Having an objection handling strategy is critical to your sales success. In this post, I share a simple 6-step strategy you can use to handle any sales objection.
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 this objection handling strategy.
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.
In some of my other posts, I’ll provide you with some word-for-word responses to some of the most common objections you’ll face, but you’ll need to do more than simply read this post to become great at handling objections.
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. Action will.
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