Handling objections is often the most challenging and rewarding part of the sales process.
When you’re trying to close a deal, objections can feel like brick walls standing between you and your goal.
But with the right strategies, you can transform these obstacles into stepping stones towards a successful sale.
In this article, I’ll walk you through some of the most common objections I’ve encountered in my career as a sales professional, and share the strategies I’ve developed to handle them.
From addressing budget concerns to navigating the “We’re happy with what we’ve got” objection, I’ll provide you with tools to help you overcome even the most stubborn objections.
What is an Objection?
Throughout the sales process, you’ll have to handle a variety of objections from your prospects.
They will tell you that they’re not interested, they’re happy with what they have, your pricing is too high, your solution does not meet their standards, and so on.
I find that most salespeople are poorly prepared to handle objections.
They react defensively, drop their price, and go on an offensive pitch of features before they understand the objection.
The most important thing to understand is that an objection is not a rejection.
When a prospect objects it’s usually nothing more than a request for further information or clarification on something, but it can also just be because your timing is off.
3 Crucial Components to Handling Objections
I love handling objections, and with the right understanding and objection-handling strategy, you can too.
But before you can do so, you must first have the following three components in your sales toolbox.
1. Product and Industry Knowledge
You need to be sharp when it comes to your product knowledge because although you don’t use features to sell, you still need to know what features can help a client solve a problem or reach a goal.
And when it comes to industry knowledge, you, of course, need to know the key strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and understand how the industry works, so you come across as a knowledgeable expert.
2. Good Questioning Techniques
You need good questioning techniques because questions buy you time and help you get to the root of what your prospects are telling you, and can also help you go directly from handling the objection to closing the sale.
You must feel confident in yourself to handle objections effectively.
A solid knowledge of your solution and industry combined with your good questioning ability will go a long way to giving you the confidence needed.
But experience is also vital.
Luckily, you don’t need to be a 15-year veteran in sales or objection handling to be confident at something, but you do need to have done it over and over and over again.
Practice makes perfect.
Many salespeople mentally give up when they hear their first objection, but as soon as you realise that objections are a sign that your prospect is interested in your solution, the better you’ll become at handling them.
An objection can be a sign of your prospects rationalising their decisions with logical thinking, which means you’re entering the final stages of the sales process.
So, it’s important to stay calm, slow down if needed, and smoothly guide your prospect to sign on the dotted line.
The 3 Types of Sales Objections
There are three types of sales objections you must learn to identify before trying to handle objections from your prospects.
The smokescreen is by far the most common of the types of sales objection you’ll come across. It’s a false objection used to disguise the real one.
Two common examples of a smokescreen are when a prospect says your solution costs too much or when they tell you they’re not interested.
The best way to quickly judge if you’re dealing with a smokescreen is to ask yourself if there is a reason behind the objection.
For example, a prospect saying your solution costs too much could be that they don’t have the budget, but it could also be that they don’t see the value.
The same goes for when a prospect tells you they’re not interested.
There could be a considerable number of reasons behind this objection ranging from them having a bad day to having recently purchased another solution.
You just don’t know.
When you fail to spot a smokescreen, you waste a lot of time and energy trying to overcome the wrong objection without coming closer to making the sale.
Another classic example of a potential smoke screen is when a seemingly hot prospect starts nitpicking at the small details of your solution, such as the features and functionality.
You may find that despite your suggested workarounds, the prospect just claims it’s not sufficient and walks away from the deal. In reality, there was probably another reason why they did not go ahead with your solution.
2. Real Objections
The most significant sales objections you must overcome are the real ones.
Thankfully there are a small number of real objections compared to smoke screens, so unless you offer a weak solution, you should be able to master overcoming all of them in a short space of time.
When handling sales objections, you must pay particular attention to your prospect’s tone.
If they move fast and aggressively, you do the same.
If they move slowly and cautiously, you move slowly and cautiously, remembering to speed up again when you’ve overcome the objection.
