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Practical rather than theoretical objection handling [The Formula]

Image: Weird Science shopping scene "I really don't think so, Sue."
Traditional sales trainers categorise objections into types - like price, time, features, credibility. They also teach a variety of exotic sounding objection-handling tactics like "Boomerang", "LAIR", "Reprioritize", "Feel/Felt/Found", "Bouncing", "FUD", and "Deflection".

It's all bullshit, though, to most sales people. Because
1. when you try to put any of these into action on the fly, it's practically impossible to be unemotional, and
2. buyers no longer want to be boomeranged, deflected, reprioritized, or otherwise manipulated.

Buyers are way more savvy these days. Honesty and authentic communication prevail.

So here's our tried-and-tested, practical objection handling formula:

First, a quick definition of "Objection"

Don't think of Objection as a reason why someone isn't going ahead with a deal or as a hurdle to overcome. Think of Objection as a reason why someone isn't comfortable enough to take the next step.

1. Acknowledge

We all know from experience how much more trusted our relationships are with people who take our concerns seriously.

Do-gooders (and traditional sales trainers) drum into us the virtues of Listening (active) over Hearing (passive). Google "listen versus hear" and read all about it.

The problem with listening to people's concerns is that we tend to interpret and paraphrase what people say to us. Invariably, we lose the essence of what they really mean. You'll know this if you ever hear people say in response to your paraphrasing "Hmm. Kind of. But it's more like…" Then they go on to repeat exactly what they said to you before.

When we tell someone something important we tend to want acknowledgement. That is, acknowledgement that we've been heard. It's simple enough.

So instead of listening, try simply hearing what they're saying.

Write down what you've heard word-for-word. Then repeat back what you've heard to check you wrote it down correctly.

It's practically impossible to not feel acknowledgement when you hear your own words repeated back to you as a sign that your concern has been heard.

Pro Tip: Get into the habit of compiling a list of objections – those word-for-word quotes from people who've been uncomfortable enough to move through a sales process. You can use this list to prompt people to share their objections with you.

2. Normalise

If you've heard a similar objection before, say so. Unless it's your first day selling a particular product (in which case, get a list of typical objections from a more experienced seller or use your own experience if you've previously bought the product you're selling), chances are you'll have heard a similar objection before.

Think about it. Have you ever felt anxious because you're the only person to face a particular problem or goal? Can you remember feeling reassured on learning that you're not alone, that someone else has faced the same thing? That's why searches for "how to" are so popular.

Pro Tip: Get into that habit of asking for testimonials that include any concerns buyers had before buying from you, if nothing else than to remind you that it's normal for people to feel uncomfortable about change.

3. Trial Close

Handling objections one by one is unnecessarily time-consuming, inefficient, wasteful, selfish, and potentially disruptive to the sales process.

Instead, once you've acknowledged and normalised an objection, check if they'll feel comfortable enough to move to the next step in the sales process if you're able to handle the objection or objections you've already heard.

If they're still not going to feel comfortable enough to progress even if you are able to satisfy them about the objections you've already heard, ask for more objections.

Put into actual words, and assuming I'm really able to handle a typical objection I hear a lot - whether my services really work - I'll say "Will you use my objection-handling formula if you can see that it really works? Or is anything else stopping you?"

Another example, when someone queries my pricing, "Will you buy our web-design service if you can see that my pricing is worth it?"

If the answer's "No" or "I really don't think so." then you know there's another objection to hear.

4. Hill Climbing

As I said at the start, traditional sales trainers teach a variety tactics to try to manipulate buyers into thinking that their objections are somehow unwarranted or imagined. They're almost always real objections, though. And they'll need you or themselves or both to do some hill-climbing – expend actual effort – to deal with properly.

In the case of my first example, if they want to see if my objection-handling formula works, I might have to show it working in practice, or show them a testimonial from someone they trust that reassures them that it works. Better still, I could ask them what it would take for them to become comfortable enough that it works.

In my second example, if they want to see that my pricing is worth it, I might use a testimonial again, or I might agree some measurable goals that mean they're going to get a return on their investment, or I might ask if they need payment terms because it's more about cash flow. Better still, I'd ask them what it would take for them to become comfortable enough in my pricing structure to do a deal.

Whatever their objection, once we've followed the Objection Handling Formula, we get to move to the next step in the sales process (climbing the hill of exerting some effort in return for something we want) far more reliably.

As an aside, the objection of " pricing" is also heavily written about.

More often than not, we read that pricing isn't usually a real objection. Pah! Really?