I’ve led teams of over 100 employees through recessions, corporate pullbacks, and market turmoil. As you can imagine, selling was a struggle through all of it. We learned very quickly that the biggest obstacle to closing new business isn’t the objections themselves, it’s how the team manages the objections.
The key to effective objection handling is using a question-based framework that puts the prospect at ease. When done tactfully, the prospect will come to their own conclusion that moving forward is the best decision to make. I’ll walk you through all the steps to managing common objections, including diving deeper with a simple questioning framework, and following objections with gratitude and empathy.
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First, let’s tackle a few basics:
What is objection handling?
Objection handling is how a seller addresses a prospect’s concerns about purchasing a product or service during the sales process, often related to timing, price, or stakeholder buy-in. We commonly think of objections surfacing after the sales pitch, but they can happen as early as a cold call and as late in the process as contract negotiations.
Why is objection handling important?
Without objection handling, deal opportunities (and, ultimately, revenue) would disappear at the first mention of a concern or problem. When reps are trained to handle objections successfully, it’s more likely that deals will continue to move through the pipeline and close.
It’s also critical for building trust and long-term relationships: “An objection shows that the prospect is not ready to buy and you need to build more trust,” sales coach Niraj Kapur said.
Successful objection handling addresses their fears and concerns, creating loyalty that can lead to multiple sales.
What are the 4 main types of objections?
While customers may object for many reasons, here are the most common ones:
- Limited resources: “We don’t have budget for this.”
- Insufficient buy-in from stakeholders: “I need to check with a decision maker.”
- Redundancy: “We already have a solution in place for this.”
- Bad timing: “This isn’t a priority right now.”
The reality is that when prospects give you an objection near the close, the first objection is usually a superficial objection with other potential underlying concerns. The mistake many reps make is then trying to handle what they believe to be the objection and then getting hit with multiple other objections following it, leading to increased sales resistance.
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7 steps to perfect objection handling
The steps below work for all of the common objections. I’ve used them for years, and they always deliver. Start by uncovering key motivations and hurdles for your prospect, then dive deeper with the right questions to uncover their “why.” Pair this with gratitude and empathy to show you’re committed to finding a way forward. When you know their unique problem or need, you can deliver a solution that works and overcome the objection.
Here’s how it plays out:
Step 1: Run an effective discovery process before closing objections arise
Before you even get to the demo or ask for their business, spend time on strong, thoughtful discovery that will set you up with a virtually objection-less close. Even if you do get objections at the end, you are now armed with intel that you can use to manage them.
It’s important to utilize a framework because it becomes a “cheat code” to close at the end. I use my P.O.W.E.R.F.U.L. framework to guide this, outlined below. Dive deeper into your prospect conversations by asking about:
P – Pain. Is it so deep that they have to take action immediately? Or maybe it’s latent pain, meaning they know the pain is there, but they’re not thinking about it. Ask the right questions to get them to level 10+ pain.
O – Opportunity costs. What are the opportunity costs? Let’s say they don’t take action for a year — what would the implications be?
W – Wants. What company-related wants does your prospect have and how do these tie into business goals? Maybe the CEO wants to be in the INC. 5000 or triple the size of the company. Uncover these, so you can tie your solution to those goals.
E – Executive-level influence. Who are the decision-makers? Know who is in the buying process, who the stakeholders are, what’s important for their level of clout and influence, and what they really want.
R – Resources. Who controls the budget? That person can change the budget in your favor if they see the value of your solution.
F – Fear of failure. Does your prospect fear that their current solution will lead to failure? Meaning, if they do absolutely nothing (status quo), do they believe they will be in trouble?
U – Unequivocal trust. What does the prospect need in order to trust you and your solution? How do you provide value and service to earn that trust? This is important because at the heart of any sale or relationship is trust. If there is no trust, deals stall and relationships stagnate.
L – Little things. Are you letting little things distract you from securing executive buy-in? A lot of salespeople get caught up in the specifics like, “We have this feature. We could automate this,” and so on, but execs might not be impressed by these. How do you show value and impact instead?
Now with a baseline discovery framework, you’ll follow the rest of the sales process to the point of asking for the business. That’s when the closing objections start coming. Use the remaining steps to overcome them.
Step 2: When objections arise, thank your prospect
An objection is better than a flat “No,” so when you get one, reply with a “Thank you.” This acknowledges the prospect’s concerns, which builds trust and rapport, while opening the door to additional conversation about their needs and pain points. Keep it simple, like: “I really appreciate you sharing that.”
Step 3: Empathize to put your prospect at ease
Say things that validate their objection, like: “I hear this a lot. I’m sorry you feel that way. It sounds like this has been very frustrating,” or “I hear what you’re saying and I think I can help.” By empathizing with the customer, they’re more likely to open up and share information that can help you frame a valuable solution.
Step 4: Ask open-ended questions to uncover the root cause of the objection
If you’ve successfully executed steps 2 and 3, the prospect should feel more at ease and you want to now take time to uncover what’s really going on. Don’t ask yes/no questions — you want the prospect to share as much information as possible, and one-word answers don’t give you much to work with. Ask open-ended questions that will help you understand what’s on their mind, and use what you learned in step 1 to guide your questioning.
For example, if the objection was “I can’t get approval on this,” you might ask, “When you say ‘I can’t get approval on this’…what do you mean, specifically?” Next, you want to make sure that once you overcome this specific objection that they do not come back and hit you with another objection, forcing you to go back and forth with them. This can be as simple as “Aside from X concern, is there anything on your mind that’s holding you back from being less than 100% certain this is the exact solution your company needs?”
This is where you want to spend the majority of your time. Imagine the objection is an onion and your questions are like a knife that is peeling the layers back to show you the core of the onion.
Once you feel that you truly understand what’s on their mind, head to the next step.
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Step 5: Urge the prospect to tell you what they like about your product
Yes, you read that correctly. You’re going to re-clarify the value, but you’re going to have the prospect do it. It goes like this: “Remind me again: What did you like most about our solution?” That’s it. Stop talking. Once they start telling you what they like, it will help reframe their mind. And you’ll see if you’ve done a good job on the front end articulating the value your product or solution offers and how it aligns to what you uncovered in your discovery phase.
Step 6: Tie it all together
Fill in the blanks and connect the dots. If they forgot something that they liked but noted earlier, bring it back up. Reiterate some of your key talking points. Show them how your product will address pain points articulated in step 4, or get them to their desired result.
Step 7: Back your claims up with proof and customer references
Claiming your product is the perfect solution is one thing, but backing your statements in step 6 with industry research, customer references, social proof, or case studies is more effective. The more tailored these are to the needs of your prospect, the better. Show them that your product will actually work for their use case and show them why their objection should not exist.
Improve your objection handling today
Successful objection handling is easier said than done. But at the end of the day, it’s about putting the customer first. Take it from Dini Metha, a former chief revenue officer with 15 years of experience: “Be a person before being a salesperson.” In other words, focus on making a genuine connection. That wins out every time.