Objections can relate to time, cost, service, features, and many other areas of your solution, which is why you need to master how to handle them accordingly and why your product and market knowledge need to be sharp.
3. Brick Walls
You’ll also come across sales objections you cannot overcome.
These are what I refer to as ‘Brick Walls’.
An example of a brick-wall objection would be if you worked in real estate and had a prospect who wanted to buy a house but had no money and could not get credit from the bank.
There would be very little you could do about this situation, and the likely outcome would be that the sale wouldn’t happen.
The best salespeople will always try to find workarounds to make a deal happen. However, it’s important not to frustrate yourself with brick-wall objections by trying too hard.
You can try to find your way over, under, or around a brick wall objection, but do not waste your time and energy trying to break through it unless it’s worth a substantial amount.
If you come across a brick-wall objection at the end of the sales process, you likely failed to qualify your prospect efficiently, so rather than getting frustrated with your prospect, learn from your lesson and move on.
I witnessed a classic example of this a few months back when role-playing with a team of experienced salespeople for one of my clients.
I knew the client offered a software solution that didn’t work on Mac computers without having to install a Windows operating system.
For some companies, this workaround is no problem, but for most, it’s a complete brick wall.
Not one of the salespeople asked me about what computers my company worked with as part of their qualifying questions.
As a result, I hit them with the objection after 15 to 20 wasted minutes of the call, and there wasn’t any reason to continue.
I strongly recommend you write down as many of the common brick walls you know that can kill a potential sale and ensure you’re raising these potential objections as part of your early qualifying questions with new prospects.
It can save you a lot of wasted time and frustration.
The 6-Step Strategy for Handling Objections
When prospects raise objections, it either means they’re interested in buying, or they’re not interested in buying.
Your job is to figure out which one, quickly.
I handled thousands of objections during my sales career and developed an instinct for separating the real ones from the smokescreens.
This is mainly due to the masterful strategy I picked up very early in my career from the book, How to Master the Art of Selling by Tom Hopkins.
There are six fundamental steps to my strategy for handling objections.
If you master them, you’ll have the answer for every objection your prospects throw at you, whether it relates to budget, features, or competitors.
Step One: Listen & Digest
The first step is to listen to and digest the objection.
A reactive response will get you in trouble.
You must pay attention to the speed, tone, and words coming from your prospect’s mouth; then, be comfortable taking a moment to digest what was said and plan your response.
If a prospect tells you they’re interested in your solution but comments that it’s rather expensive, your natural reaction may be to assume that price is an issue.
You may be tempted to ask your prospect for their budget or start discount-hinting at this point, but this approach will put your prospect in complete control.
If you listen carefully and digest what was said, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can pick up on certain signals telling you that price isn’t the issue.
Step Two: Repeat the Objection Back
Next, you must use the ‘Closed-Ended Question’ technique and repeat back or paraphrase what your prospect said.
The purpose is to demonstrate excellent listening skills and give your prospect a chance to elaborate on the objection.
You’ll again need to apply a few moments of silence after repeating back the objection, especially if it doesn’t make much sense.
You’ll also have to handle long-winded objections from some prospects. I highly recommend using the option to paraphrase rather than repeating in these cases.
A prospect may tell you they’ve reviewed the contract terms, sat down with colleagues to discuss, and can’t justify the investment in your solution at this moment in time.
When you master how to listen, digest, and paraphrase, your response may be to say something like, “So you’re saying you can’t justify the investment due to the contract terms?”.
What you’ve done here is taken a step towards isolating the exact objection.
It’s highly unlikely a prospect would spend time reviewing contract terms before deciding if they can justify the investment, so if you get a ‘yes’ response to your closed-ended question, you can move on to step three.
Step Three: Isolate the Objection
Once you’ve isolated the concern, you need to dig deeper by asking open-ended questions.
For example, my natural response to the above objection would be to ask, “What part of the contract terms are you concerned about?”
If the prospect responded saying they are concerned with the upfront payment, you could respond by asking;
“Would it help if I split the initial investment into two payments?”
