Less is more when handling objections

Shaking Hands

Handling objections

Initially the logic of not handling an objection immediately may sound counterintuitive – but when it comes to dealing with objections not only what you say but also when you say it is key to success. In fact, it’s a core sales skill. However, sales people too often want to address the objection as soon as it arises, get it off the table, and move on. An admirable thought … or is it? After all, what really is driving the customer’s objection? What are the keys from the customer’s perspective for addressing the objection? And how important is the objection to the customer – a showstopper, a throwaway comment or something in-between?

Everyone agrees these are good questions, yet we too often see sales people fall into the trap, “If you have a better story, then tell it and all will be well.”  After all, most sales people rightly believe their solution is superior, their customer support better, and/or their pricing and business terms more customer-friendly, so just sharing that information will minimize the objection.

But, we all know there’s a problem lurking there.  Just sharing information is no different than throwing the proverbial spaghetti against the wall – sometimes it sticks, sometimes it doesn’t. Or, as often heard on the street, “spraying and praying” – which doesn’t work 99.5% of the time! Rather, sales people must slow down and actually “handle” the objection … drilling down on what the objection truly is and its importance.

There are numerous objection handling models floating around. One probably isn’t any better than another. So going back to our “less is more” construct: ACT.

  • Acknowledge the objection
  • Clarify the objection
  • Test the solution you offer

Taking a closer look …

While it may sound simple, Acknowledging the objection is important. I can’t count the number of times we’ve seen sales people ignore an objection and just keep talking, assuming, as we said earlier, that by sharing wonderful things the objection will disappear. Highly unlikely. And worse yet are sales people who ignore an objection assuming that if it isn’t brought to the fore, it will go away. Unlikely as well. Not acknowledging an objection only signals to a customer that you’re not listening.

Probably the most important suggestion here is to Clarify. By clarifying, sales people can avoid the trap of hearing an objection and immediately trying to “answer” it. It is a much better idea to acknowledge it but then ask questions to find out “how important is it”, or “why the customer feels it is a problem”, etc. By doing this, sales people can usually find that the best answer for solving the objection is not what they would have offered up-front.  You are also changing the tone of the dialogue – you are participating in a problem-solving discussion vs. being in a defensive mode.

Finally, once a solution is offered, don’t assume the objection is addressed and move on. Rather, test to make sure the customer understands the solution and agrees that it addresses the objection – then move on.

Handling objections is an age-old topic of selling – but if anything the art and science of skillfully handing objections has grown in importance over the years.

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©2011 Sales Horizons, LLC

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About Janet Spirer

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. Janet has followed two different, yet complimentary paths. First, as a B-School Professor she taught marketing, sales, and business strategy courses. She also managed a consulting practice focusing on sales productivity and marketing – working with a variety of clients ranging from Xerox to IBM. She translated those experiences into a book – “Parlez-Vous Business” – that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully. Since co-founding Sales Momentum® in 2000 with Richard Dr. Spirer received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, an M.P.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College. She holds the appointment of Professor Emeritus at Marymount University.
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