6 Ways to handle objections
Updated: Aug 3
“Now is not a good time.”
“We don't have the budget right now.”
“We expected different features.”
“We are not interested”
“We already have a supplier / a similar solution / etc.”
“Your business is too small for us / unknown for us.”
“We have had bad experiences with a similar company in the past.”
If you work in sales, these probably sound familiar to you.
What is a sales objection?
An objection is any form of concern or legitimate doubt the prospect mentions during a sales conversation.
Put simpler, it is anything that will be mentioned which does not allow the sale to move forward without handling it. This will also imply anything that might be missing such as further information that is needed. In other cases, it can also mean that the buyer is missing something, such as the capital needed to move forward.
Very often these are real issues that go through the mind of the prospect when they think about the implication of your product. In other cases, objections are also directly used to put pressure on salespeople or to get rid of them.
Very intelligent buyers might also use objections to purposefully test the salesperson's thinking, honesty, or reaction.
The tricky part for any sales representative is now to uncover which objections are mere excuses or a way to show you the door, and which are those that really need to be properly addressed and solved.
In both cases, there is plenty you can do to still move the sale forward.
Why objections are a good thing
In any sales process, it is actually quite certain that there will be some objections coming from the prospect.
Of course, who would not have doubts sitting opposite a salesperson hearing about a product or solution for the first time?
There will always be a form of resistance even if you are excellent at your sales job, so objections in the sales process are nothing to be afraid of.
In fact, a customer who has many objections shows you that he or she seriously considers your offer and looks at certain benefits and challenges involved.
This is a very good sign, compared to other customers who never give you an objection but stay polite, and after the appointment never answer the phone again when you are calling.
How you will deal with such objections will determine to a large part the outcome of the deals you are negotiating and your overall success in selling.
But there are ways we can easily handle these objections and use them to our benefit.
Objections need to be dealt with properly and with honest consideration of the expressions from the buyer's perspective.
If you just try to “talk them over”, your prospect will notice what you are doing and very probably not buy from you.
The person won’t feel heard or understood, and their concerns will remain.
We all want to be taken seriously and listened to.
The trick is not to argue against the objection, but to use its energy and thoughts and redirect it.
You can see it as a form of verbal Judo fighting, whereby an argument has to disarm the objection and point towards the highest benefit in the solution of buying right now.
Here are our 6 best ways to handle objections in a sales conversation without further ado.
Tactic 1: Identify the most common objections
Even if you are new to the world of sales, after you have a few appointments you will see that most customers will give you more or less the same objections when it comes to why they cannot buy right now, or why they are not ready to buy.
Very soon you will notice a pattern in these conversations.
And you can make good use of this pattern by knowing exactly what to say and how to say it because you have prepared for it.
Often it is also the same objection just expressed differently.
“I am not interested” can take on many different forms in a sales conversation such as “We have no use for it right now” or even “We are happy with our current supplier”.
However, the core behind these different objections remains the same.
Interestingly the most common objections exist in all kinds of industries and are overall the same.
If you know how to handle these few, you will be more professional than most of your competitors and won't have problems anymore with objections in 90% of the sales conversations.
So here are the three top objections you will have in almost any sales conversation in any industry:
Common Sales Objection Number 1:
“I don't have the money/budget for it”
A timeless classic.
Sure we all have tight budgets, and everybody has to look at where to spend the money and where to pass.
But what is clear is that we all spend money somewhere.
Some even spend a lot of money, and interestingly there are always budgets for the things that we consider as important.
And here comes the crucial part - have you presented your product as urgent and important enough to make it worth spending money on?
If this objection comes along, you obviously did not.
At least not yet.
This is not necessarily bad, you can after all now accept the fact that it is not yet important enough for the customer. Based upon this knowledge now go back to clearly present why it definitely is important and worth the money.
Here is an example of an easy way to handle this objection:
“I totally understand that Mr. Customer, and of course, we all have to pay attention to our money”
(show understanding of his position, and confirm any suspicion that might lie underneath the first argument).
“This shows me that money is probably important to you, right?”
(The customer brought money as an objection - this question makes him say yes and align with your arguments, this subconsciously brings him back to a position of common interest.)
Mr customer: Well yeah, we all have to watch our budgets and I have to report all the spending from my department, so…
“That means if we can find a way our product can help you to save money in the long-term, it would be a good fit then?”
We use the objection and turn it around, so it can be used in your favor.
