Optimize Your Sales Engine #4: “I Object!”

By October 16, 2012 2 Comments


If you’re close to the sales function of your company, answer this question: What are the three most common objections you get?  (Budget is probably one.) How do you handle these objections?  HOW you handle it makes all the difference in your performance.

Sometimes sales professionals treat objections as a personal affront.  “What do you MEAN now is not the right time??!!”  “It’s NOT too expensive…you are just thinking about it the wrong way!”  Handling objections poorly is one of those “when in a hole, stop digging” situations.

Handling objections is actually a process; it’s not just providing the answer to a problem.  Years ago, I worked for a great company called the Forum Corporation, a consultancy out of Boston.  They had done some research on high-performing sales people and created an objection-handling process that I think is dead-on correct.

Encourage & Question the Objection:

When you get the “This is too expensive” objection, your first instinct is to lay out the ROI case for your solution.  And that totally makes sense.  But not yet.  It’s too soon.  The first thing you should do is “encourage” the objection and ask questions.  It sounds crazy, but you need to relax into the objection and encourage your prospect by saying “Tell me more…is your concern the outright expense, or is your concern the longer-term impact of the cost?” Allow the conversation to continue so that you have more information if and when the deal moves forward.

The research shows that handling the objection this way builds your credibility.  When you jump right to an answer (“Susan, let’s look at the big picture here and talk about ROI..”) you are often perceived as either not listening (best case) or trying to manipulate the person (worst case).  In other words, jumping to provide as opposed to listen too soon makes you look weak.  Encouraging and questioning allows you to look confident and unafraid, and it also helps you truly understand the objection and why your prospect is concerned.

Confirm and Provide a Response to the Objection:

Once you have asked a few questions to make certain you understand, then you re-state; “Susan, it sounds like since this solution was not considered in your original budget, that the funds are just not there for it.  Your team has allocated the funds to other projects, and this is not one of them.  Have I heard that correctly?”  This is called “confirming,” and it again builds credibility by demonstrating that you are listening and your are comfortable with the objection.  And, it implicitly asks permission to move to the next step–and you finally get to provide a response!

Providing a response to the “budget” objection (or any other) is what you are trained for.  In this example, you need to know how to justify your solution and help your prospect prioritize this solution against the others under consideration.  You might begin by acknowledging the real short-term budget impact and then building urgency by demonstrating the longer-term ROI; “There’s no question that this would have a short-term impact on funds.  That budget would need to be pulled away from other projects, and I acknowledge that that is very difficult to entertain at this point.  As we move into the next few months though, we believe that the positive impact of this solution will begin to be felt (in x and y ways).  And as we look out 6-9 months, the ROI tips strongly in your favor (because of a and b).  So what I’m suggesting is that we look at this against your other solutions in terms of that timeframe.  Does that make sense?”  Now, you have provided a case in which your solution may be more attractive, and it’s up to you to help her understand that (or not).

“Check” the Objection:

Once you have provided a response to the objection, you are not quite done.  Once again, the research shows that high-performers do one more thin–they “check.”  The check means you say something like; “Susan, you raised this issue of the budget, and we have discussed both the short-term challenge and the longer-term benefit.  Obviously, we have not come to a final conclusion, but it sounds like you are considering the priorities of the various solutions.  Should we move to the next part of our conversation, or do you have other questions about this?”

5 Steps to Handling Sales Objections:

1. Encourage

2. Question

3. Confirm

4. Provide

5. Check

In order to fine-tune your ability to handle objections, make a list of the 5 most common objections you face in the course of a week.  Write out each objection, and then write down several questions you would ask to truly understand the concern.  Then, using those objections, practice the process out loud with a colleague.  Until you practice, you will not realize how tempting it is to jump right down to the “provide” part, and how hard it is to stay in the question and confirm steps.

Now you have the knowledge.  The skill of this thing lives in the transition between the steps.  The discipline is in “staying high.”  You must stay above #4 as long as you can to ensure you are listening and understanding.  People appreciate people who listen.  Be one.

If you’ve missed the first three ways to optimize your sales engine by 2012, catch up here:

1. Sell What Makes You Different

2. Stop Answering RFPs!

3. Reach Out to 5 New People


Written by Craig Wortmann. You can find him on and Twitter.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • RSlaugh says:


    I’ve also found that before you can truly deal with an objection you need to make sure it is the actual objection and not just a way for the prospect to let you down gently. “That’s not in our budget” will get an unfortunately large percentage of salespeople to pack their bag and go home.

    When I first became a sales manager I would get numerous calls from salespeople trying to sell me, of all things, sales training for my team. I had numerous canned excuses that worked almost all the time. After a while I taught my assistant to screen these calls with those excuses. The truth was I didn’t think my sales force needed it and therefore there was no value in it for us but to say that to a salesperson was just asking for a fight and dare her/him to prove me wrong.

    Looking back I’d have to say I was right. If you can’t engage the prospect past the first few minutes on the phone you haven’t done your homework and your selling system doesn’t work very well.

    After a year and half of this one day my assistant put a call through to me and after 20 minutes I hung up and realized I had just given a salesperson who worked for a training company an appointment. My first instinct was to go ask my assistant why she had put that call through to me and half way out the door it dawned on me that this person had done something radically different from the rest of the pact. She asked questions and looking back now I realize they were definitely impact questions.


    • Sales Engine says:

      Rick– I think your story is a common one. Even if we’re close to the sales function of our own organization, we’re often unwilling to accept sales calls from other companies. True sales people, though are aware of these hurdles and common objections and know how to work through them. Asking high impact questions is entirely central to learning more about a prospect and how you can be a help to them, even if they can’t engage with you in the near future. In our work, we find that the salespeople that take the time to ask the correct questions are always more successful. I’m sure you’ve pushed your own team to ask impact questions more often after your own experience receiving inbound sales calls!

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