July 10th, 2018 | by

If you’re dealing with an objection, congratulations! You are working with a decision-maker who has some skin in the game, and they’re taking your proposal seriously. That’s exactly where you want to be.

A study from Gong.io shows that the more negative sentiment you get during calls, especially in later stages, means the prospect is wrestling internally – hoping you can make them feel good.

“We should relish objections,” says Steve Bryerton, DiscoverOrg’s VP of Sales. “You might think that positive signs and positive language are good things, but they’re not. So often, feel-good conversations are with lower-level tire-kickers who don’t want to give you negative news. It can drag on forever.

“I love objections. I seek them out. If you’re NOT getting objections, you’re probably not very close to a sale, because your prospect doesn’t have that uncomfortable feeling of taking a risk. They should feel that they have some skin in the game, and voice concern.”

Concerns. You’ve probably heard them all:

  • “I’m OK with the current situation and don’t feel the need to change.”
  • “It’s too expensive. We don’t have budget.”
  • “I have to focus on other things first. It’s not the right time. Why now?”
  • “We’re too small. We see the value, we’re just not ready.”
  • “We already use another vendor.”

So, how do you handle sales objections?

We talked with three sales leaders at DiscoverOrg to find the perfect response. Hit these 5 points when you get an objection – and add a little ammo to your game, disarm your buyers, and have more productive sales conversations.

1. Validate your prospect’s concern

Here are some common scenarios:

PROSPECT: “I’m worried that your product is more software than we need, and -”
SALESPERSON: “Here’s a case study showing companies YOUR size will LOVE all our features!”

PROSPECT: “It’s too expensive. Your competitor’s product is half the price and has more -”
SALESPERSON: “Our ROI is huge! You can’t afford NOT to buy it!”

These reactionary responses make a prospect feel like a number on a list – and a deer in the headlights. Completely steamrolled. Dismissed.

Yes, you have a great counterpoint to every possible objection under the sun. Now is not the time to wield it. Their concern might be a valid one, or it might be a smokescreen for a different concern. Either way, you want to know.

DiscoverOrg Account Executive Jessica Rogers thinks responding to objections is like dealing with family members: People don’t change their minds very often. And if they do, it won’t be because of a canned, knee-jerk response.

Rogers likes to help prospects understand that their concern is normal: “A lot of companies at your stage are growing out of their solution and aren’t ready to make this kind of change. I’ve worked with a lot of people in your position and get that question a lot. Here are some ways we have solved it …”

“You never want to tell them that they’re wrong,” Rogers says. “I always think about how I can make them feel like they’re right, validated, that their concerns are good. Because they are! If they say ‘I’m looking at your competitor,’ my response is, ‘Great. I am glad you’re doing your due diligence and exploring the market. Here are a few questions I would make sure you get answered…

2. Ask broad, open-ended questions

When you get an objection, ask follow-up questions. Really understand what the objection is. (“Don’t tell them why their objection is invalid,” says Bryerton. “That’s such an amature move.”)

Let them think about it, so you can understand the objection thoroughly.

  1. Respond with a general open-ended question (“What do you mean it’s too expensive?” “Well, how does your budget work?”)
  2. Respond to the status quo (“What problem were you trying to solve when you reached out to us?”) Pain is catalyst for change; fix or avoid something – circle back to value and can solve

Steve Waters, DiscoverOrg’s Director of Sales, says, “Get them to elaborate on their objection as it relates to your solution. ‘Why would you want to wait to Q4 to solve your problem? Why not fix it today?’ You have to get into the details: Either it’s not a real objection, or there are opportunities for collaboration. (Or the prospect simply isn’t a good fit, or it’s really not the right time.)

“If it’s a logistical thing, you can work it out. If it’s a real objection that you can’t get around, then you know and can plan for it. If it’s a smokescreen for something else, now you know what you’re dealing with.”

“Sometimes,” Waters adds, “if you give your prospect the floor, the prospect will talk themselves out of the objection.”

3. The silent … pause

Faced with an objection, it’s natural to be defensive.

Jessica Rogers says the key is being able to take the objective and let it hang. Be quiet. Sit with it. Often, the first objection we give is a small part of a much larger story. If you sit in silence, they will start filling in the gaps. They’ll start talking and keep going.

“I’ll ask, ‘What needs to be in place for this deal to happen? Tell me: If we can overcome X, Y, and Z – can we move forward?’
After then you be quiet and let them talk. Say, ‘I hear you’ and give them time to speak. It’s a lot better than trying to jump down each other’s throat.”

Awkward pauses are the best way to overcome objections, because buyers know your answers are thoughtful.

4. Voice it in someone else’s words

Most people don’t want to disappoint people they like, and so are reluctant to voice their own concerns. That makes it hard for good relationship-based salespeople (like yourself) to understand what their prospects’ objections really are. And you can’t address what you don’t know.

A favorite tactic of Steve Waters is to give prospects an opportunity to speak their objections as though the concern is coming from someone else, like a different stakeholder:

  • “Is your CEO going to want to see this? What concerns do you think they will have?”
  • “How is your business partner going to react? Is there anything else they would want to know?”
  • “Most IT directors have objection X. Is that going to be a concern of your IT director?”

Waters also suggests framing the objection as a common one, along with a favorite solution: “Most sales leaders look at it this way. But you’re looking at it this way. Why?” Find out what they really care about.

“I find that it’s easier to get someone to elaborate on their objections if you put it in the guise of what someone else might think,” says Waters. “In reality, you’re asking, ‘What other objections do YOU have?’ It’s easier for them to pretend it’s someone else’s objections, especially if you developed a great rapport with them.”

5. Go for the no

Steve Bryerton suggests isolating your prospect’s objection – then asking if it’s a deal-breaker.

A big, confusing ball of various fears is hard to tackle; it’s much easier to identify each of the concerns specifically and address them one at a time. Most objections are not deal-breakers.

Bryerton suggests an approach like this:

  • “Pricing seems to be a big concern for you. Should we call it quits and not look forward to generating $X return, because of price?”
  • “Is missing your revenue target an option for you?”
  • “Are you no longer trying to fix X problem? Let’s not forget why we started talking. I’m sure you still want to solve this.”
  • “We started talking about this because you have a major challenge, causing you to miss numbers. You’re concerned about spending $25,000, to grow revenue by $3 million? Should we call it quits because of the $25,000, or is that $3 mil the reason we’re still talking?”

More often than not, Bryerton says, they’re just wrestling with uncertainty. But you should be prepared to walk away.

Finally, to handle objections strategically, Bryerton keeps the benefit to the customer at the heart of any response. He likes to consider both tangible and intangible benefits:

  • Tangible: What does it mean for this individual? How can I make this person a hero, or make their life easier?
  • Intangible: What’s the emotional payoff? At DiscoverOrg, we increase morale on the sales or marketing team: That’s a cost you won’t see on a balance sheet.

To handle objections well, a sales professional must have the prospect’s best interest at heart. And engaged conversation is really about discovering that interest, and using it to frame the conversation and drive toward agreement.

Charity Heller
About the author

Charity Heller

Content Strategist, DiscoverOrg

Charity Heller is DiscoverOrg's content strategy manager. She has 15+ years' experience developing and creating content in range of B2B, B2C, and creative industries; previously she founded and operated a book editing company. Charity earned a B.A. in English, Project Management certification, and Professional Editing Certification from U.C. Berkeley.