Objection Handling in Sales: Everything You Need to Know

March 14, 2019

Shawn Parrotte

We get it. Objection handling is tough. In fact, 35% of sales leaders believe objection handling is the biggest challenge their sellers face. We’re here to help you understand how to handle objections like a pro.

In order to better understand how to counter objections, let’s try and understand the psyche of the buyer a little better first.

Why Do Buyers Object? #

The first step to handling objections is to really understand what drives customers to object in the first place. Often, there’s a motive lurking beneath objections and by being proactive you will be able to mitigate the true concern.

Some of the most common reasons people object that can be proactively handled with the right talk track and resources include:

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1. Lack of Knowledge #

In some cases, prospects object because they lack knowledge about your product or category that is critical to evaluating your solution. When you are already in a sales conversation with such a prospect, it is the rep’s job to ensure they have the knowledge they need to make an informed buying decision.

The best way to navigate these types of objections is by building a “buying guide” with your marketing team. A buying guide will provide a high level overview of your product and services, as well as answer FAQs. It will include elements of social proof e.g. case studies or testimonials and also outline the implementation process, including other roles who need to be involved in a decision.

Sometimes, people object because they lack knowledge about their own internal processes, which is often a red flag. It implies you may be selling to someone who does not have the authority to buy. Reps need to work hard early on to qualify that the prospect understands how to navigate internal processes. They need to be able to sell your solution internally and make processes fall in place. If not, you will undoubtedly face objections later on in the sales process.

2. Specific, Warranted Concern #

Sometimes, a prospect objects because they have a valid concern. For instance, if your product is not yet GDPR compliant and that’s a requirement, it’s best to address the objection head-on and acknowledge that you understand why your prospect feels the way they do.

Share a “Plan B” that can be applied if the concern is warranted, or acknowledge that while your team is working on solving for that objection, you are still further along than any alternatives. For every common objection that is warranted, it is critical that sellers are provided with talking points from marketing or sales enablement since these are often the most difficult objections to handle.

3. Hidden Agenda #

A prospect may also object because they really want to use a different solution and got pulled into a sales conversation with you forcibly or to prove that they’ve done their due diligence.

The best way to handle “hidden agenda” objections is by being proactive and candid as often as possible. Early on in the process ask the prospect what other solutions they are considering, if any, and if their team is debating not doing this at all. If your prospect is using a competitive solution, ask them if they’re satisfied with it and where, if anywhere, the relationship could stand to improve.

4. Perception Issue #

Perception matters and don’t we know it! Prospects can sometimes jump into a sales process with pre-existing notions and biases about your product or solution. And this may not be in line with how you perceive it. For instance, the prospect may come from a background where cloud-based solutions are perceived as a security risk. How do you then sell them SaaS software?

In such scenarios, it is critical that you develop educational materials and talking points that help change that perception e.g. in the above situation, highlight why your solution is secure, easy-to-use, credible, and trustworthy.

These things are table stakes. Early on ask your prospect for feedback by saying “Does our solution meet all of the requirements you have? Do you have any concerns?” -- don’t wait for the prospect to tell you or to find out later by surprise!

5. Unclear Communication #

Prospects also make the same mistakes as everyone else - sometimes they fail to communicate clearly what their expectations are. Or change what they say and so you get caught with an unexpected objection. Rather than tell you “this isn’t a priority” or “my team is not understanding how we’ll drive ROI/value,” the prospect hedges and the sales cycle drags on.

Constantly ask very specific questions throughout the sales process, such as “What is standing in our way”or “Does your team believe this is a priority?” Slowly build the ability to read verbal or non-verbal cues that tell you what the prospect really means.

How Do Top Reps Handle Objections? #

We analyzed >85,000 sales rep responses to competitor mentions as well as ~10,000 responses to topics that were deemed “problems and issues” using the Chorus.ai Conversation Intelligence Platform to learn what top reps do differently when it comes to handling objections.

Specifically, we looked at topics like:

  • The pause between the customer’s utterance and the beginning of a rep’s response.
  • Whether or not the initial response (first utterance) contained a question
  • The speech rate change compared to the speaker’s average rate in the call

Through our analysis we found that top reps handle objections by being well-prepared, knowledgeable, confident, calm, and consistent. When we compared the objection handling capabilities of top reps with others we found:

  • Top reps respond up to 50% faster than other reps as well as their own average during the rest of the conversation. A quicker response seems to indicate pre-knowledge or having dealt with that specific objection successfully in the past. A quick response demonstrates calm reassurance in product capability more than a poignant pause can.
  • However, top reps do not change their speech rate while responding to an objection. They speak just as fast as they’d speak otherwise. A faster speech rate may be perceived as a lack of confidence and a desire to quickly move on the next topic. On the other hand, a slower than normal speech rate may be perceived as an attempt to come up with an answer on the spot (as opposed to knowing the right response)
  • Top reps also address objections head-on. In 80% cases, the rep took a good 32 seconds on average before asking a follow-up question. So a tight objection-specific talk track is seen as an effective response by the prospect (after which they’re happy to provide more details). Following up an objection with an immediate question does not seem to be a best practice.

