Using Objection Handling to Up Your Game in Founder-led Sales
Objection handling is a nuanced sales skill that startup founders must master before being able to scale their startup.
With all the responsibilities of entrepreneurship, building objection handling processes often end up near the end of the priority list. However, neglecting objection handling comes with the expensive price of sabotaging deals that could have otherwise been progressed and/or closed.
Learning how to counter any objection is a high-return skill that can be easily gained with proper education and consistent practice. Below, you’ll learn how to apply objection handling concepts to up your game while selling.
Tip #1: Accept and Anticipate Pushbacks
Before you jump into any sales calls, you need to get your head right.
Your attitude and passion for your startup, personal goals, and overarching reason for why you do what you do will influence every aspect of your sales strategy.
Take that ice bath: objections can be scary and it may stink hearing “no” over and over again, but it’s all a part of the process of developing a higher-level sales skill set and closing more deals.
Your mentality will determine whether you thrive. You may think that top-performing sales representatives that emanate a positive go-getter energy, enthusiasm, and optimistic attitude were born this way, but it’s actually the result of consistently working to refine their mindset. Much of this process can be streamlined by reading the right material.
Tip #2: Trace the Root of the Objection
Each objection is usually just the tip of the iceberg of a deeper underlying concern or situation. You’ll get a better idea of the root of an objection by asking yourself the right questions. A great way to approach this is using the MEDDIC framework.
- What are the economic consequences of the possible purchase decision?
- How will the customer measure the business case or economic success of the solution?
- Economic buyer
- Which contact person decides on the financing?
- From which budget does the payment come and who signs the purchase order?
- Who decides on the budget?
- What is the economic situation of the customer?
- Where does the buyer stand on the DISC model?
- What is important to the Economic Buyer?
- What budget framework is he likely using to evaluate the decision?
- Decision criteria
- What are the formal decision criteria of the customer?
- Are there checklists that can be worked through before a purchase?
- Decision process
- How exactly will the decision-making process run through?
- Which persons are involved and in which order?
- Identify pain
- Which concrete "problem" or "pain" is solved by the service? Is it already quantified?
- Which factor is responsible for the problem or need of the customer?
- Who is the internal advocate on the client side?
- What advantage does the champion expect from the solution?
Once you identify the likely situation, you can tweak your dialogue to touch on the right points that nudge the negotiation closer to a comfortable close. If you try to zap each minor concern at the surface level, you likely won’t address what the prospect needs solved before they can make a purchase. You need to dig deeper to the root. For example, a handful of common objection roots include:
- The prospect is not listening.
- The prospect does not understand what we do.
- The prospect has identified you as a salesperson and has disengaged.
- The prospect truly does not see the value (rework ICP).
For example, there are multiple reasons why a prospect might say, “the price is too high!”:
- Do they not understand the value of your solution? Focus more on spelling it out for them.
- Do they have budget constraints they must adhere to? Maybe there is another individual in their organization you should get on the call.
- Do they genuinely not have enough money to afford your solution? Don’t waste your time and move onto the next prospect.
If they say the price is too high, you can ask:
- “May I ask what price we’re comparing this to?”
- “How did you come to the conclusion that the price is too high?”
- “How much would it cost you to do nothing?”
- “Let’s imagine money wasn’t an issue. Would our product help you solve your problem?”
- “What’s the ROI you’re looking for?”
- “Have you bought a similar product before?”
- “Thank you for your honesty. How much would you consider spending?”
Each of the above follow-up questions urge your prospect to further qualify their claim. If they haven’t done their research on the industry, they fall into the bucket of prospects that need a bit more education to the value of your service. If they already work with a competitor at a lower price, communicate why your product is better outside of pricing. If they simply are bringing up price as an issue as a knee-jerk reaction, you can provide them with guidance to the magnitude of the value of your solution.
Silence is also an excellent tool to use. By simply staying silent for a few seconds after the objection, the prospect may voluntarily provide more information as to why they said what they just did.
Tip #3: Anticipate Common Objections
Once you know what questions to expect, you’ll meet them with a master’s poise. Better yet, you can modify your sales script to address them before they even pop up. If you talk to 10,000 prospects, you’ll likely encounter a handful of similar questions:
- “I am not interested”
- “I am busy right now”
- “I am not the right person for this initiative”
- “We already do this”
- “Please send me information first”
If you can break down your objection handling to an “If This, Then That” (IFTTT) structure, you’ll handle objections through muscle memory. “If This, Then That” is a simple troubleshooting thought process that takes an input (objection) and delivers an output (the most effective response.)
If a prospect says “we already do this,” then either specify the particular components of your value proposition that will save them time, money, XYZ, or ask more open-ended questions to understand the true matter of the situation.
Tip #4: Overcome Common Objections
At first, you’ll likely view objection handling as a means to prevent prospects from hanging up on you.
Once you get more comfortable with the tactical back-and-forth, you’ll view objections as a strategic opportunity to add value to the conversation– expert salespeople tend to view an objection as a gift.
Practice your responses with a teammate or a friend before hopping on the phone. Work on not only handling the objection, but using it as an opportunity to change the paradigm of the conversation into something more productive and constructive.
