One way or another I’ve been in sales my entire career. I’ve done my time in the field, I’ve managed sales teams, and as a company owner I’m constantly selling. The most common reason I’ve seen for salespeople not to be able to close a sale is that they don’t know how to handle objections. Worse, they actively avoid dealing with them. I call these salespeople “politicians.” When asked a difficult question or faced with an objection, they ignore it and carry on with their pitch.
Why the heck should we love objections?
Objections exist whether we like them or not. As long as your prospect is harbouring an objection, you are unlikely to get the sale. However, if you overcome every objection, the sale should be yours every time. If you don’t manage to convert a prospect into a customer, I guarantee there’s a hidden objection. It may well have been something that genuinely prevented them from buying, but it was just as likely an issue that you could have overcome given the opportunity.
Even though I suggest you learn to love objections, it doesn’t do any harm to reduce the number of them prior to meeting the prospect. I’m a great believer in qualifying my prospects so that I only spend time selling to people who need and want what I’m selling, have the authority to make the purchasing decision, and can afford to make the purchase. If those few criteria are met, I have a better chance of overcoming other objections.
The most successful salespeople I’ve met are those who not only skillfully answer the objections lobbed at them, but actually search for them. These high-performing sales professionals seek out objections, leaving nothing to chance.
Why do people raise objections?
The reason people raise objections can be as simple as a genuine need for further information. Sometimes, however, it can be more psychological. Many people seek validation; they are leaning toward buying, but they need some assurance — they actually want you to convince them they are making the correct decision. Then there are those who simply need to barter; it’s in their genes. For them, negotiation is an important part of the buying process and can’t be hurried — they need to feel they’ve got a bargain. Others simply want to make the salesperson work hard for the sale, or perhaps just prove their superior knowledge.
I always try to identify whether I’m dealing with an analytical, driven, expressive or amiable type of person when selling. This allows me to tailor how I handle each objection. Analytics, for instance, look for technical details. Drivers tend to raise objections around efficiency and return on investment. Expressive individuals need to like you and need assurance that other people they respect have purchased the same thing. Finally, amiables tend to hide objections surrounding trust, their own uncertainty and their need for guarantees and support.
All Objections are not Equal
There are four different categories of objections: real, accidental, false and hidden. Knowing which type you are dealing with can help you handle them more effectively. The key is to actively listen to the prospect so you fully understand and identify each objection. Only then can you start to overcome them.
Real objections such as “I don’t like the colour” or “I’ve read this model is unreliable” should be relatively straightforward to overcome.
Accidental objections arise when the prospect jumps to an incorrect conclusion or mishears something. In this case, never tell them they are wrong; simply backtrack your presentation to where the misunderstanding occurred and re-emphasize the point.
False objections are common and are almost always untrue, such as when someone says, “It’s too expensive.” They trip off the tongue easily in the same way “I’m just looking” does. One of my favourite counter questions to the former is, “By how much is too expensive?” Expose false objections (nicely) so your prospect is compelled to offer up his or her real objection.
Hidden objections result in stalled sales encounters. They are the biggest reason you need to love objections enough to dig for them. Ask questions such as “Am I correct in sensing you have some reservations?” or “Do you see any downsides to this product/service?” It’s important to give your prospect permission to open up to you; only then can you discover and deal with the real objections.
You can overcome real objections, most of the time
Hopefully, after reading this, you will start to expose all sorts of objections and in the process be left with only genuine objections that bar the way to a sale. Dealing with those real objections is where the skill in selling really kicks in, so you need a plan.
Make a list of all the real objections you’ve heard in the past and ask your team to brainstorm some that they’ve heard. Sit down, preferably with your sales colleagues, and figure out how you will deal with each specific objection the next time it arises. If you or your sales team are facing the same objection regularly, it may be alerting you to a potential problem closer to home. Never rule out changing something about your product or service if you find that a significant percentage of prospects raise the same objection.
Don’t be a politician, listen hard, see things from your prospect’s perspective, and embrace those objections. Therein lies the path to true love between your prospect and what you are selling.