6 Tactics to Adopt When Responding to Objections #

Outside of being calm, confident and well-prepared, there are six other common strategies used to handle objections. These include:

Gratitude #

Thank the prospect for sharing their concerns and communicating candidly with you. You want to encourage this behavior.

Example: I really appreciate you being upfront about this. And I’m happy to inform you that we work successfully with other customers with similar challenges.

Empathy #

Let the prospect know you understand how they could feel the way they do even if you disagree with the objection so that you don’t appear combative.

Example: Let me first say, I completely understand where you’re coming from. Jack Dowson of Acme Inc. also said something very similar to me last week.

Discovery #

When necessary, ask questions to better understand the objection and what’s motivating it.

Example: Just so I have the right response or solution for you, can you tell me / explain what you mean when you say...

Confirmation #

Another way to dig deeper into the objection is to state your understanding of it and confirm that you are hearing the prospect correctly. This helps mix empathy and discovery.

Example: I think I understand where you are coming from. To confirm, you mean to say that you are no longer going to consider us over X competitor because...?

Value #

A great way to counter an objection is by showing demonstrable value through support materials or a revised offer.

Example: Do you think your executive team would consider this if we showed you how you could add $100K to your topline within 3 months?

Proof #

An ROI model is great but an actual instance or customer proof is even better. Leverage the power of case studies, testimonials, and client references to approach the objection from a third-party point of view.

Example: What would you think if I organized a call with Jack Dowson of Acme Inc. who could talk to how they used our solution to add $100K to their topline in 3 months?

8 Top Objections & Suggested Responses #

There are several common objections that you will undoubtedly face in the sales process. Here are eight of the most frequent objections picked up by Chorus’s advance AI solution. We have also added suggested talk tracks on how to handle them.

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Objection 1. “Your price is too high” or “We don’t have budget for this” #

Pricing objections come up for a variety of reasons. They can mean that you did not qualify your prospect’s budget well enough early on, or that you haven’t demonstrated enough value for the cost.

They can also be a sign that your prospect is not educated about how to purchase in your category or that another person is blocking the deal internally, perhaps because they want to use that budget for their own priorities or are not fully understanding how your solution will drive a return.

Either way, the best way to handle a pricing objection (and any objection) is to first share a point of view or story. Respond with confidence that your pricing strategy is well-researched, in line with market pricing, and justified. For example, you could explain the components that make up your price and the costs that you incur as a business to support customers. Follow that up with a question so you can dig deeper into the objection and at the same time steer the conversation towards value.

Questions to Ask:

  • “Can you tell me a little bit more about why you feel the price is too high? What price were you expecting?”
  • “Do you see price being a major obstacle in the process?”
  • “What would need to happen to make the offering worth the price I quoted you?”
  • “How do you think this price compares to the value you will get from it within X months?”

If the real challenge is that the prospect is not understanding the value you provide or another person in the decision-making process is pushing back, there are several things you can do.

Best Practices:

  • Set up an alignment call to walk everyone through each line item and how it justifies the cost so that the prospect is clear on the entire value of your offer
  • Use an ROI calculator to prove the topline value or create a business case to jointly make the case
  • Demonstrate the cost of doing nothing at all
  • Share educational materials on how to measure success in your category
  • Share testimonials and case studies
  • Connect the prospect with a client who can share their experience by phone

Objection 2.“I don’t believe this will work for us” #

That clearly signals that the prospect doesn’t believe this solution can work or that there is a major hurdle that cannot be crossed. You can handle this objection by using an anecdote from another customer who felt the same way and hesitated, but ultimately came on and saw quick results. Alternately, think of other people in the company they can talk to in order to get past their objection.

Question to Ask:

  • To further clarify this objection, try asking “Why?” and “What would need to happen to change that?”

If you uncover that the prospect is really more concerned that your solution won’t work at all, try the following.

Best Practices:

  • Jointly make a business case and walk through it on an alignment call
  • Demonstrate the cost of doing nothing at all
  • Walk through a buying guide so the prospect is more comfortable with the next steps in the process and how to measure success
  • Share testimonials and case studies
  • Connect the prospect with a client who can share their experience by phone
  • Connect the prospect internally to a subject matter expert
  • Re-frame the offer and start smaller

When all else fails, establish when it will be a better time to talk about implementing your solution and recognize that not everyone will be ready yet. Ensure you or your marketing team nurtures this prospect until you want to get back in touch with them again. Keep the relationship alive by adding value even when you are not in an active buying process with them.

