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Throughout my tenure in sales, whether as an individual contributor or sales manager, I’ve never had a commercial engagement in which there wasn’t some sort of objection that needed to be handled to close the deal. Every sales professional can agree that objections are inevitable, but I believe there’s a pattern and have had success moving through a methodical process to address objections to consistently win deals over my career.
In my opinion, the top buyer objections that arise when a prospect seriously considers whether to purchase a solution are broken down into the following categories:
- Commercial review objections
- Personal objections
- Negotiation objections
I will address each objection below and provide guidance on how to address them. I’m sensitive that this may be oversimplifying, so feel free to leave comments and we can continue the dialogue from there.
1. Commercial Review Objections
Commercial review objections are generally the easiest to tackle because they are objective. But I also think they’re the most prevalent reasons sales reps consistently lose deals. Reps who are unable to implement a recurring sales process that addresses these types of buyer objections generally struggle significantly.
Commercial objections are tied to four approvals all businesses require in order to make a purchase:
- Legal approval
- Budget approval
- Technical/operational approval
- Executive execution approval
As a sales manager, when I had a sales rep who was putting in the adequate effort and generating the right amount of initial activities but was unable to generate quality opportunities, I’d immediately perform an audit with them to analyze their perceived pipeline against the four areas above.
Oftentimes, I’d find they were able to generate interest with the prospect to the point they would clearly state they would be open to purchasing but had a complete lack of understanding of the above. More importantly, they weren’t working with the prospect to attack the objections that would inevitably arise from the departments of the business responsible for each of these approvals.
The way to ensure you tackle the buyer objections above is simple: If a prospect articulates they would be willing to seriously consider purchasing, ask them:
- What would need to happen for us to obtain legal approval and enable your business to execute a contract?
- What would need to happen for us to obtain budget approval and enable your business to execute a contract?
- What would need to happen for us to obtain technical/operational approval and enable your business to execute a contract?
- What would need to happen for us to obtain executive approval and enable your business to execute a contract?
Asking the above provides you with credibility because rather than sounding like every other sales rep who asks for the order immediately and begins pressuring incessantly, the prospect becomes aware that you understand how a business actually buys.
Therefore, the prospect is more open about what objections or challenges will be in each step, which allows you to collaborate with them on resolving any issues.
2. Personal Buyer Objections
Unfortunately, personal objections are not as easy to deal with as the other two I’ve mentioned. Personal objections typically arise when:
- The solution being proposed does not align with the prospect’s top priorities.
- The prospect doubts the implementation process or timelines for implementation.
It’s critical for sales reps to understand their main point of contact at a company may have to convince a number of different departments and stakeholders to make the investment in what is being proposed. This can represent a significant personal risk if the contact pushes for investment in something that doesn’t work for both their career and social status.
Every salesperson has experienced a deal in which the reason given for not purchasing made no sense in their mind or a prospect asked for unreasonable access, support, or terms before purchase (i.e. extended trials, contract opt-out clauses, etc.).
In my experience, these objections are rooted in not having addressed the above and considerably decrease the probability of a close due to lack of support and sponsorship from the prospect to truly move the deal through a commercial review. Both of these scenarios usually lead to sales reps chasing opportunities that realistically will not end up closing.
In order to tackle the personal objection in a deal, sales reps must ensure they are:
- Aligning the proposed solution with what is highest on the priority list for the prospect.
- Talking through the implementation process and timelines in a way that fits in with the prospect’s business cycle and plan moving forward.
Suggested areas of questioning within a deal to ensure the above objections are being mitigated include:
- How does the proposed solution line up with the prospect’s top priorities moving forward?
- How does the proposed solution line up with the overall business plan moving forward?
- What is the prospect’s understanding of implementation resources needed on their end? Are those resources available?
- Are the sales rep and the prospect in agreement of ideal go-live date and when work needs to begin to hit that?
3. Negotiation Objections
Negotiation objections are the easiest objections to handle and plan for — assuming you are able to avoid any type of negotiating until absolutely necessary.
The biggest mistake I’ve experienced (and seen others make) is to entertain a negotiation discussion before a prospect has actually decided to make the purchase “in their mind,” so to speak. Engaging in any type of discussion regarding discounting, payment terms, free services, etc. sends a powerful message to the prospect that you are willing to cede ground and sets them up to bring up many negotiation objections when the deal is in the final stages of the close.
There are two types of negotiation objections:
- A prospect testing the sales rep before they’ve chosen them as a vendor.
- A prospect that has made the purchase “in their mind” and now needs to agree to final terms.
The only type of negotiation that should be entertained is in the second scenario above. If you don’t engage in the first type of conversation, you will enter the final negotiation from a position of strength. I strongly support mutually beneficial agreements that are negotiated, but prospects will take as much as a sales rep will give up, which is further compounded if it’s a large business with a formal procurement department incentivized based on the size of discount they can get from vendors.
Reps must realize that they can never go back on what they’ve offered up in the form of concessions in past conversations. To eliminate many of the negotiation objections that arise at the end of a sale, a rep must challenge a prospect when they begin asking for concessions. Specifically, do not engage in a negotiation discussion unless the prospect articulates:
- That they are ready to buy, assuming an agreement can be reached through negotiation
- Exactly how the purchase process would happen to assume you extend a concession
- Commitment to when they can obtain a formal answer from their business (concessions cannot be indefinite!)
Assuming the above can be answered, the sales rep can be confident the prospect has decided to focus on buying from them and is open to begin working towards an agreement that both parties feel is fair.
About the author
Juan is now a Director, Business Development at Signal ™, a Marketing and Advertising Company in Chicago. While working at HubSpot, he was tasked with growing enterprise sales practice and bringing Inbound marketing methodology to companies looking to revolutionize how they execute their enterprise marketing strategy.
Connect with him on LinkedIn!