Take the customer’s words and exactly his objection to selling the product - all that's left to do then is to show why your product can help save or make money for the client, e.g. by investing in the new machinery he will need less staff over the long run which will save payroll.
Mr customer: Well if it can save us some money it sure would be worth a try, but I did not have the impression that this would be possible.
The attention is brought back to you. Showtime!
You then go ahead with presenting your product in the most cost-saving manner you can - show how long-term the customer will benefit by actually saving on costs through the use of your product or why it will become even more expensive to set the problem aside and have probably more costly repairs and necessary investments later.
Clearly, you have to adapt this script to the benefits and features of the product you want to sell.
Here is another example of how to handle this objection:
“If you take this investment now it will save you up to 30% per year in overhead expenses. The investment in this year will pay off over the course of the next years ahead, and after 5 years in total you will even make a profit from it year after year.”
Common Sales Objection Number 2:
“Now is not a good time”
Sure, it is never a good time. There will always be distractions and problems on the horizon, no matter what time. Even if you postpone your request for a month or even a year, the time will never be exactly right.
Unfortunately, you can't handle this objection directly with most people.
In most cases, it is actually just a mere excuse for not doing business with you.
The “right” time will never come to do anything.
At this point, the prospect is simply not convinced enough that our offer or product is important enough to be dealt with right now.
In many cases, we will not even have had the attention of our prospect so far.
The most powerful and easiest way of facing this objection is to throw it back at the prospect and use it in your favor. It is similar to what we did with the previous example:
“Sure, I fully understand that you are busy Mr. Customer, and I assume this will also mean that time is very valuable to you, right?”
(Again you first show an understanding of his situation, then take his argument and use it to your advantage by asking a question that already suggests the answer)
Mr customer: Of course, time is very important in our business, and right now there really is plenty to do, So I am sorry but...
“That means if we could find a way whereby our product will not only save you massive time right now but also create even more valuable time for you in the future it would be a good fit?”
Mr customer: Well I guess so, but how could this help me to save more time?
As soon as the customer gets hooked on the question you will have his attention back.
Now it’s time to roll!
Present him now at least one clear reason why choosing your product over the competition and deciding right now will save much more time compared to further delaying the issue.
For example, prices could be expected to climb higher, or investing X amount of money now could help to save Y amount of money in the future.
Maybe your product can lower maintenance costs, save overhead expenses, or similar.
Be certain that if you use this approach to handling the objection you also absolutely provide legit reasons and benefits why the timing is the best right now and give a clear picture of why buying later is not a good idea.
If another objection comes along afterward, you can handle most of them with the technique we just used in the example:
Accepting and using the objection, transforming it into an advantage that you offer, and throwing it back at the prospect.
In other words:
the customer said they do not want to buy because of …, then this means Mr. customer that … is very important to you, right?
Common Sales Objection number 3:
“We are not interested.”
In most conversations, this will be the first objection you hear. Most of the time it is a quick attempt to simply get rid of the salesperson.
Think of it as if the customer was saying: “Do I get rid of you this easily?”
At this time the customer doesn't even have an idea who you are, what your product is, or the reason you are calling them.
All they want to do is get on with their daily routine, understandably.
And to achieve this, they try to get rid of us.
Therefore we have to step back and get the prospect to listen to us at all in the first place. Thus we have to grab attention somehow and disrupt the thought pattern this objection brings upon us.
The easiest way to do this is to simply say:
“I didn't think you would be interested - that's why I am calling you today!”
“What exactly are you not interested in?”
For most customers, this is enough to get the attention back to you and give you a chance to at least talk about what you offer.
Once you moved beyond this point and the customer is still not interested, it might be time to use our verbal judo again and use the objections to our advantage.
Here is another approach to handling this objection:
So it is very important for you that the product is interesting and appropriate for your situation, right? Let me briefly highlight to you why this will be of special interest to your team / business.
And then you go on and present the most interesting facts about the customer’s situation you can think of.
As you probably noticed, this technique will require you and your salespeople to be very well prepared before meeting the customer and to be ready to deal with any incoming objection by showing what exactly is important for this customer.
It pays to do your homework in sales..
Knowing all your products' benefits for all situations before the appointment is thereby crucial and it is a good idea to properly learn them.
Only then will you have the necessary quick-wittedness to properly deal with any objection that comes along.
The advantage of such diligent preparation is that you will never be taken out by any objection for the rest of your sales career, as also mentioned later in Tactic 6.
You will only become better at selling, but will also specifically solve the customer’s problems and provide an appropriate solution.