Objection 3. “This is not a priority” or “This is not a good time” #

While somewhat similar to the last objection, this objection often signals that you may be speaking to a prospect who doesn’t have authority to re-prioritize projects. Or, you may be pursuing an account that will not buy right now and need to focus on more qualified opportunities while continuing to educate this prospect on why to make your solution a priority.

When the reality is the first scenario, you need to find creative ways to get in front of more senior decision-makers without “going around” your prospect.

There are several ways to do this without annoying your current prospect.

Best Practices:

  • Ask your champion to introduce you and say you’d love to help jointly make the business case together or host an educational workshop for the larger team
  • Have your CEO or sales leader reach out
  • Get personally connected through someone in your network
  • Meet them at a conference or event
  • Engage with them on social media or by referencing their thought-leadership, such as interviews or articles

When all else fails, this is one objection that can often signal you need to focus on other. Sometimes the best move for you is qualify a prospect out, so you can focus on opportunities that are more likely to convert.

Objection 4. “I’ll buy from you if you add “X” feature” #

Sometimes prospects are looking for a solution that is different from what you currently offer. That’s okay, but it’s critical that your team aligns on what types of product changes you will and will not pursue in a given timeframe.

First, consider using an anecdote from another customer who felt they needed that feature, but ultimately were able to drive results without it. Once you are able to establish that others have successfully found their way past this objection, you can dig deeper into the prospect’s specific situation.

Questions to Ask:

  • “Why is this feature so necessary to you right now?”
  • “How would you use a feature like this?”
  • “Do you think we could still provide value to you without providing this feature?”
  • “If we can’t provide this feature, what alternatives would you consider?”

Best Practices:

  • When a product request is necessary and expected you can handle this objection by clearly communicating a timeline or asking the prospect to provide support in getting that feature built alongside you, such as development resources, additional payment, or contributions to a product council.
  • However, if the product request is a distraction, it’s better to share a POV with your prospect on why they either do not actually need this feature or how they can get it otherwise through a recommended partner.
  • Use social proof, such as case study videos and testimonials, to highlight the fact that others with similar challenges were able to drive the results they needed with your Product as-is.
  • Be careful to avoid handling this objection by just saying “yes” to every request rather than developing a scalable roadmap and qualification process.

Objection 5. “We’re already working with X competitor”

There are several ways to read this objection. The first is that the prospect may be working with a competitor and happy with them. Often, your prospect is the one who brought your competitor in, and you should not forget that.

The second is that they are unhappy, but currently under contract and not able to spend more now on your solution. There are multiple ways to respond to such an objection.

If your prospect is already using another vendor and happy with them, you need to identify an area where you can uniquely offer something the competitor cannot to compliment their offering.

Sample Response 1. (Comparative)

  • "That's good to hear — [competitor] is a great company. In fact, we run into them in our sales cycle every now and then. Companies that choose to transfer on to our platform often find that our product makes accomplishing [X goal] much easier, since it has [unique benefit #1] and [unique benefit #2]."

Alternately, you can send a quick point of view on questions to ask that vendor that will highlight some of the vendor’s shortcomings when compared to your offering.

Sample Response 2. (Proof)

  • "At this point, I'm not asking you to rip anything out. I'd just like the opportunity to show you how we're different and how we've provided additional value to our customers. I can present some use cases of other companies like [names of customers] who considered both of us and still chose to work with us.”

If the prospect engages further, you can potentially pull together a proposal to show how you would approach their business differently and drive better results through your solution. If you have a case study or testimonial from another client who made the switch, share it or connect the two by phone. In order to provide a better response, considering asking some follow up questions.

Questions to Ask:

  • “What are they providing for you currently? Are you happy with their product services?”
  • “What types of results are you seeing with them?”
  • “Could anything be going better?”
  • “What do you like best about working with them?”
  • “Have they ever let you down?”
  • “Will you evaluate other partners in the future, and if so, when does that process begin?”

If you uncover that there is no near-term opportunity to unseat a competitor, continue to educate your prospect and share your unique market positioning while focusing on other accounts.

Objection 6. “We’re going with X competitor instead” #

While unfortunate, sometimes in the sales process you find out that your prospect has selected a competitor. If they have not yet signed a contract, it’s time to go to work on this objection immediately.

First, use an anecdote from another customer who either switched from that vendor to your solution or went with that vendor and later on regretted it.

If you don’t have an example like this, use these questions.

