Salespeople hear a lot of “no.” It’s one of the most challenging aspects of the sales process

When a prospect makes an objection, it’s tempting to take that rejection personally or as a knock on your pitch or product. But don’t get furious — get curious. Use effective objection handling techniques to get to the bottom of their concerns. 

In this blog, we’ll dive into what objection handling really looks like and why these skills are so hard to learn, as well as the core objection-handling techniques your team needs to perfect. 

What Is Objection Handling, Really?

Objection handling is how a salesperson responds to a prospect’s concerns about the product or service they’re selling. You’ve probably heard these common sales objections time and again: the product is too expensive, the commitment is too long, it’s too hard to implement, or the prospect is happy with their current vendor. 

Objection handling isn’t a battle to convince potential customers to say “yes” despite their misgivings. It’s about dropping the ego and honing in on their needs and pain points, allowing you to connect with them, reframe the conversation, and follow up effectively. Here are some other key elements of great objection handling

  • Objection handling gets to the root of the issue for your prospects and customers.  It goes beyond face value, digging into where the objection is coming from, the emotions behind it, and the decision-making process that led there. This gives you the key to positioning your product and personalizing their experience. 
  • Objection handling lets you bring out the humanity in the sales conversation. It’s an opportunity to have a meaningful, empathetic conversation, develop an organic 1:1 relationship, and build trust in you and  your company. It’s hard for prospects to trust your recommendations if they don’t feel like they know you.
  • Objection handling keeps the dialogue going.  It’s an opportunity to have a meaningful, empathetic conversation, develop an organic 1:1 relationship, and build trust in you and your company. It’s hard for prospects to trust your recommendations if they don’t feel like they know you.

Why Are Objection Handling Skills So Important?

Many businesses would love to simply win the sale the first time around; it would certainly shorten the sales process. But you also wouldn’t learn anything about your prospects. 

One deep-dive into sales studies over the years found that 80% of customers will say “no” four times before converting. In other words, objection handling is unavoidable, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s a process that lets your sales team understand why prospects are saying what they’re saying and ultimately reveals a potential path to closing the deal. 

Here are some of the benefits of having your team master these techniques: 

  • Helps you identify the value of your product. If your reps don’t know how to properly objection handle, they probably don’t fully understand your product or the solution it provides. The process of developing questions and answers to tackle common objections provides clarity. 
  • Educates you about your key prospects. Are your reps receiving the same types of objections? Maybe you’re targeting the wrong leads and need to do additional discovery or it’s time to adjust your pitch. These insights, direct from the prospect, allow you to improve your sales process and find gaps in training.
  • Solves your target audience’s problems. The reps who perform the best are the ones who are honest about their product’s capabilities and find a way to resolve customers’ objections and pain points when possible — but also know when to walk away. If it’s not the right fit, the customer still leaves feeling understood. 

Why Are Objection Handling Skills So Hard to Learn?

Objection handling requires sales reps to build a wide range of muscles. They have to learn how to ask the right questions, read body language and verbal cues, pinpoint underlying reasons, recognize dealbreakers, and sometimes problem solve on the spot. 

It’s a lot to ask, and much of the situation is out of a sales rep’s control. This is one reason it’s so important to have top-notch B2B sales coaching in place and prioritize training on objection handling techniques. Salespeople who don’t learn these skills risk alienating prospective customers and missing opportunities for future business. Here are some other reasons why objection-handling skills can be tough to master.

They Involve Advanced Problem-Solving

Objection handling doesn’t only require a deep understanding of the reason a prospect is declining, but also good methods for responding to it. 

Let’s say a decision-maker has a pricing objection. They’re nearly ready to sign up, but the $299 monthly cost feels “too high” for their budget. A less experienced salesperson might say, “Oh, okay, let me see if I can get a discount.” By contrast, a more skilled salesperson would ask, “Why is it too expensive?” or “The price is too high relative to what?” Asking open-ended questions and active listening is a must, and it takes time to develop.

They Necessitate On-Your-Feet Creativity

Every objection-handling scenario will look a little different. (As we mentioned earlier, if every customer has the same objection, there could be something wrong with your lead qualifying process.) Salespeople have to learn how to work with a variety of communication styles, personality types, and seniority levels, and make changes to the typical objection-handling script on their feet. That means knowing the product inside and out and how it will best benefit each type of customer.

