Objection handling – why people say no and how to respond

Nailing your digital marketing strategy is hard. First, you have to find the platforms where your customers hang out. Then you need to demonstrate how you’re best positioned to solve their problem (which is easier said than done).

Eventually, if you’ve worked hard, enquiries will start flowing in – via your social media channels, website, or email inbox. The next step? Calling or emailing prospects so you can convert them into customers.

But not every call or email interaction will run smoothly. In fact, objection handling is normal and nothing to be afraid of. Think about it. If they 100% liked and trusted your product they’d have bought it instead of enquiring.

Objection handling is about identifying roadblocks. Get it right and you’ll be able to move prospects through your sales pipeline faster. 

Read on to find out: 

  • What a sales objection is
  • The different types 
  • How to handle them
  • When to back off

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How to recognise a sales objection

A sales objection is a concern that creates a barrier – obstructing a prospect’s ability to buy from you. Identifying and resolving the issue is essential if you want to convert them into a customer.

Your prospect’s reluctance could be due to:

  • Confusion – they’re confused and need clarity before taking the next step
  • Value – they don’t think your product or service warrants the pricetag
  • Price – they like your offering but it’s too expensive

Instead of seeing an objection as a roadblock, view it as an opportunity. Someone has taken the time to contact you – which means they’re on the fence.

Mastering objection handling isn’t easy. Get it right and your conversion rates will soar.

What is meant by objection handling?

A common misperception of objection handling – and sales in general – is that you need to strong-arm prospects into buying. Salespeople who resort to this method are either (i) inexperienced or not borne negotiators; (ii) selling an inferior product or service; (iii) talking to the wrong prospects – probably because their marketing messaging is off-kilter.

Objection handling is about recognising a prospect’s concern and expertly addressing it. Their initial concerns alleviated, the curious shopper completes their journey and becomes a happy customer.

Handling customer objections

What are you selling?

How you handle a prospect’s concern will depend on what you’re selling. If you’re a legal firm specialising in contract law the process will be lengthy – because your industry jargon is complex and more likely to raise questions. If you sell branded goods questions will more likely revolve around pricing, materials, and delivery times.

What stage are they at?

How you handle objections will depend on where the prospect sits in the sales journey. Did they reply to a post in your social media feed? If so, their knowledge of your business is probably limited – meaning more education will be required. 

If the enquiry came via a web page it’s likely to be highly specific. How does feature X work? What’s the benefit of feature Y? How is your product different to the one competitor Z sells?

Who are you speaking to?

Understanding your customer is essential. Otherwise, your objection handling strategy will lack focus, with the risk of losing the sale increasing significantly.

Consider:

  • Their role. Are they the decision-maker or gathering information on someone’s behalf? If it’s the latter they won’t have sign-off so trying to close the deal will make little sense.
  • Their challenge. What keeps them awake at night? Understanding their struggle will help you to articulate how your product or service will make the prospect’s life that little bit easier.

Know when to say no

Before discussing effective objection handling methods, remember you’re in control. Perhaps the prospect isn’t a good fit for your business. In which case it’s better to tell them now. They’ll appreciate your honesty and it’s one less fire to put out later.

Equally, your product may be a good fit. For some reason, though, your persuasive charms fall on deaf ears – in which case it’s better to move on and focus your efforts where they’ll be most productive.

Common types of objections and how to handle them

Here are the most common types of objections and how to respond to them.

#1 I can’t afford it

This is the most frequent obstacle you’ll encounter. Sometimes the protest will be genuine. The prospect adores your product or service – but their pockets aren’t deep enough. If this is the case, there’s nothing you can do.

Sometimes though, ‘I can’t afford it’ means ‘I don’t think it’s worth the money.’ In which case channel your objection handling by repositioning your offering to demonstrate value. For example, your product or service could save them money in the longer term – nullifying the higher cost. 

#2 Never heard of you

Building trust with a prospect can be hard. For all they know you’re scammers who’ll take their money and run the moment the transaction is complete. So how can you use objection handling to overcome this common concern?

Here are a few ways:

  • Try and jog their memory. Perhaps you ran an ad on TV or radio recently. Repeating your company catchphrase might help if you’re well known.
  • Do you belong to a recognised trade body? If so, this might help reassure your prospect that you’re genuine.
  • Use social proof to build trust by directing the prospect to testimonials on your website or social channels.

Business psychology in b2b sales and marketing

#3 I don’t have a need

Translated this often means ‘I can’t see how your product or service will benefit me.’ From an objection handling viewpoint, this is a prime opportunity to fill in the prospect’s knowledge gaps and show them how your offering adds value.

Using open-ended questions like:

  • Why do you feel we’re the wrong fit for your business?
  • What are your biggest challenges right now?
  • What product or service do you use presently?
  • What are your future plans for growth?
  • Why did you send us a message today?

Using open-ended questions as part of your objection handling will open up the conversation and encourage elaboration. Stating their problem out loud will also help the prospect to reflect (and in some cases resolve their problem).

#4 I don’t have the time

This may be true. But you won’t know unless they ask. Perhaps your prospect is juggling too many balls and really doesn’t have time to engage with you right now. If that’s the case, pushing them too hard could result in outright rejection. So use your objection handling skills to identify whether time is the blocker.

If your attempts to elicit responses are vague then your prospect either isn’t interested or you’ve caught them at a bad time. In which case thank them and explain you’ll follow up at a later date. After closing the call, send an email, diarise a follow-up, and move on to the next name on your list. 

Conclusion

Objection handling is integral to the sales process. The hard work invested in building your website and developing a strong social media presence can be undone in seconds if you’re unable to counter prospects’ concerns.

Understanding your prospect’s challenges, their buying power, and the stage they’re at in the sales funnel will help. So will knowing when to use open or closed questions – and recognising when to walk away and move on to the next call.

If you don’t have an in-house sales team objection handling will be harder. But only if your digital assets and channels are below par. 

With that in mind:

  • Is your website letting you down? Poorly written content or fussy layouts could confuse prospects. If they do get in touch (unlikely) the objection handling process will take time – because the contact will have more questions.
  • Are your social media channels active? Posting or tweeting costs nothing and is a great way to build brand awareness. It’s also an opportunity to engage with prospects by explaining the features of your brand or service.

In short, by investing time in your marketing activity now you can shorten the sales process later.


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