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How to Answer Sales Objections in 6 Easy Steps

If you're in sales, you run into objection. Prospects have a myriad of reasons why they don't want to buy, or want to think things over. However, most of those objections have nothing to do with what your offering, but are just part of the give and take that's a natural part any sale.

Beginning sales pros, when they hear an objection, hand the prospect a business card or leave a phone number. And that's the end. They never hear back, because (in fact) the prospect was ready to buy, and almost undoubtedly bought from somebody else.

Needless to say, it doesn't have to be that way.

This post is largely based on a conversation I had several years ago with the sales guru Tom Hopkins, one of the giants of the sales training world. However, I've made some changes to his methods to better match the requirements of consultative solution selling.

There are few sales skills as important as the ability to answer objections, so let's get started...

CLICK for step #1 »
Illustrations by Dennis Cox


STEP #1: Silently Celebrate the Objection
In the process of deciding to buy, most prospects raise objections.

Many sales professionals think that objections are bad things, because they mean that the prospect is trying to wriggle out of buying. Nothing could be further from the truth.

People who are NOT going to buy NEVER raise objections. Why should they? They're simply not interested and therefore aren't going to put the mental energy into coming up with a reason not to buy. When a prospect hears a little voice saying "I want it," the next normal response is to come up with an objection.

Prospects who don't come up with objections either aren't qualified to make a decision or don't have the money or credit to make a purchase. So if you don't hear at least one objection, then the "prospect" isn't serious about buying. So if you hear an objection, your first job is to have a private little celebration in your brain, because it means that you've got a good chance to make the sale.

This is not to say that you don't have to handle the objection. In fact, the way that you handle the objection can either close the deal or lose the sale.

CLICK for step #2 »


STEP #2: Restate the Objection and Ask for Details
It's vitally important that the prospect realize that your heard the objection and that you're willing to discuss it. Therefore, you must hear the customer out, and ask for more information or a clarification of the objection.

This request encourages the customer to provide you with valuable information that you'll need in order to answer the objection. For example:

  • Prospect: "Your printing service is too expensive."
  • Sales Pro: "Yes, high quality printing services are expensive. How much were you looking to spend?"
  • Prospect: "We've been paying around $500 a month."
By restating and asking for details, the sales pro has clarified the problem and now knows the price point that the prospect expects to see. This information can now be used either to determine a discount or as a flag that the sales pro needs to position his offering as higher quality than the incumbent vendor. For example:
  • Sales Pro: "What kind of documents have you been printing?"
  • Prospect: "Well, probably something better than what we have. We have to produce some brochures."
  • Sales Pro: "We have a special solution for brochure design and printing."
CLICK for step #3 »

STEP #3: Discover if it's a Roadblock or a Speedbump
There are two kinds of objections: roadblocks and speedbumps. A roadblock means that the sale is NOT going to happen; a speedbump is simply something than needs to be overcome.

Fortunately, there is only one real roadblock -- when when it turns out that the customer either has no money to make the purchase or can't get the credit to obtain the money for the purpose. That's a deal-killer. Period.

Many objections are initially vague, often varieties of "I want to think it over." Experienced sales pros delve into the customer's thinking to discover the real objection, and come up with an appropriate response. For example:

  • Prospect: "I want to think it over."
  • Sales Pro: "That's fine... obviously you wouldn't take the time if you weren't serious, right?"
  • Prospect: "I guess not."
  • Sales Pro: "Just to clarify my thinking, what is it that you need to think about?"
  • Prospect: "I'm not sure we have the budget."
At this point, the sales pro needs to determine whether this actually is a roadblock (no money), or whether it's just a speedbump (not a priority to buy).

If the former, it's time to bail. If the latter, then the sales professional needs to raise the priority of the purchase versus other purchases. The best way to do this is to work on estimating the financial impact of not purchasing. For example:

  • Sales Pro: The price for this kind of offering has been going up every year. My fear is that if you don't purchase now, you'll end up regretting it next year, when you know you have to purchase.
By the way, if you keep on encountering objections end up in a discussion about price, you're not laying the groundwork for a successful sale. This is always a signal that you need to do a better job of differentiating your offering.

CLICK for step #4 »

STEP #4: Reframe the Importance of the Objection
As any experience sales pro can attest, most objections can be overcome by comparing them to the benefits of the offering. For example:
  • Prospect: "The taxes are too high on that house."
  • Sales Pro: "Yes, the taxes are a higher than the surrounding neighborhoods, which is probably why the public schools are so much better. Which is of greater concern to you, the taxes or the quality of education your children will receive?"
You have to do this subtly, though. The worst thing you can do is make the customers look foolish for having an objection. For example, here's what NOT to do:
  • Prospect: "I heard this is not a good area for property appreciation."
  • Sales Pro: "Whoever told you that doesn't know anything real estate."
  • Prospect: "My mother told me that."
Here's a better approach to this situation:
  • Prospect: "I heard this is not a good area for property appreciation."
  • Sales Pro: "We can check the appreciation rates when we get back to my office. Would that be critical to your decision about making a purchase in this area?"
Another common approach is to reframe the metrics. While this technique involves some quick math, it's generally worth the extra effort. Here's a classic example:
  • Prospect: "That computer is $1,000 more than I want to pay."
  • Sales Pro: "I can appreciate that. You know, $1,000 comes down to about $.25 a day for the length of time that you'll have the computer. Is the extra horsepower worth an extra $.25 a day to you?
CLICK for step #5 »
STEP #5: Confirm That the Objection is No Longer Important

After you've answered an objection, you MUST get the customer to agree that you've answered it. This prevents the objection from resurfacing later. The reason this is important is simple. People feel inconsistent and foolish if they bring up issues that they've already agreed are no longer important. For example:
  • Prospect: "We don't have the money in this year's budget."
  • Sales Pro: "That's O.K. We can finance the investment so part of it falls into next year's budget. Does that work for you?
  • Prospect: "I guess so."
  • Sales Pro: "So that settles that, doesn't it?"
  • Prospect: "Right."
CLICK for step #6 »

STEP #6: Change the Subject and Move Forward
Once you've gotten the customer to agree that an objection has been answered, don't dwell on it. That's only going to make it come alive from the dead!

Instead, change the subject by asking a question on an unrelated matter. The classic approach is to bring up the benefits of the offering. For example:

  • Sales Pro: "...and so that's all taken care of, right?"
  • Prospect: "Right."
  • Sales Pro: "Great! By the way, did you notice that our reference accounts include some of the largest companies in the world..."
Needless to say, you're going to want to move the sale toward the close. I'll explain how to do that here...

CLICK for a Summary and Helpful Links »


SUMMARY AND HELPFUL LINKS
  • STEP #1: Silently Celebrate the Objection
  • STEP #2: Restate the Objection and Ask for Details
  • STEP #3: Discover if it's a Roadblock or a Speedbump
  • STEP #4: Reframe the Importance of the Objection
  • STEP #5: Confirm That the Objection is No Longer Important
  • STEP #6: Change the Subject and Move Forward
HELPFUL LINKS: