My System for Overcoming Objections in Sales Conversations

Michelle Hunter by Michelle Hunter

How to communicate effectively and close more deals

adult-asking-blur-630839

Here’s a little secret… objections are a normal, natural part of anyone’s buying process. When a potential customer talks to you about his concerns or shares the reasons why she might not want to move forward with your product or service, this is actually something called a “buying signal” – a sign that the person is carefully considering your offer with interest. Did you catch that? Objections are an indicator of true interest. So why do we sometimes freeze when we hear them? Most of us have not mastered the art of overcoming objections in sales conversations. We freeze because we don’t know what to do or say to move the conversation forward… and often we even find ourselves shutting down right when we ought to get excited. 

If you struggle with sales objections and finding responses that will move the conversation forward, you’re not alone. Over the years, my clients have shared numerous stories of sales conversations that went sideways over an objection or two. 

The problem is this – – > most of us practice our value proposition more than we actually practice real sales conversations. 

We focus on the positives of our products or services without considering the reasons why someone might not want to buy or why our work might not be a fit. We shy away from considering objections because we want to be positive and confident.  I understand this approach, but it’s not as helpful as it seems. 

Handling objections begins with thinking about them, defining them, and understanding the mind of your ideal customer. Once you do this work, you can use a simple system to respond and overcome sales objections during any type of conversation in which your offer is being discussed and considered. 

What an objection is… and what it is not. 

Some of the misunderstandings about sales objections come from the connotation of the phrase itself. We think of an objection as a bad thing… a sign that someone is trying to shift the dialogue or call us out on a broken rule of order (just like in the courtrooms we see on TV). This is not the case at all… in sales conversations, as I said above, objections are actually positive.

An objection is a concern, issue, or question in the mind of a potential customer as he or she is carefully considering making a purchase. It is an indication of interest, not a point of order or a broken rule. It is a sign of caution, not a rejection of the offer itself. 

Objections are typically both logical and emotional in origin. Your potential client may be feeling a bit of fear about making a mistake or a bad decision, and raises a logical concern in response. She might be confused about a point in your presentation and a bit frustrated or insecure about her own ability to understand. Objections are often requests for both clarification or adjustment in the offer itself and for reassurance and support. 

Overcoming sales objections in five steps. 

When a potential client objects to our work, we have a choice. We can react with an inner emotional crisis – questioning our abilities, feeling frustrated, or give in to imposter syndrome. We can give up the leadership position in the conversation and offer the client concessions which limit our ability to serve the client profitably or with joy. 

Neither of the options above will support our business goals. I recommend something entirely different. Instead of freezing or yielding, I suggest overcoming objections confidently using the following simple system.

Evaluate

I want you to consider shifting your mindset a bit. When you hear an objection – or sense one coming due to silence or a hesitant tone on the part of your potential customer – I want you to take a mental step back to pause and evaluate. 

Listen carefully to the language of the objection. You’ll want to use those exact words (or nearly exact wording) when you talk about the issue from this point forward. But, don’t just listen to the words… listen to what is not being said too. Take the emotional temperature of the other person and evaluate the situation both logically and emotionally. 

There’s more to an objection that what appears on the surface.  

  • I’m not sure about this. Can I see more options?” – may indicate confusion, anxiety, or fear of making the wrong decision. 
  • “The timeline feels long to me. Can we move faster?” – may indicate urgency you didn’t realize was in play, confusion about the process, or a trust issue. 
  • “I’m surprised by the investment.” – may indicate a budgetary concern, but more often tells you the person doesn’t truly understand the value of your work. 

Sometimes an objection is a red herring – an excuse to slow down the process and get a little more time to think and consider before making a decision. The problem isn’t the timeline or the investment per se, it’s the pace of the conversation itself. Perhaps you’re asking for commitment too early or have not provided enough details about the offer. 

The point here is to pause a moment and consider what is really being said rather than wracking your brain to find a response. The best immediate answer to an objection is “good question” or “I’m glad you raised that point” or “hmmm… tell me more.”   

Acknowledge

Once you’ve listened to the objection and evaluated the emotional undercurrent of the conversation, it’s time to acknowledge the objection with humility and gratitude. Use the words your client used if possible, and repeat the objection to be sure you understand. 

Often clients object initially to the 8 week timeline of my 1:1 marketing intensive offer. They come to me seeking increased revenue, more clients, and expanded impact in the market. They come knowing their marketing message and strategy is off in some way, and they want a solution as quickly as possible. Basically, they don’t want to wait 8 weeks for what they hope will be a quick fix.  (FYI – there are very few quick fixes in life… but that’s a topic for another day.) 

Here’s how the steps I’ve discussed up to this point often play out… 

Client: Oh gosh, the timeline seems a bit long. Will it really take 8 weeks to start getting results? Can we move a little faster? 

Me: Good question, I’m glad you raised this issue. Why do you want to move faster? 

[As the client shares more information about the concern, I pause and notice the emotion underlying the conversation. I listen to the words used, the tone, and if we’re in person or speaking via video chat I also look at body language. I’m evaluating and gathering insight.]

[I may ask a few more open ended questions here to explore the objection. I find asking “why” to be quite helpful. Typically, though, I move pretty quickly to acknowledgement.]

Me: Okay – let me make sure I understand. You’re concerned because the timeline seems a bit long and you would like to move faster and start getting results prior to the 8 week point. Is that right? 

Client:  Yes, exactly. 

Notice that I have not addressed the concern yet or responded. I’ve simply asked questions, listened, and acknowledged the issue. This takes a bit of practice, but it actually helps diffuse the emotion of the situation, both for YOU and the client. 

By exploring the issue together in this way, you engage in a warm and collaborative process. You build trust, letting the potential client know that it’s okay to ask questions and share feelings openly. You demonstrate confidence in your offer and a willingness to be flexible – even though you never actually offered a concession.  It’s kind of magical, really… people often just want to be heard. 

Isolate

While it may seem counterintuitive and feel a bit awkward, the next step in overcoming objections is to isolate them – meaning verify that this is the only issue keeping the prospective client from moving forward. 

Typically, I will say something like this – -> “Okay, before we go any further,  I am wondering something. If we can resolve this issue, will you be ready to move forward?” Feels a little direct, doesn’t it?  Candor of this kind takes practice. 

This step is important because it allows you to identify any other issues hiding in the background and create an expectation that the purpose of this conversation is agreement.  There are basically three types of responses at this point. 

  1. Yes, I’m ready to go forward if we can get this one issue handled. 
  2. No, I’m not ready now… even if we resolve this issue I will still need time. 
  3. Well, actually I have a few more concerns. 

When the answer is yes, you can move forward with confidence. When the answer is no you can simply follow up with a clarifying question such as, “What is your ideal timing here?” rather than handling the objection. Then, plan to speak at a future date. 

The most interesting (and valuable) answer here is actually the third. By taking this step, you’ve deepened the conversation and opened the door to other issues – likely the most important issues to a potential client. That’s a good thing. 

I’ve found over the years that people often use a socially acceptable objection such as price or timeline to mask a more deeply felt and personal objection such as insecurity about the course of action, fear of commitment, or concerns about my ability to deliver results. Most of us would rather comment on price than express concerns about ability – especially when speaking to a respected expert. 

By asking the isolation question, I pave the way for a conversation about the real issues at hand… and thus increase our ability to resolve them. 

Address

Once you’ve isolated each issue (even if there are more than one) it’s time to address them. Resist the urge to combine them. It is important to discuss each issue or area of concern individually and resolve each to the potential client’s satisfaction, if possible. 

For example, let’s imagine a potential client raised the issue of timeline and then subsequently expressed concerns that the project objectives can be met. Those are two separate issues, and should be addressed independently from one another. 

Often I begin with the stronger, more concerning issue. In this case, that is the concern that we might not be able to achieve the project’s objectives. This is an issue of belief and trust. The person either (a) doesn’t believe it possible to achieve the stated goal or (b) isn’t sure I can deliver that level of results. I address both by calling out the fear and sharing a story of a client in a similar situation who worked with me to achieve the desired result. 

I might say something like this – -> “It’s difficult to imagine hitting a revenue goal like the one we’ve discussed when you’re working so hard right now just to make payroll. I totally understand, and you’re not alone. I worked with a client recently who… [story].  I know how to get a similar result for you.” 

Once this is addressed, then I will turn my attention to the lesser issue – in this case, timeline.  I will start by confirming that the issue still exists, and then guide the client to a resolution that might involve a bit of compromise. 

Confirm

The last step in the process is simply to review the issues and confirm that they have been resolved. I like to go through a simple process of “You told me X. We discussed Y. Is the issue resolved at this point?” My goal is agreement. The potential client should happily and easily agree that the issues are resolved. 

It can be tempting to skip this step and simply assume things are resolved and the project is moving forward. Resist this and take the time to confirm issue resolution. Doing so will demonstrate that you are professional and trustworthy. More importantly, it will also set the stage for a very natural next step – signing the contract and moving forward with the project. 

Practice overcoming objections in sales conversations. 

Honestly, this is one of the most valuable skills you can develop as a business owner. Known as the art of negotiation, the process I’ve outlined is affirming, respectful, and logical. Your goal is not to “win the deal” although this is often the outcome. Instead, adopt the mindset that conversations like there are a service to your potential clients, helping them complete their due diligence and make the best possible decision. 

Want to develop a sales process that is fully aligned with your values and honors your potential customers and clients? Let’s talk

Keep reading...