For example, let’s say a prospect continuously attempts to get off the call by asking to push things back a few weeks or months.
“Tom, your business’ needs are finally solved by our solution. The second roll-out of the alpha product just came out, and dozens of companies like yours are increasing their revenue by 15% every week. I’d love to reconnect in the future if there is no availability over the next week, but I can’t guarantee we’ll be able to offer the same terms once we do our full roll-out.
Boom! A conversation bottlenecked by the objection of “Can we circle back in a few weeks?” turns into something concrete and urgent.
Tip #5: Don’t Do This
Often, amateur and intermediate sales representatives put themselves at a disadvantage by making small mistakes while bending to the nerve-racking nature of objections.
Don’t act like a child if you get frustrated, or try to meet the client at their level of immaturity. You’re representing your startup’s brand out there– be professional. Steer the conversation into something productive. For example, if the client says “I am not the right person for this” you should not quip back with, “Yes you are because I saw your title on LinkedIn…”
Don’t use weak language such as “I understand” or apologize excessively. Weak language can sap the energy and momentum from your phone calls.
While it may seem natural to soften your communication with hypothetical “woulds,” “coulds,” and “shoulds,” you’re ultimately doing your sales ability a major disservice. If you don’t sound 100% convinced in your communication, why should a prospect take a leap of faith to work with you?
A few terms to avoid using include:
Transform your communication from being “I” oriented to “you” oriented. The prospect doesn’t want to hear about you, they want to hear about how you can help them.
For example, turn the following expressions into more client-facing:
- I am calling because I...
- I have a question....
- I sent you an email...
- I just wanted to ask...
- I recommend...
- If you ask me...
- I would prefer...
- In my opinion...
- I believe...
- Our best suggestion..
- For you, this means greater...
- Your benefit is...
- You will gain...
- Your company will profit from...
- This will help you...
Your sentence structure matters as well. For example, when a sentence is divided by “buts”, the emphasis is usually always on the second part of the sentence. It may not be your intention, but the two parts of your sentence pose contradicting messages to eachother, with the latter half dominating the way your message is perceived. Instead, construct your sentences with “ands.” This way, everything you say builds on top of eachother and helps your prospect experience the confidence of a consistent message.
At the end of the day, much of sales is about how your prospect feels about your offering. Confident, strong, and clear language give a decisive direction that you can be trusted and your offering is of value.
Remember, tension is good– it means an action is going to happen. It’s your role to convert that tension into revenue by challenging your prospect’s questions by addressing the source of pain, and nudging a progression in the conversation.
Using weak language essentially means you’re caving under the tension and being crushed by the prospect’s objections, leaving them to say, “Ha, I’m smarter than you and your company. I can’t believe you would even bother calling me with such a preposterous solution!”
Hold strong in the wake of tension, illogical reasoning, and stern objections by the prospect. Prove that you’re more than worthy of the prospect’s time and attention, and you win their respect, which invariably reflects on the value of your brand and solution.
Tip #6: Learn to Handle Objections via Phone
A phone conversation is much easier to walk away from than an in-person conversation, so it takes a certain level of mastery to handle objections in this environment. Here are a few great sales objection handling techniques:
- Pattern interrupt: When they say “Send me an email” you say...“Of course I would be happy to share with you some preliminary information over email. In a quick meeting you will see how you can [benefit] with our product just like [existing customer].”
- Empathy: When they say: “I’m busy” you say … “Look, I understand how you feel. With our product your business will... (tie your value proposition immediately into something relevant about their company)”
- Upfront Contract: When they say: “I can’t talk right now.” you say...“Many of our current, satisfied customers originally felt the same way. Using our service, they were able to reduce costs by x% and increase revenue by y%.
Tip #7: Embrace Competitor-Related Objections
If a prospect reveals that they’re currently using a competitor, great, that means they’re already fairly educated about the value of a comparable product. Here are a few ways to tackle competitor-related objections:
- “Happy with our current solution”: “We’re thrilled you are happy with them. One question before I go, if they could do one thing better, what would it be?”
- No information about competitor: “How has your experience been with them?”
Tip #8: Get to the Right Person
Becoming an objection-handling sales master means you have to handle objections from anyone anywhere– even if it’s not the right person on the phone.
Treat the “I’m not the right person” objection as if they are the right person. If they are the correct person and they just don’t want to talk to you now, make your solution seem hyper-relevant and too good to pass up in the short window you have available. Like magic, not the right person may turn into the right person once they hear something they want.
However, if they genuinely aren’t the right person at their organization, ask them, “Any idea on who that person may be, so that they can see how your business can [benefit]?” If you’ve established yourself as a friendly, knowledgeable, and relevant person, you may end up getting a warmer introduction to the person you actually should be speaking with.
If you’ve got the wrong number, whoops! Move onto the next.
Engaging your prospect in a meaningful way is hard enough, but with proper objection handling, you can roll a one-way conversation into a dynamic back-and-forth that showcases your understanding of your prospect’s role, business, and industry.
Apply these objection handling strategies and tactics, and you’ll see how your mindset changes to proactively approach sales situations where you would typically back down, closing more deals with less stress.