The word "no" can be a tough pill to swallow.
In selling, when you're trying to meet a quota, squeeze in an extra deal before the end of the quarter, or get your bonus, the word "no" is too often interpreted as a sign to run for the hills.
Worse, some salespeople see most objections as a call to battle. With this attitude, it’s no wonder they handle sales objections poorly. However, when we break it down, you can see that objections can actually be a good thing.
What is a sales objection?
A sales objection is an explicit expression by a buyer that a barrier exists between the current situation and what needs to be satisfied before buying from you. In other words, it's a clear signal that you have more work to do in the selling process.
The Most Common Sales Objections
Sales objections often signal that you haven’t made the value proposition case to the buyer as powerfully as possible. Typically, sales objections fall into one of the following categories:
- Need: Buyer doesn't yet perceive, or doesn't yet admit, the need to solve a problem.
- Urgency: Buyer doesn't yet see why the issue is pressing.
- Trust: Buyer feels uncertainty about you, your solution, your company, or your outcomes.
- Money: Buyer communicates that money is going to be an issue.
Sound familiar? While these common sales objections might seem like steep hills to overcome, don’t despair: an objection indicates that the buyer is engaged, which sure beats apathy.
But you still have work to do.
A 4-Step Approach to Overcoming Sales Objections
When a buyer indicates that they’re not ready to buy, don't get discouraged. Use the following four steps to overcome sales objections and move closer to the sale.
Take a 4-Step Approach to Overcome Sales Objections
1. Listen Fully to the Objection
Your first reaction when you hear an objection may be to jump right in and respond immediately. Resist this temptation. When you react too quickly, you risk making assumptions about the objection. Instead:
- Take the time to listen to the objection fully
- Don't react defensively
- Train yourself to ignore any negative emotions you may be feeling
- Stay focused on what the buyer is saying and the business problem you’re helping to solve
- Listen with the intent of fully understanding the buyer's concerns without bias or anticipation
- Allow your body language and verbal confirmations to communicate to the buyer that you're listening intently
2. Understand the Objection Completely
Many objections hide underlying issues that the buyer can't or isn't ready to articulate. Often the true issue isn't what the buyer first tells you. It's your job to get to the heart of the objection—to fully understand it and its true source.
To do this, ask permission from the buyer to understand and explore the issue. From there, restate the concern as you understand it. Sometimes when you restate the objection, the buyer sees the issue more fully, and you get closer to the true source of the objection as a result.
Even after the buyer confirms you understand perfectly, ask "What else?" and "Why" questions for clarification. Often, it’s the answer to that last "What else?" that contains the biggest objection you need to overcome to move the sale forward.
3. Respond Properly
After you're confident you've uncovered all objections, address the most important objection first. Once you work through the greatest barrier to moving forward, other concerns may no longer matter as much to the buyer.
You should do your best to resolve their issue right away if possible. The more effectively you can resolve issues in real time, the greater chance you have of moving the sale forward. If you need more information to resolve a specific concern, you may have to look something up or investigate further.
Don't wing it—when buyers sense a seller is ad libbing, it creates distrust. Long-winded responses can seem insincere, too, so keep your responses clear and to the point.
4. Confirm You've Satisfied the Objection
Once you've responded to the buyer's objections, check if you've satisfied all of their concerns. Just because they nodded during your response doesn't mean they agreed with everything you said. Ask if the buyer is happy with your solution and explain your solution further if necessary. Sometimes you need to go through a process to overcome sales objections, rather than a quick answer or a-ha moment.
If the buyer isn't ready, don't try to force a commitment. Be sure not to accept a lukewarm "yes" for an answer though, either. Many buyers will accept a solution in the moment, but once you're out of sight or off the phone, the objection still remains.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind When Dealing with Money Objections in Sales
The four-step approach outlined above applies to all kinds of sales objections. However, let’s focus on one of the trickiest, most common objections: money.