They Go Hand in Hand With Rejection

These skills are also tough to pick up because every salesperson has to learn to be okay with both rejection, whether it’s call #5 or #500, and many people naturally aren’t. There’s both risk and reward in sales. They might receive a “no,” even after building a strong case and following up right on time, but they also might receive a “yes.” The only way to get there is through objection-handling trial and error and cultivating strong client relationships.

They Require Pattern Recognition Skills

The best salespeople are excellent at recognizing patterns and building off these insights. They’ll A/B test responses to objections and keep meticulous notes, so that when these concerns come up the next time, they know what works and what doesn’t. 

That said, it’s crucial to remember that pattern recognition takes time. Sales reps need an opportunity to ramp up, shadow co-workers, participate in training, and get on-the-ground experience. Managers should give reps the time to digest what they learned in each conversation before pushing them to jump on the next call. This is a great topic to go over in your sales coaching one-on-ones

There’s a Level of Instinct Involved

Simply put, the psychological challenges that a sales rep has to go through, tied to every dial and every objection, is intense. A salesperson’s livelihood is based on how much a prospect believes and trusts what they’re being told. At some level, a “no” represents a threat, which can inspire panic or make a rep lose confidence in their methods.

Objection-handling skills can be hard to learn because, in some scenarios, salespeople just have to rely on instinct to guide their response. They have to consider the context, listen to their gut, and take the approach that feels right.

What Are Common Misconceptions About Objection Handling?

As we covered above, objection handling is difficult, which may be part of the reason it’s misunderstood and often taught incorrectly. Some sales organizations teach objection handling as overcoming objections, a mission to win a verbal tug-of-war with prospects and successfully sell to them in spite of their objections. 

This mindset creates an adversarial environment and pits sales reps against prospects rather than fostering the kind of relationship that leads to long-term retention. Nobody wants to be sold to in an aggressive way or be told that the way they’re thinking or feeling is wrong. Your reps should use the opportunity to actively listen to prospects’ concerns and respond to them in a meaningful way.

Which Objection-Handling Techniques Are Most Important to Learn?

The best objection-handling techniques and specific messaging will depend on your industry and target market, but sales professionals should have these core techniques perfected:

The A.R.E. Method

A.R.E. is a helpful acronym that stands for Acknowledge, Respond, and Elaborate and breaks down how to respond to any type of objection. Here’s how it works: 

  • A: Acknowledge what you heard the prospect say and get clarification that that’s what they meant.
  • R: Respond to what you heard. 
  • E: Elaborate on what you heard and ask them to tell you more. 

This helps the rep clarify the issue and respond effectively, but also reinforces the fact that they’re hearing their prospect’s concerns.

This method is sometimes taught as A.R.P., or Acknowledge, Respond, and Pivot. The “Pivot” part is commonly misinterpreted to mean move away from talking about the objection. What “pivot” really means isfor you to pivot to discovery. You don’t want to ignore the objection — you need to solve it.

Asking Strong Clarification Questions

Clarification questions are a fundamental tool for handling objections. Reps should never be afraid to ask for clarification or a repeated answer, or assume they know exactly what a prospect is saying at first listen. Without clarification questions, there’s a strong chance the rep will only address a prospect’s surface-level concern without getting to the core of what they need to hear to want to buy. 

Here are some examples:

  • What does success look like for your role? With a product like this?  
  • What kind of pressure is this issue causing you and your business?
  • I want to make sure I understand — task automation is your number one priority, but data collection is a close second?
  • Have you attempted to use a solution like this before? How did it impact your company?

Slowing Down the Conversation 

It may be tempting for reps to throw out answers off the cuff and quickly, especially when they’re on a packed schedule or under pressure to meet quota. But with objection handling, it pays to slow down the conversation. Give reps different tactics to get the prospect talking, such as asking questions, sharing relevant use cases or customer success stories, and more.

Want to Learn Effective Objection Handling?

At Sales Assembly, we’ve developed 15 industry-leading certifications to help your entire revenue organization, with cohort-style courses to take salespeople of all experience and management levels to new heights. 

Improve your team’s objection-handling skills, hear from industry experts, and keep learning throughout the year. View our upcoming program calendar for more information on trainings and events.

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