How to handle customer objections to close more deals
As a child I was scared of the dark. Each night I’d check under my bed, and inside my closet, to make sure there was nothing lurking in the shadows. Convinced I’d covered all my bases, I’d switch off the light and get under the sheets.
Inevitably, every night, there’d be some crick or creek that would send my anxiety through the roof. Eventually, I started keeping a flashlight next to my bed and anytime I heard something, I’d switch it on and investigate, most of the time finding it was nothing.
As an adult, I know what I was really scared of was the unknown. That may seem like an odd lead-in to talking about handling objections, but stick with me.
When faced with a challenge like handling an objection, the scary part is the unknown. You don’t know when your prospect will object or what they’ll object to, and you might not be sure exactly how you’ll respond.
Learning about the commonalities of most objections, though, reduces the potential unknown elements, reduces the fear, and prepares you to move through them and onto the close.
I hope this article can be your flashlight in the dark.
Objector character types
We’re all familiar with standard movie character archetypes – the popular athlete, the clueless boss, the best friend. These characters vary from script-to-script, but the differences are small and we generally know what to expect when we encounter them.
The types of objectors you may face is the same. They all have their nuances, but it’s possible to categorize them. The four most common characters I see are the early objector, the silent objector, the non-confrontational objector, and the no objector.
The early objector
As the name states, the early objector raises concerns very quickly. They are generally well-researched and well-informed on your product, which is why they have their objections ready when you interact. These scenarios can be a little intimidating, but the prospect’s preparedness means they’re interested and taking the call seriously.
Pro tip: When asked a very technical question, give an equally technical response. Showing your knowledge and expertise can help ease any worry they have.
The silent objector
The silent objector doesn’t offer as much insight into their issues as the early objector. Instead, they tend to give very short answers and are more difficult to engage. Unlike the early objector, they may not have a clear agenda on what they want to address.
Pro tip: Ask open-ended questions that require longer responses and have plenty of probing questions ready.
The non-confrontational objector
This character type doesn’t want to give their objections in a face-to-face setting. They mostly utilize email for communication. They tend to need lots of time to come to a decision and need input from multiple sources prior to closing.
Pro tip: Be patient and persistent. It might take a few more messages than normal, but you should be able to get answers if you keep asking.
The no objector
This type of objector is generally someone who’s just learning about the product and may not be as well-informed as others. It’s also common that they’re not the final decision maker, so their need to surface objections may be limited as they’re mostly fact-finding.
Pro tip: Arm them with useful information they can take back to their team. Having an advocate on the inside is always helpful.
Common reasons for objection
If you’ve been in sales long enough, you’ve probably heard any number of reasons why a prospect isn’t ready to close a deal. Though they may vary wildly, most objections tend to fall into one of three categories:
Cost is the most common thing people object to. In fact, HubSpot research found 35% of sales reps list price objections as their top challenge when selling. Though most might term it as being an issue with price, what the prospect is really objecting to in most cases is perceived value. If you can show that the value of the product is higher than the cost, you’ll be one step closer to closing the deal.
This is actually a very similar objection to price, and also has some nuance. They may be saying they don’t need the product, but what they really mean is they don’t need it now. I’ve found qualifying urgency early is a very smart move, and is a good indicator of whether or not a deal will close.
Again, the opportunity here is to show the value your product brings. You can also use this as an opportunity to create urgency. When you do both, your prospect no longer questions whether they need your product. Instead, they start to consider exactly how much they need it, and how soon they can get it.
If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “I need to talk with my manager first,” that’s an objection on the basis of authority. Simply put, what they’re saying is that they’re not the decision-maker and need to involve someone else to get final approval. In these cases, be sure you have great sales collateral that your prospect can share with their team. The easier you can make it for them to pitch your product internally, the better.
Preparing for objections
If you have allergies, you may be familiar with the process of exposure therapy (though I hope you’re not!). It’s where you’re exposed to small amounts of an allergen over a period of time so your body can get used to the allergen, and eventually stop having a reaction to it. You can use the same process with learning to handle objections.
Though nothing is quite as good as an actual interaction with a prospect, things like role playing can be helpful in getting you more comfortable with handling objections. If you decide to do role playing exercises, be sure that you have a goal upfront to get the most out of it.
Another exercise to consider is one for your sales team meetings. Set aside 10-15 minutes for everyone to mention the most common objections they’re hearing and have others give tips on how they’ve responded in the past. Your teammates have a ton of collective knowledge — why not use it?
One last option to consider is developing “battlecards”. It’s a bit of a dramatic name, but what it boils down to is having a succinct document of talking points to use whenever your competitors come up in conversations. Again, leveraging your team’s experience is helpful here. Talk to your teammates to learn what prospects most commonly say about competitors and what types of counterpoints work best, then write it all down in one place that’s easy to reference while on a call.
Responding to objections
Though an objection may seem like a bad thing, it can become a positive. As sales professional and author Brian Tracy puts it, “treat objections as requests for further information.” It’s a great quote, but doesn’t fully explain how to respond to an objection. For that, I use a three step process.
We all want to be heard and understood, and your prospect is no different. When they do raise a concern, it’s important to validate that concern by acknowledging it. For example, let’s say your prospect is concerned about price. You might acknowledge that concern by saying, “cost is always a big consideration. What about the cost is worrisome for you?”
Asking a follow-up question furthers the conversation and could be a good way to uncover their deeper concerns. In fact, research by Gong shows asking between 14-18 questions during a call correlates with higher success rates when compared to interactions where reps ask fewer questions.
Now that you’re aware of the customer’s objection, you do need to address it. My main suggestion for addressing an objection is simple: be honest. In some cases, that’s going to mean you need to tell a prospect you simply can’t fulfill a need.
Though it’s not the best when that happens, it does help build a positive reputation for you and your company. Harvard Business Review reports that peer recommendations influence around 90% of all B2B buying decisions. So, even if you don’t sell to that prospect directly, being honest could earn you a recommendation somewhere down the line.
The final step in handling an objection is confirming with the prospect that it’s been addressed. Even something simple like, “does that address your concern?” is enough. If they say no, you can ask further questions. If they say yes, it’s a signal you’re both in agreement and can move on to other topics.
Uncertainty is uncomfortable, but sometimes the Boogieman is just a kid in a bedsheet. If you’re worried, or fearful, of objections, know that you can overcome those feelings by being prepared.
Keep an eye out for some of those common types of objectors and objections. That way, when an objection does arise, you can set your fear aside and confidently acknowledge it, and address it. You can also use objections to learn more about your prospects needs, better explain the value of your offering, build your reputation through honesty, and move the sales process forward.
Most of all, remember it’s a process. The more you experience, the more comfortable you’ll get. It may be uncomfortable at times, but it’ll all pay off in the long-run.
Have any tips of your own for handling objections? We’d love to hear them in the comments below.
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