Sales professionals have come to loathe objection handling. After all, objections (sometimes referred to as red flags, hurdles, or deal crushers) can seemingly come out of the blue. And, if team members aren’t careful, “harmless” questions can knock a deal back a couple of stages or worse—derail it altogether.
For enterprise-level sales teams, there’s simply nothing worse than progressing a deal through the pipeline only to have a no-go objection come up at the 11th hour. In this scenario, the sale professional usually has to make one of two choices: move the deal back to an earlier stage where the objection should have been addressed—usually having to involve other stakeholders or re-solution—or combat the objection head-on and press the deal forward. After all, when buyers have few objections that sales professionals can satisfactorily answer or combat, the success rate of progressing the deal forward is 64%.
While some objections can’t be anticipated, most have been addressed by someone at some time in the company’s history. What if while those questions are being asked, the sales professional captures the objection, the appropriate response is later articulated, and then other team members are coached in real-time during other prospect conversations so they’re always on message when the same objection arises?
Objection handling is becoming more and more important in today’s crowded, competitive marketplace. Below, we’ll take a look at how it’s not only possible to combat objections during one-off prospect conversations, but scale the objection handling process so all team members respond with the same voice and the same carefully articulated data points.
1. Identify the Most Common Objections at Each Stage
Most sales organization have already developed some kind of list as it pertains to objections. However, it’s critical that the list is always updated as new objections are likely to come up as features evolve, the company grows, and the competition increases. In addition, sales teams should categorize objections based on when they’re most likely to come up during the sales process. For example, an objection about building the solution in-house or doing nothing would typically occur in the early stages of the process, whereas budget objections or lack of executive buy-in would likely occur during later stage conversations. Sales leaders should address objections during weekly sales team meetings and during quarterly and annual sales kickoffs to ensure that the list is always up-to-date.
2. Articulate and Capture Appropriate Responses
There’s no use collecting objections if no one takes the time to articulate what the response or solution to the objection should be. Marketers can sometimes be very helpful in this process as they’re in tune with company messaging and can supply ample case studies, use cases, and solution anecdotes. However, some objections may be more deal focused, in which case the sales leader or executive team should offer up the appropriate response. Fine-tuning how to respond to objections is a critical part of the process, and the messaging should be tested with the help of an agile sales process to ensure it elicits the appropriate response or action item. For example, if a sales leader captures the response to a budget objection and then rolls out the messaging to the team, but the deals it’s used on don’t progress forward, then it should be revisited.
3. Develop Templates for Sales Professionals to Stay On Message
A key part of the process is developing templates that the sales team can call-up while in a prospect meeting. Most sales leaders revert to capturing templates in Word Docs or Google Spreadsheets, but the problem with these methods is that they’re clunky and difficult to navigate on-the-fly during a meeting. When faced with an objection, it’s not uncommon for sales professionals to tense up or freeze, even if not apparent to the prospect. That’s why it’s important for objection templates to be readily available and easily accessible so that sales professionals can select the objection at hand, and then immediately identify the appropriate response, or be provided with applicable case studies or uses cases to mention.
An agile sales platform, which encourages a rapid and flexible response to change within the sales process, can help immensely when sales professionals are faced with objections, ensuring that they can always access the most up-to-date messaging. By using this type of sales platform through each stage of the sales process, responses are always captured so that the sales leader can later use the meeting as a coaching opportunity, and can iterate on what worked—or what didn’t.
4. Help Sales Professionals Develop Objection Handling Skills
Of course, there are also skills involved that sales professionals must develop in order to be successful when navigating tough questions or pushbacks. The best tools in the world aren’t much help to an individual that struggles with understanding the root of the objection, otherwise referred to as “context”.
We asked Jim Brown, sales expert and host of the popular sales and entrepreneur-focused podcast, SalesTuners, his opinion about developing skills to properly address objections during the sales process.
Two things come to mind for Jim with regards to objection handling. First, he explained, is when the objections actually come up and second is the context around the objection itself. Jim made a powerful statement:
“It’s my belief that you’re not even in a sales process until you’ve heard ‘no’ for the first time!”
Many sales professionals think that all objections (budget, timeline, decision, etc.) come at the end of a cycle when the deal is about ready to close. However, as we examined earlier in the article, the reality is that prospects know every objection they’re going to share from the very first conversation—sales professionals are often just too afraid to ask what they are.
Jim’s objection handling advice is this:
“When a prospect does bring up an objection, do not immediately respond with a rebuttal. Ask another question to understand exactly what is being said (read: context). More often than not, your prospect will provide additional context about why they’re having issues, which will ultimately help you uncover what really matters so you can respond in the best way possible.”
There’s no doubt about it—objection handling is hard, and most sales professionals would agree that it can be uncomfortable. However, armed with the right tools and the proper skills, sales teams can excel where most fall short: handling those tough questions with ease and confidence.
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For more information on best practices of great sales leaders, check out the Costello resources below. If you’d like to see Costello in action, request a personalized demo of our real-time sales playbook software.