Questions to Ask:

  • “I sincerely appreciate your feedback because it helps us improve our offering. Can you please tell me who you are going with instead and what motivated the decision to select them over us?”
  • “Is there any way we could change our offer that would lead you to select us over them?”
  • “How do you think the post sale experience will be with them?”

Once you learn a little bit more, it’s critical that you do the following.

Best Practices:

  • Send a quick point of view on questions to ask that vendor that will highlight some of their shortcomings when compared to your offering.
  • Share an anecdote about a customer who tried that vendor and regretted it or re-committed to your solution
  • Offer to connect the prospect with a reference and share case studies/testimonials
  • Re-submit a better offer and walk their team through the proposal
  • Find an opportunity to network in person

Often this is the time to bring in an executive, sale engineer, head of analytics or other member of the team to support you.

Objection 7. “Just email me more information.” #

Prospects who ask you to email them more information are either really busy or, more likely than not, not convinced that this is a priority right now. This is often the case on cold calls.

This is one scenario in which you may want to follow up with a question sooner than other objections. Before you send anything, use these questions to understand what would intrigue them the most.

Questions to Ask:

  • “Sure thing! What information will be useful for you?”
  • “Sure thing! Out of curiosity, at this stage do you want more information just for learning purposes and to have it on file, or do you want to seriously evaluate using a solution like ours?”
  • “If I send you this information and you read through it, what’s the likelihood that you will want to reconnect to talk about our solution?”
  • “Is there someone else on your team I should be connecting with who would make decisions about our solution?”

Objection 8. “I will need to sell this internally to others.” #

It’s a great sign when your prospect clearly communicates with you about the process. However, you don’t typically want your prospect to sell your solution in to others on their own since this can sometimes lead to misalignment or things getting lost in translation, especially if your offering is complex.

To handle this objection, it’s critical that you get the prospect bought in on working as a team so that you can set them up for success. So first, explain why they need to work with you to sell it internally and how you can do most of the heavy lifting for them and they can continue to own the relationships internally. Once you have them convinced they need your help, find out more on who and what they need help with.

Questions to Ask:

  • “Who else needs to be convinced?”
  • “Can I help you make the case during an alignment call?”
  • “What materials do you need to be successful?”
  • “Would it help if we jointly presented the business case?”
  • “What materials do you need to sell this in successfully?”
  • “What red flags can you anticipate or things that might stand in our way?”

When No Means No #

Sometimes no just means no and it’s time to move on. However, before you do, it’s important to learn as much as you can from the experience, especially if the loss was a particularly painful one in a category you are trying to own or a strategic account.

Questions to Ask:

  • “I’d love to understand where our offering fell short so we can improve it”
  • “I’d love to understand where I could have improved my process to support you as your account executive”

Use this feedback to brainstorm with your team about new ways to deliver or show value. Share insights with marketing that help them understand how the market is thinking about the problem you’re trying to solve. Consider ideas to improve the sales narrative and materials.

How Other Functions Can Support Sales in Objection Handling #

It’s naive to think that successful sellers are just naturals at handling objections. The reality is successful sellers are often the ones who were best trained and supported by other functions and roles with things like sales collateral, talk tracks, feedback. It truly takes a village to handle all of the objections your sellers will face.

And, almost every team at your organization has a role to play.

Product Marketing & Sales Enablement #

Marketing and sales enablement need to lead trainings and create materials that help sales handle objections. They should be responsible for owning the talk tracks the team uses and ensuring everyone is aligned. At Chorus, our team also builds playlists of recorded calls to help the sales team hear how to handle some of the most common objections.

Customer Success #

Client success should work hard to uncover potential case studies, testimonials, and client references that can be used. They should contribute to content that highlights best practices.

Product Management #

Product should support objections with a clear product roadmap, dates, and trainings so the team can “sell the future vision” without over-promising. Product should be willing to join necessary calls, especially when a deal is at risk due to a feature or functionality.

Sales Ops #

The data and analytics team should work hard to help reps make an ROI case and measure the effectiveness of the product. They should build credibility through thought-leadership and, when necessary, by joining calls to dispel concerns about ROI or value.

Executive Team #

Many companies assign an executive sponsor to major deals so that they can handle objections with people at the top or continue to make the prospect feel special. Executives play a big role in building trust when handling objections and their presence can especially demonstrate commitment to key prospects in highly competitive deals.

Chorus Takeaways #

  1. Uncover the “why” motivating the objection.
  2. Approach the objection with confidence by sharing a point of view or anecdote before digging in
  3. Use discovery and confirmation questions to understand the objection in detail
  4. Back your business case up with value and reference points
  5. Recognize when “no means no” and learn from losses
  6. Support sales by ensuring that all teams play a role in handling objections

Suggested Further Reading #

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