Strategies for Responding to Money Objections
To overcome money objections without lowering your margins, keep the following guidelines in mind:
Choose your words wisely: As much as you might like to respond, “You get what you pay for,” or, “Those are our fees and we’re worth every penny,” don’t. There's no glib, pat answer to money objections.
It’s not all about the money: Price is often a “red herring” objection. Work to uncover the real objection. (Refer to the 6 types of money objections below.) Ask questions. Find out if money is really the issue with one simple question: “If money wasn’t an object, what then?” This will usually lead you to the root objection to the sale.
Get back to value: Communicate a clear picture of the value of the solution you established in the selling process. The right buyer can usually “find” the money if the value is too strong to pass up—if the solution you’ve proposed answers their needs especially well. Most times when buyers say, “Your price is too high,” what they’re really saying is, “I don't see the value of your solution.”
Ask, “Which part don’t you want?” Review the component parts of the solution. This may lead to either a reduction in scope or having the buyer realize the whole package is the best solution.
Don’t talk cost structure: You’ll end up going down a slippery slope if you start justifying your price by what your costs are.
Don’t drop price in a vacuum: If you’re willing to simply drop your price, you’re telling buyers this is the way you operate. Instead, explore new possibilities, change scope, or make a trade that could change the price. An arbitrary price reduction can sow mistrust and set the precedent for lower prices for as long as you work with that buyer. Always trade for value.
Maintain a peer relationship: Don't appear to look upward for guidance at your organization, even if you might have to.
Be sure you’re talking with the decision maker: You may be dealing with the wrong buyer who isn't high enough in the organization, or isn't the economic decision maker. Money is certainly an objection for them because they can't pull the trigger even if they wanted to.
6 Types of Money Objections
Money objections come in many different flavors and they often mean something entirely different. Work to get to the heart of the objection. Here are 6 common money objections, what they sound like, and what they mean:
What the buyer says: “Wow, that’s a lot. Can we do it for less?”
What it means: This comes from the buyer who always asks for a price reduction because it’s worked in the past. Their philosophy is that it can’t hurt to ask.
What the buyer says: “Oh, I don’t have the money. We’ll need to do it for less.”
What it means: The buyer has the money, but doesn’t want you to know that. It’s a ploy to see how low you’ll go.
What the buyer says: “It costs too much. Money is going to be a problem.”
What it means: The buyer doesn’t see the value your solution delivers. Perhaps they can’t justify spending more than they did previously.
What the buyer says: “It’s not in the budget.”
What it means:
- (a) It’s true, and they’d like to see what can be worked out.
- (b) It’s true, and they’re using that as a bargaining chip.
- (c) It’s not true, and they’re just saying it.
What the buyer says: “We received other proposals and your price is the highest.”
What it means:
- (a) It’s true, and they’re using that as a bargaining chip.
- (b) It’s not true, or at least not the whole truth.
What the buyers says: “Too much money. Call me back if you can go lower.”
What it means:
- (a) It’s a bluff, they assume you’ll come back with a lower price.
- (b) It’s not a bluff, they hope you’ll lower price to do business.
It’s important to follow the strategies outlined above for dealing with each of these types of money objections.
Overcoming Sales Objections Is about Keeping Your Eyes on the Prize
When faced with sales objections, don't lose sight of your end goal: overcome the sales objection and make advances towards gaining commitment from the buyer.
In a transactional sale, sellers are taught to overcome objections at all costs. This doesn't work for more complex sales. If you just plow through the objection without addressing it fully, the underlying reason for the objection will usually come back to haunt you.
Remember, you have to work with these people once you're done selling to them!
We also like to remind salespeople that objections have merit: they're often a sign that something else is going on. Your purpose is to understand the objection fully, isolate it, and respond to it appropriately—not necessarily rebut, counter, and argue. You may need to build a case for overcoming an objection instead of answering quickly on the fly.
Use the four steps to Listen, Understand, Respond and Confirm, and you’ll strengthen your relationships with buyers, overcome obstacles in the buying process, and move closer to the sale.
For more tips on overcoming sales objections, download our complimentary white paper, How to Handle Sales Objections.