You must never try to handle an objection before you know the exact details.
You may need to go back and forth with open- and closed-ended questions before you move on to avoid wasting time trying to overcome smoke screens or brick walls.
Step 4: Answer the Objection
Once you have a positive response to your open-ended question(s) and know you’re handling a valid objection, you must now provide an answer to the objection.
Your answer may be to explain that you’ll need to get approval from your finance department on the new payment terms, or if the objection relates to another concern, you may need to explain how something works or how you handle a particular scenario.
The two most common mistakes salespeople make at this point are providing detailed and boring answers and assuming they’ve overcome the objection if the prospect seems happy.
Step Five: Confirm Acceptance
You must confirm your prospect is happy with your answer using the ‘Heat Check’ technique.
A heat check is a simple open-ended question that gets your prospect to confirm they accept your answer.
You should avoid using heat checks such as “Does that sound okay?” because ‘okay’ may not be enough to overcome the objection. You must get solid confirmation that your answer is accepted.
I recommend using heat checks such as these.
“Will that work for you?”
“Does that erase your concern?”
“Is that a workable solution?”
Depending on the nature of the objection, you may be able to use a test close and get the prospect to accept your answer and give you a commitment at the same time.
For example, when your prospect says the upfront payment is an issue and you confirm you can check with finance to get instalments approved, this gives you the perfect opportunity to ask this question.
“If I can get these new payment terms accepted, are you happy to go ahead?”
Alternatively, you could be a little less direct and ask your question this way.
“Apart from the payment terms, was there anything else you had any concerns about?”
Step Six: Move On
Once you have a positive response from your heat check, you must move on and discuss the next steps swiftly.
You may find that using deflection tactics makes the transition away from talking about an objection easier.
Changing the topic by asking your prospect if they’ve looked over or thought about something else, such as their preferred start date, tariff, or payment method, is usually an efficient strategy.
Dancing around the objection to try and reassure the prospect of your answer can also have the reverse effect.
You risk raising suspicion that you’re hiding something, so provide your answer, get acceptance, and move on.
With these six simple steps, you can isolate and handle pretty much any objection your prospect comes up with and take them quickly into the closing stages of the sales process, but you must be aware of the serial objector.
Regardless of how effective you become at handling objections, you’ll always meet prospects who have a new objection for everyone you overcome.
It can be easy to get frustrated when dealing with these serial objectors, especially if you feel like you’re close to concluding the sale – but beware.
Serial objectors will always find a new objection no matter how well you handle their last one because they may have no intention of buying.
By mastering objection-handling skills, you’ll find it easier to filter out these time wasters, but until you do, be on high alert for prospects who raise more than two objections at once.
If your gut tells you that you’re dealing with a serial objector, don’t be afraid to take the direct approach and say,
“I sense you’re not entirely happy with our solution at the moment, and if that is the case, please just let me know, and we can discuss it again at another time in the future”.
In my experience, this approach will provoke a defensive reaction from prospects with no intention of buying your solution and will extract the real objection from genuine prospects.
How to Handle Price Objections
It pays to prepare well for objections around the price of your solution.
These objections can come in a variety of forms at any time in the conversation with your prospect.
If you handle them well, you may win the sale.
If you handle them poorly, you lose money either by losing the sale or by winning it at a heavily discounted rate.
The following suggestions will give you a solid foundation of how to cope with each one.
“It’s too expensive.”
It’s pointless expressing your personal opinion about why your solution isn’t expensive.
Your prospect doesn’t care about your opinion.
Repeat back and paraphrase the objection by saying;
“So, you think the solution costs too much?”
When your prospect confirms, you may be tempted to ask something like “Compared to what?”, but you must remember to isolate the objection before handling it.
Instead, you should ask;
“When you say that you think it costs too much, is this because you don’t have the budget, or because you don’t see the value in our solution?”
If you’ve done a poor sales job, the prospect may confirm they don’t see the value.
