Four Types Of Objections That Derail Salespeople
“No” may be a small word, but for salespeople it’s the most dreaded word in the English language. Nothing causes your heart to sink quite like hearing “no” from a prospective customer. This is true not just because it foreshadows a negative impact on your income, but also because it’s incredibly painful to hear.
There’s no way to avoid objections. They’re going to happen. What you can do is learn how to rise above the emotional disruption they cause and, hopefully, save the sale.
There are four types of objections encountered in the sales process, and they occur at various points in the journey. They can stop a sale before it ever gets started, derail your efforts in the middle of the conversation or shut down the deal after weeks, even months, of hard work.
The good news is that when you arm yourself with an arsenal of turnaround frameworks, you can face these roadblocks, get past them and move onto the next stage. Here are the four types of objections salespeople face, along with a few tactics to help you get in the door, shorten the sales cycle, increase pipeline velocity, avoid stalled deals and, of course, close the sale.
1. Prospecting Objections. Of all objections, these are the most severe. People are busy and see little value in spending time with salespeople. Through a combination of reflex responses, brush-offs and objections, they do their best to get rid of you. For this reason, millions of salespeople treat prospecting like the plague and avoid interrupting prospects at any cost. However, if you want success in your sales career, then you’ve got to interrupt prospects.
Know that you are going to get prospecting objections, and they will trigger your disruptive emotions. But it’s possible to rise above your emotions and become effective at turning around prospecting objections. During prospecting, deploy a simple but powerful three-step framework:
- Ledge. A ledge is a memorized, automatic response to perceived or real rejection that does not require you to think. Using a ledge gives your logical brain the moment it needs to catch up, rise above disruptive emotions and gain control.
- Disrupt. Your prospect has been conditioned from hundreds of prospecting calls and expects you to act like every other salesperson. When they tell you no, they have an expectation for what you will most likely do next. To turn around your prospect’s objections, deliver a statement or question that disrupts this pattern and pulls the prospect toward you. For example, when they say they’re busy, instead of arguing with them that you will take only a little bit of their time, disrupt their pattern by agreeing with them: That’s exactly why I called; I figured you would be, and I want to find a time that’s more convenient for you. Or, when they say, “I’m not interested,” respond with: That makes sense. Most people aren’t the first time I call, and that’s exactly why we should meet.
- Ask. Here’s where most prospecting objection turnarounds fall apart. Many salespeople are hesitant to ask again. But you must control your emotions and ask again for what you want, without hesitation. When you ask, about half of the time they’ll throw out another objection—one that tends to be closer to the truth. Be prepared to turn it around and ask again. (Just don’t fight. It isn’t worth it. Once you get two objections, graciously move on and come back to them another day.
2. Red Herrings. A red herring is an irrelevant topic or issue that gets introduced into the conversation by a stakeholder and distracts you from your focus or diverts your attention from the objective of your sales conversation. A stakeholder, typically early in the conversation, will throw out a red herring—sometimes to challenge you, sometimes because they don’t know what else to say, sometimes because it’s their habitual behavior pattern and sometimes because they have a valid concern or question.
A red herring might be something like: “We are already in discussions with your competitor,” or “Just so you know, we’re not buying anything from you today.” Do not take the bait. You must avoid getting drawn in by red herring objections at all costs. When you chase red herrings, you blow up sales calls, skip steps in the sales process, hand control over to stakeholders and become their puppet. Red herrings, managed poorly, are emotional hijackers that turn sales calls into train wrecks.
Moving past red herrings requires massive emotional control, so you need a simple and habitual system that keeps you in control: pause, acknowledge, ignore, save.
- Push the pause button and collect your emotions.
- Acknowledge and let the stakeholder know that you heard them. You might say: “That makes sense,” or “I get that,” or “This sounds important.”
- Ignore the red herring unless it comes up again.
- Save it and address at a later, more appropriate time.
My default is to ignore the red herring unless it comes up again, because I’ve learned, over a lifetime in the sales profession, that they almost never do. I acknowledge the concern, and my favorite way to do this is to simply take notes. Writing down what they say lets them know that I think it is important without getting pulled in. Then I ask an unrelated open-ended question that gets my stakeholder talking.
3. Micro-Commitment Objections. Throughout the sales process, you’ll ask stakeholders for next steps and micro-commitments. Micro-commitments are a series of low-risk commitments that lead down the path to a final buying commitment. Asking for them and consistently getting to the next step keeps the momentum rolling. You must never, ever leave a conversation with a stakeholder without a firm next step.
Here’s the problem: The people you are dealing with don’t always see the value in spending more time with you, so they hit you with brush-offs to make you go away. The good news is micro-commitment objections are rarely harsh and, unless you totally bombed, are rarely outright rejection. For this reason, the key to getting past these objections is showing poise and confidence and helping your prospect see the value of scheduling the next step.
Once you explain the value in a way that they understand, the prospect will agree to the next step. Value, however, is in the eye of the beholder. They want to know, “What’s in it for me?”—and you must answer that question. Step into your prospect’s shoes and write down why it should matter to them. What is the value trade for investing more time with you? Then craft compelling value statements that articulate this in your stakeholder’s language and terms. Keep it simple. These value statements don’t need to be profound or complex. They should not be pitchy. Avoid jargon that makes you sound like a marketing brochure. You don’t need to be perfect—just good enough to get to the next step.
4. Buying Commitment Objections. When you ask people to make buying decisions—sign contracts, hand over credit cards, issue P.O.'s, switch vendors and accept your proposal—you will get objections. Getting past buying commitment objections is often the moment of truth that determines whether you will close the deal. The outcome pivots on your ability to gain control over your emotions, guide the conversation and influence your stakeholder’s emotions.
Unlike prospecting objections and micro-commitment objections, the number of possible buying commitment objections isn’t finite or predictable. They are situational. You’ll deal with objections on price and budget, timing, changing the status quo, buying authority, competitors, need and fit and terms and conditions, and a need to talk it over with the boss and to think about it.
Dealing with buying commitment objections requires nuance, patience, influence and situational awareness. The process of getting past “no” becomes more collaborative and will seamlessly shift from objection to negotiation. The following five-step framework will help you gain emotional control and influence your buyer to say “yes.”
- Relate. Acknowledge and relate to the objection. Don’t treat your client like a number, discount their concern, challenge their point of view, judge them or start an argument.
- Isolate and clarify. Ask questions to isolate the real objection, issue or concern. Clarify your understanding before addressing. The key here is to ask open-ended questions that get your buyers talking and expressing their real concerns.
- Minimize. Remind the stakeholder of their problems, pain, threats, opportunities and the yesses you’ve collected.
- Ask. Ask again and assume the yes.
- Fall back to an alternative. If you still get a no, offer an alternative commitment with a lower perceived risk. Have your fallback positions planned prior to your closing call.
Practice the worst-case scenarios. Put every potential objection and response on the table and work through the five-step process until you handle them all with ease. I’ve found practice helps build obstacle immunity, prepares you to manage disruptive emotions and makes it far easier to think on your feet. When you plan and practice in advance, you’ll find the actual objections you get at closing are far tamer than what you initially expected.
Jeb Blount is the author of nine books, including his latest Objections: The Ultimate Guide for Mastering the Art and Science of Getting Past No. He is among the world’s most respected thought leaders on sales, leadership and customer experience. Through his global training organization, Sales Gravy, Blount advises many of the world’s leading organizations and their executives on the impact of emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills on customer-facing activities, and he delivers training to thousands of participants in both public and private forums. Learn more at SalesGravy.com.