Common sales objection Number 4:
“It is too expensive”
Even if you offer a really low price from the beginning - in most cases the customer will still complain that your price is too high.
I have personally had customers being offered discounts of 45% or more, so we would not earn a dime on these projects - and still hear that we are too expensive.
If we start playing this game, we start a race to the bottom.
The game is called “Who can earn the least and not go out of business?”
In the end, we can be happy if we can afford to keep the lights on in the office.
There might be a tiny minority of customers who really are on a tight budget and have to watch their expenses carefully.
But for most customers, the price is the easiest way to put the salesperson under pressure.
They know exactly that many salespeople will crumble with that objection, that being under pressure to make the sale will make them do everything to get the order.
What we are all looking for in any transaction is to get more worth back than the money we spend.
We want to be sure that what we buy will benefit us more than the money in our bank account.
As long as you are sure your product delivers excellent value and is appropriate for the customer’s situation, you can be sure to handle this objection well.
Another form of thinking about this objection would be to see it as the following statement:
“Please show me that your product is worth the money you are asking for”.
Hence you can easily encounter it with a sentence like:
“Yes, Mr. Customer it is true that our product does in fact cost more than those of our competitors. This is because our product has some very clear differences and advantages compared to most of our competitors. Would you like to know what they are?”
You hereby fully acknowledge that your price is higher than what the competition is asking for similar products.
But you do not engage in a discussion or are pushed into a corner by the price objection as so many other salespeople.
Instead, you take the full verbal force this objection inherits, and use it to your advantage by asking if the prospect would like to know the reasons why your product is more expensive.
Thereby we are again asking the questions and leading the conversation.
All you then have to do is to clearly explain why your product has better quality / is more long-lasting / will save more costs in the long run, and ideally demonstrate how exactly this can benefit the customer.
If the objection was none of these four, here are more ways for handling objections:
Tactic 2: Pause for a moment
What can you do if a customer is threatening you, insulting you, or just downright provoking you?
In the field of rhetorics, pauses of speech and silence are used as very powerful tools for influencing the audience and gathering attention.
In sales, silence can be used to de-escalate a situation.
In a sales conversation, it can also be used as a powerful tool when you get an objection from a customer.
And it can be used for really any kind of objection.
What many successful salespeople do when the customer voices an objection is to just listen and acknowledge it in the first few moments - with silence.
Silence in a conversation is something only very few people can handle.
Especially when the objection was insulting or unreasonable, this tactic becomes powerful.
The customer has the chance to think about his or her words again.
You as the seller can take a deep breath and prepare your response calmly.
The most important thing after a fierce or unfair objection is to respond with a relaxed attitude and calm manner.
Some salespeople get nervous when a customer mentions a concern, and this can often lead to a negative spiral and cause you to lose the sale.
As soon as the customer notices that you are nervous, he might become suspicious.
And this can lead your credibility in the conversation to evaporate.
Thus never take things personally, even if they are unjust or also sometimes plain dumb.
Instead, be the smarter person in the room and give a reasonable answer after your moment of silence.
Your calmness can help to relax the situation and take the pressure out of heated conversations.
But nevertheless, accept what the customer has said.
Objections are in most cases legitimate concerns that should be clearly heard and understood.
Thus whenever a situation seems to get out of hand, make sure you take mentally a step back for a brief moment, observe the situation, and only then proceed with your appropriate answer.
Tactic 3: Handle objections by asking a question
After you have made your pause for a few seconds, the next thing should be to ask the customer a question regarding what he or she exactly mentioned as their concern.
“To make sure I understand your concern clearly, could you please closer explain to me ….(the topic of the main objection)”
By asking this question after the objection you do 3 things:
You show sincere interest in the exact concern the other person mentioned and acknowledge their worries.
You make use of the silence you used before to let the customer also think about what has been said.
You ask to better explain what lies beneath the surface of this objection. Often it could be that the budget for this year is used up but the client wants to stay polite. Or their spouse makes the decisions and they are afraid of making the decision alone, etc. People react in different ways to different situations.
In this case, we also do not argue with the prospect, we simply ask to further clarify what exactly is causing the concern.
The first step to handling objections effectively is thus not to argue against it, but to listen and understand.
In many cases, you might find out some hidden objective that is otherwise easily overlooked.
It gets you deeper into the root of the problem and lets you analyze together with the prospect what is blocking the sale from moving further.
Understanding what really makes the other person come up with an objection will be your first base on not just handling the objection, but also making the sale eventually.