Otherwise, they will confirm they do not have the budget.
If budget is the issue, you should move right into answering the objection by offering a solution such as extended payment terms or a delayed start date before confirming the terms on offer, heat-checking if they are acceptable and talking about next steps.
The payment terms solution, of course, only works when you have payment terms as an option.
If not, you’ll most likely have some different options available. Knowing what options to play and when to use them is key to your objection handling success.
“We don’t have the budget.”
Your prospect may come right out and say they don’t have the budget from the start.
I find this to be one of the most common objections salespeople struggle to handle, but it typically means your prospect either doesn’t have the budget at all or doesn’t have the budget right now, so you should ask the following question.
“When you say you don’t have the budget, do you mean that you do not have the budget at all or right now?”
In the event your prospect says they don’t have the budget at all, you could be dealing with a brick wall, or you may just need to work more on selling the value of your solution.
Many prospects will say they do not have the budget if they’re uncomfortable with the size of the investment, especially if your solution is new to them.
The most common response will be that your prospect confirms they don’t have the budget right now.
This objection is often very valid, so it’s important not to press your prospect to the point of no return as you may be only dealing with a temporary brick wall.
Before you begin brainstorming ways to get around this objection, ask your prospect more about how and when their budgets get allocated.
You may discover potential solutions such as split payments or ways to dip into the budget of another department.
Listing your options such as instalments, lower deposits, or delayed first payments is a good way to prepare yourself for handling objections about pricing.
It will also steer you clear from offering discounts too early, which may be your prospect’s objective.
“We’re happy with what we’ve got.”
It’s common for a prospect to tell you they’re happy with what they’ve got.
They could be referring to existing software, an agency, or a certain process they already have in place.
This objection is commonly used very early in the dialogue to try and get rid of you.
It’s essential that you do not go into an objection-handling mode so early in the conversation.
Instead, work on parking the objection and respond positively, saying something like, “That’s great to hear. What solution do you have in place at the moment?”, and continue with your planned qualification questions.
You may not always get away with parking the objection, so here is a word-for-word strategy I used a while back when someone said they were happy with their current provider.
Prospect: “Thank you for the call, but we are happy with our current provider.”
Me: “So your current provider meets all of your present needs then?”
Prospect: “Yes, thank you.”
Me: “Can I just quickly ask, what do you like best about them?”
Prospect (after a long silence): “We have a long-standing relationship with them, so they know our business very well”.
Me: “So it sounds like knowing your business is a crucial advantage for any provider then?”
Prospect: “Yes, absolutely.”
At this point in the conversation, it was clear the prospect was happy with their current provider, but this didn’t mean they weren’t open to better options; so I decided I had nothing to lose and said:
“If I told you I’d spent the past ten years working with clients from your industry, and combined that with my unique benefit in this situation of being able to bring a fresh approach, would that sway you to take a little more time to consider what I can offer?”.
The prospect turned out to be too comfortable to pull away from the competitor in the end, but I did manage to overcome their objection and persuade her to give me the opportunity to present my solution which was my initial objective.
My approach may seem a little direct, but with tough objections like this one, you’ll sometimes need to really sell yourself and express an extreme level of confidence to get a chance.
So long as you remain humble at the same time, you’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Handling Objections: Conclusion
Overcoming objections is a critical skill for any successful sales professional.
By listening to your prospect’s concerns and responding with tailored solutions, you can turn objections into opportunities for further discussion.
Remember, objections are not rejections – they’re simply a request for more information or a sign that the prospect needs further assurance.
By being prepared with a variety of objection-handling strategies and remaining confident and humble in your approach, you’ll be able to navigate these challenges and close more deals.
Ultimately, success in sales is all about building strong relationships and providing value to your prospects.
So, embrace objections as a chance to deepen your understanding of your prospects’ needs and demonstrate your expertise and commitment to solving their problems.
P.S. I highly recommend you practise objection handling in real-time as much as possible via role plays or live calls.
Theory will not condition your instinct to respond to live objections.
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