Objection Handling: 6 Bedrock Principles That Can Get You to “Yes"

November 27, 2019

Sara Howshar

“I’m running into a meeting.”

“I don’t have budget.”

“Send me an email.”

Sound familiar? These lines are just some examples of common objections sales professionals hear time and again from prospects. And while deflections and rejections come with the territory of sales, that doesn’t mean simply giving up on a hard-earned prospect who throws up a wall.

Becc Holland, Sales Director at Chorus.ai, has some ideas for overcoming prospects’ objections and increasing your ability to drive conversions. In a recent episode of our webinar series “Flip the Script,” Becc explains that the path to more effective objection handling begins when sales pros let go of the typical counter-arguments they’ve been taught to use.

According to Becc, the sales industry’s standard responses to objections just don’t work. For example, the go-to response to “I’m running into a meeting,” is “When is a better time to call?” If the prospect replies, “Never,” then, you’re stuck.

And what about the “Send me an email” deflection? Becc says a sales development rep (SDR) is likely to hear that response when they haven’t driven enough value for the prospect. The prospect isn’t motivated to book time with the rep to learn more about the product or service.

“Ninety-five percent of the objections I hear aren’t real. They are shallow because they don’t have any detail behind them,” says Becc.

So, how do you counter the 95% of objections that aren’t real? Becc offers six “Bedrock Principles” that can help you handle objections easily:

1. Avoid the “parent and child” ego trap #

Becc says we all have three ego states: adult, parent, and child. Not surprisingly (to parents and their children!) there is often friction between those last two states. Give commands like a parent, and a prospect may be inclined to rebel against you, like a child. “Never justify, explain or defend against an objection,” says Becc, “it will only entrench the prospect’s position.”

2. “Pattern Interrupt”: Disrupt the buyer vs. seller dance #

All sales pros face the challenge of shattering the “sleazy salesperson” stereotype that many prospects hold in their minds. Showing you are human is a simple way to do that, according to Becc. She says that when her SDRs have bad calls with prospects, she learns it’s often because they panicked and, in turn, took exactly the wrong approach. “They weren’t expecting the prospect to pick up the phone, so they lost the thread of what they were going to say, and then the prospect rightly hung up,” she says.

Everybody makes mistakes of course. So, when her reps face a situation like the one described above, Becc encourages them to show their human side and emotional intelligence and call the prospect right back. “I tell them to be upfront about why they messed up the call,” she says.

3. Address the elephant in the room #

Becc attributes her own sales success largely to this third Bedrock Principle. “In sales, we are trained to think that the way to push our numbers is to push our prospects and ignore all the normal cues. But really, you should never ignore cues the prospect gives you,” says Becc.

So, for instance, if you call a prospect and ask how they are doing, and they clearly respond with a tone of voice that indicates they aren’t doing very well, resist the temptation to plow ahead with your pitch. Instead, step back, and acknowledge that something is amiss. “Tell the prospect that they don’t sound as if everything is good, and ask them if you made a mistake. They’ll appreciate that you were willing to go off-script to make sure they were okay,” says Becc.

4. Fall on your sword #

If you can’t get through to a prospect, don’t blame them, says Becc: “I take full accountability if my outreach isn’t working.”

To demonstrate the principle of falling on your sword, Becc offers some guidance on messaging to use in a breakup email that puts the responsibility for failure on you instead of the prospect:

  • Don’t say: “I’ve tried several times to connect with you without success ...”
  • Do say: “Hi, I just wanted to duck my head in one more time and make sure I haven’t overstepped my bounds here. I tried to reach out but I wasn’t able to earn some of your time … ”

Remember: The prospect isn’t failing to respond, you are failing to engage them enough to elicit a response, says Becc.

5. Assume the mentee chair #

For most people, helping others is natural because it feels good on a deep level. And that’s why Becc says she always asks her prospects for advice when she’s able to engage with them.

So, even if a prospect isn’t “the right person” for you to talk to, they can still be a goldmine of information that can get you to the right person. They can also give you insight into the company you can’t find elsewhere. Becc says that allowing the prospect to share their knowledge with you also builds rapport and helps you establish an “internal team” at the target company.

6. Embrace self-deprecation #

SDRs make a lot of calls and send a lot of emails in the course of prospecting. Becc says it’s okay to acknowledge that reality with prospects, and even make light of it. She says that she sometimes deploys self-deprecation by referring to herself in follow-up emails as “that annoying salesperson who keeps calling and emailing … ”

So, how do you apply these principles in practice? #

The trick, says Becc, is to be ready to deploy the Bedrock Principles in meaningful ways to address specific objections. Here’s how that looks, for example, when a prospect objects to a cold call by saying, “Send me an email.”

  • First, Becc introduces a pattern interrupt (Bedrock Principle #2) to get out of the typical buyer-seller dance, by saying: “Can I level with you? I’ve been getting that response a lot lately from people … ”
  • Then, she addresses the elephant in the room (Bedrock Principle #3): “... and I’m getting the feeling that’s just you saying, ‘Go away, you annoying sales rep.’ Did I get that right?”
  • When the prospect admits that’s the case (which they usually do), Becc says she immediately empathizes: “I get it. I say the same thing to cold callers when I get the call.”
  • Then, she hits them with an upfront contract: “Give me 30 seconds to give you my best dog-and-pony show on who Chorus.ai is, and how I think we can help you. And at the end of that 30 seconds, you can tell me if you want to continue the conversation. Fair?”

Responding to email objections: Try picking up the phone first #

As for email, Becc says countering objections can be a bit more challenging. “In a cold call, you have the prospect on the spot,” she explains, which is exactly why she will pick up the phone to respond to shallow objections she receives in emails. In fact, she’ll try to reach the prospect by phone three times on that same day. “At that point, what do you have to lose?” she says.

If the prospect doesn’t pick up the call, your next move is to apply Bedrock Principle #5 and “fall on your sword,” says Becc. Send a simple email that:

  • Leads with a follow-up action.
  • Includes a fall-on-the-sword statement.
  • Offers personalized value-add without any agenda and then, sprinkles in a little “prospect fandom.”
  • Ends with a hard walkout.

This is how such an email might look:

“Hi, Becc. No worries, I won’t send you any more messages, but I really hope I didn’t overstep my bounds. Given your competition with XYZ company, I thought you might enjoy this article. So excited about where your company is headed. Let me know if I can provide any support to you or your team down the line.”

In this example, Becc says she would attach an article of interest to the prospect, but not one authored by her company. “You want to offer some kind of value-add in this last interaction, but also make sure you are hitting all the right flavors before you walk out the door,” she says.

Above all, Becc says to remember that the objective is always to try to garner a response. After all, the only objection you can’t counter is no response.

“By deploying these principles in a thoughtful and strategic way, you can learn more about the prospect, perhaps gain insight into their company, and just maybe, find out their pain points. And once you have the pain points identified, then you have a great shot at conversion,” Becc says.

To learn how Becc addresses other specific cold-call and email objections, including the dreaded “Unsubscribe,” check out the full webinar here.

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