Tactic 4: Look for other concerns or problems
Sometimes the customer brings an objection only to get rid of you.
In other cases, some objections are really legitimate concerns that represent a problem you as a salesperson need to solve.
An easy way to find out whether this is the only, valid concern the customer has in this case, is once again to ask a question.
Sales trainers like Tony Robbins also like to say they isolate the objection.
Thereby we ask the customer if this one problem could be solved, and if there would be anything else that would prevent them from moving ahead.
“If we could solve problem x for you, is there anything else that would prevent you from moving forward?”
Ask what other obstacles might be in the way if this one disappeared.
What you then get might be more objections that the buyer has in the back of his or her mind.
Or you might hear that this is really the only obstacle in the sale.
This tactic will uncover if there is truly this one single objection, or if there is much more behind it that you need to address as well.
Especially in complex selling decisions a customer will only buy from you when he or she is certain that all their concerns have been heard.
You as a salesperson can only address their concerns if you look at the big picture of their situation, and this means also asking for all the possible concerns that might exist.
Tactic 5: Reframing the objection
Very often the objection also has a certain context.
For example, people might say that right now the economy is bad.
Or they might argue that right now the budget is already tied up.
Or one might say that currently is a very bad time because they are re-structuring the company, or whatsoever.
To reframe the objection means to give it another context.
If the customer complains that right now is really a bad time, then your task is to find reasons why right now is the perfect time for making the purchase.
You do this by first acknowledging the customer’s concern honestly and making them feel understood.
You might say something like:
“I totally understand that now the economic situation has affected your business (you first show understanding).
And I can imagine that it must be a pretty tough situation now even for you to be in this market right now (you show empathy).
We offer this new technology on the market that can help you save 20% on your overhead costs easily. This means it will help you get through those hard times more easily in the future once you have made the investment (we reframe the objection - we created a positive outlook from a negative scenario).
And right now we are also talking to (competitor 1) and (competitor 2) about a possible solution in this market, but I would like you to be the first to implement it so you stay ahead of your competition (creating a sense of urgency, re-framing the objection completely into an opportunity)”
Did you notice what happened here?
We switched from it being the worst time right now to why it is actually the best time right now and even showed why we best make this investment today before the competition gets a chance to see it.
Thus what initially was seen as a problem, has now become a big chance.
Every problem can be seen as an opportunity.
Every weakness can be seen as a strength
And every bad timing can be actually great timing.
The trick is to direct attention to a different viewpoint, beyond what is obvious.
You have to help the customer make this step by asking the right questions and clearly explaining the benefits of your solution for their individual situation.
The more you can direct attention to something positive instead of negative, the higher your chances of success in selling will be.
Tactic 6: Prepare your answers in advance
Ideally, every salesperson should make decent preparation before every meeting with a customer.
You should prepare a basic outline for the conversation, such as:
Approximately what to say
Analyze what you already know about the customer
Define what you need to find out in this conversation
What other information might be relevant
What competitors might also offer on the deal, and what are their advantages compared to your product
Reasons the customer might have for not buying the product
Such careful preparation will help to dramatically increase sales success, no matter what product or industry.
In practice, however, these things tend to be overlooked in the stressful day-to-day hustle many sales reps have.
To prepare for objections effectively and react to them quickly you will have to find answers to these and to related questions before you meet the customer.
Although there will always be surprises, you can vastly increase your chances of success by being prepared for the most obvious things in an interview.
For example, your competition will probably be mentioned or have at least a role in the buying decision. Just as prices will probably also have to be discussed with almost every customer.
Many salespeople get derailed already by such basic objections.
These are the most common facts about any buying decision, which is why you can prepare so well in advance for them.
Hardly anyone will be such a genius to always come up with the perfect answer right away. Especially not when there is a quota to meet and possibly a lot of commission on the hook in that conversation.
The only way to really be prepared and to be perceived as professional and convincing is to know already what to say before even attending the appointment.
Therefore do your homework - prepare before every meeting. You will make way better use of your and the prospect's time.
Before your next appointment, take a few minutes and write down the essentials about what this meeting will be about.
Look for possible objections that might come up, and how to tackle them back.
You will be well prepared as most customers bring more or less the same objections, and you have a good chance of knowing around 90% of what might come up beforehand.
The best way to handle any objection
If you have read this far you now have quite a verbal arsenal you can use in your future appointments.
But ideally, you do not only use one of these tactics but use all of them as a complete system.
The more you use these tactics, the less any objection will derail you in any future sales conversation.