There’s lots of advice out there on how to handle sales objections. In my opinion much of it is ineffective or unnecessary and could backfire.
Why fight uphill?
The way I see it, ‘objections’ aren’t the major problem here. The advice on how to handle them is the problem, because it’s essentially advice that tells you that it’s perfectly normal to ‘fight uphill’.
And who wants to spend their time doing that?
Ideally, we’d eliminate objections in the first place, and create the circumstances with our prospective client such that we’re not fighting uphill but collaboratively and productively heading down hill to a better place with them.
Eliminate them first
So first up, when sales books and courses advise us that objections are ‘inevitable’ and ‘a good thing’ (or even ‘a positive buying signal’) let’s just smash that one back over the net right away.
It sounds like they’re trying to help you create a positive mindset. But I’d rather just simply not have the objections in the first place.
As it happens, when I sell, I rarely get them. Why? Because I don’t normally propose ideas that don’t fit. Sorry if that sounds over-confident, but I put high importance on listening, learning from, probing and testing what value to the buyer looks like. And I do much of that before even talking to them. I’ll share with you part of my approach below.
To my mind, an objection isn’t a ‘buying signal’ but an ‘improvement signal’ – an immediate sign that I haven’t done my job as well as I could have. I do agree with the idea that an objection is essentially a ‘valid concern’ – again an attempt to shape a positive mindset so we can deal with them appropriately.
But the bottom line is, an objection signals that either we, or our client, or both, didn’t quite understand something which perhaps we could have had we have dug deeper.
Keep it simple
The other problem I have with most of the advice I hear on handling objections is that they make a meal out of something simple. Usually, courses or books provide a step by step selling process AND provide a step by step objection handling process. And nearly every time I’ve seen these, the processes are almost identical! (Around the idea of listening, exploring, confirming, working to solve etc) Yet you have to learn two acronyms or models. Why?! What, is an extra tool considered as more value?
To save you learning an objection handling process, I suggest that when you face an objection, to simply go back to the start of your main conversational sales process and work through it more thoroughly, particularly on the issue they have raised. And ask yourself how you can adjust your process to avoid this happening next time (if and where possible).
And most of all, don’t forget to pre-empt your most common objections for the current part of the conversation you are having before they even arise.
So for example, when I learned that most new prospects say to me, “we already support our sales teams internally”, I began conversations with,
“I’m sure like most of my clients you already provide support to your sales teams, but they found it worthwhile to explore what they’re overlooking to make their support more effective.”
That sort of line 99% of the time gets positive agreement that it is indeed sensible to see what they’re missing.
I have some more examples and a process to pre-empt objections here.
I repeat, if you’re facing objections, perhaps you’re not doing your sales job as well as you could be?
8 steps you could follow to eliminate objections rather than just ‘handle’ them
So, here are my tips for eliminating objections in the most efficient way:
- Be obsessed with ‘fit’. The right fit in every way possible avoids objections.
- Be obsessed with a collaborative approach. You’re not here to pitch, tell, advise or educate them (yet). You’re here to learn from them and facilitate their thinking. Once you have the required trust (for the current context) you can begin steering them with more authority.
- Ensure you’re speaking to the right person. See point 1. You need the person who is paid to say ‘yes’. (Everyone can say ‘no’ and it’s easy for them to do so, and the power-trip highlight of the day for many people, so go to the right person only!)
- Identify the most common objections for any given part of your conversational process (e.g. the most common objections in the early part of the conversation or just before closing)
- Design a way to conversationally pre-empt the top one or two, and habitually open your conversations taking those down before they have a chance to breathe
- Don’t propose or pitch anything that doesn’t fit – one way is to lean towards questions only, and listening. You can’t get an objection if there’s nothing to object to. “Would it be useful if…” style questions should help. Statements of agreement work well too. Say what they agree with, and you’ll avoid early objections. Say something they disagree with and you may have just one more life left, if you’re lucky. Say something else they disagree with, and, as one of my management consultant clients once said, “you’re £@%#ed”.
- Don’t pitch or propose one solution – try to throw out two or three options to test their reaction to each. They’re unlikely to object when you’re giving them a choice of options. They’re more likely to choose, discuss, reveal more useful information and engage you further.
- Only when you know what the bullseye looks like is it worth skilfully throwing your three darts (proposing your solutions). By then, you should both know that you’ve arrived at something of mutually high value collaboratively, and there’s a fair chance it’ll go ahead.
If you follow this approach, you don’t need to concern yourself with wrestling them to the ground with desperately clever linguistic jiu-jitsu and you can concentrate on working with them towards a positive rewarding solution.
Want to discuss, or get more help with any of this? Contact me. I’d be happy to exchange emails or talk. Let me know if I can support your sales or non-sales team too. I work mostly with non-sales people who have to ‘sell’ or develop business who’d usually rather not.