the two to make a choice that is different to the status quo? So one way of handling an objection is to be very upfront and paint a picture of what it will be like both with and without your product/service. Just ensure that life with your product/service looks a lot rosier!

The only person who can really ‘deal’ with an objection is the buyer/prospect. Until the prospect handles the objection in her own mind, it is not handled. So what does the prospect need to help them go inside themselves and handle the objection in a way that allows the sale to proceed? Saying ‘Trust me, I’m a salesman’ is unlikely to work unless there is an extraordinary level of trust already built. So what information does the prospect need in order for her to handle her objection? Think of objection handling as facilitating a process within the prospect rather than directing a process at the customer.

Exercise

Take the objections you identified in the last exercise and identify what questions you can ask a buyer to facilitate his thinking.

Typical objection Questions to ask
   
   
   
   

Answer – now you have to address the issue. Avoid waffling; focus on making no more that three points; keep it simple, and directly address the problem. Avoid becoming defensive and just trotting out features – answer the objection by linking to the customer’s needs and selling value.

Ask – the person who raised the objection if it has now been answered satisfactorily:

‘How does that sound?’

‘Has that addressed your concern?’

‘Is there anything else you need to feel comfortable now?’

If the customer still has the concern, then simply start at the first ‘A’ again and cycle through the process. It is sometimes possible, after you have completed the 4As process, to get commitment to buy the product/service there and then.

Objections over price

A common objection is often over price. This could in fact be a negotiation point. When faced with price concerns, probe:

  • Before we talk about price, what other questions do you have about (insert your product/service)?
  • What is your main concern about price?
  • What do you need to know so that price is no longer an issue?

Then sell the value of your product/service before addressing the price concern.

Ten top tips for handling objections

  1. Audience profiling should have helped you to anticipate objections and identify potential sources of difficulty in your ‘pitch’.
  2. Prepare for objections as thoroughly as for the main sales presentation.
  3. Anticipate the three to five objections that you really do not want to be asked – especially for competitive pitches, and ensure you know how to handle them well.
  4. Prepare support materials in anticipation of likely objections.
  5. Get feedback during a sales pitch, as in – ‘So, what do you think?’ This will flush out some objections and avoid you getting a bunch of objections right at the end.
  6. If you do not understand an objection, ask for clarity.
  7. Avoid arguing with a buyer – listen carefully and respond with empathy and logic.
  8. Listen not only to the words and their meaning, but also to whatever emotional content is expressed in the objection.
  9. If the questioner rambles and is unclear, summarise the objection to help the audience understand what point you are now addressing.
  10. If you are presenting as part of a team, decide who is going to handle which objections. To ensure cohesion, you may choose to filter all objections through the leader of your team.