What Are Your Prospects Really Objecting To?

I see a lot written about effective strategies for dealing with objections, and I agree with most of the common wisdom about handling real/honest objections. What I think most experts, and reps, fail to understand, though, is that the typical strategies or steps that are effective in responding to a real objection fail miserably when faced with a “false objection.”

A false objection is when a decision-maker is less than candid about their desire to initially connect (or move to the next step) and chooses a reason to disengage/delay that will inflict the least amount of emotional damage on both parties. For example:

“Can you send me some information?”

“You should probably talk to _____. S/he handles that kind of thing.”

“I don’t have time; I’m busy.”

“We’re all set” or “We’re happy with what we’re doing now.”

I’m not suggesting that they are lying. Your customers would never do that. I’m just saying they may not be telling you the whole story. It’s not unlike meeting someone socially, who you really aren’t that fond of, but who invites you to hang out. You don’t say: 

“No thanks, you seem like a nice person but I’m not particularly drawn to you and don’t really see us becoming friends. But thanks for asking.” 

There are social rules for this sort of thing. You offer an excuse that protects their feelings, gets you off the hook, and has some kernel of truth:

“Unfortunately I am booked that night. I wish I could but…” 

It’s a dance we all are familiar with. And it’s no different in the business world. In sales, the stories all sound pretty much the same (see examples above).

What is the best response to these? You certainly can’t challenge their authenticity. You can’t debate their position or perspective when it doesn’t represent what they really believe. All you know is that “overcoming” a false objection doesn’t work and the other option – just agreeing with whatever they say – is worse (especially if you have spent weeks or months trying to finally connect with the decision-maker).

The solution is to first recognize the source of the false objection and then completely change your approach.

 

What Are They Really Objecting To?

The decision-maker is NOT rejecting a solution but rejecting a sales call. Let that sink in. They are not rejecting what you sell – if it is truly a false objection. What they are rejecting is the typical sales call where the rep is self-centered, has commission breath, and most likely will cause unwanted, emotional stress (very few people enjoy conflict). 

If you understand their mindset, you quickly realize your objective has to change. Your goal is no longer to attempt to build value in your solution, but to change their perception of “you” – the sales rep — and therefore increase their receptivity to you and your message. Once you embrace a new objective, it’s time to develop a radically different approach to handling a false objection.

 

3 Steps for Handling Objections

1 – The first step is to agree with whatever they say.

They are expecting the typical sales rep to be combative and never take no for an answer. If you start off with a “yeah but” response, this will immediately confirm their perception of a sales rep. Therefore, the first thing that comes out your mouth should be a sincere agreement to whatever they recommend: 

“I would be happy to send that information to you. Can I get your email address?” 

In other words, they are asking you to go away and you are communicating you are willing to comply. You can just feel the tension releasing and the decision-maker getting a bit more comfortable talking to an atypical sales person.

 

2 – Second, the first reason offered to engage didn’t work.

Regardless of where you are in the sales process, a recommendation was made and rejected. Therefore, you need to be prepared with an alternative reason to continue that is in the best interest of the customer: 

“I want to make sure what I send is relevant. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions about _____ to make sure I send you exactly what you need?” 

They key is NOT to offer a reason to consider your solution or to change their mind, but a reason to continue that aligns with their original reason for ending the conversation. 

Here’s another example.

What do you do when redirected by the decision-maker to someone with less power? Instead of trying to win the argument that they have the power, just offer a plausible reason to talk with them as well: 

“Bob, I completely understand that you have delegated this decision to Judy – that makes perfect sense. I understand (avoid the word “but”) you are the one that determines the strategy for ____. So, before I work with Judy, I would love to know a bit more about what is important to you so that whatever I recommend to Judy will be in line with your strategy.” 

The key here is that I am not arguing with Bob about talking to Judy, but simply offering another other-centered reason to stay engaged.

 

3 – Last, find a way to Drop-the-Rope®. 

This simply means reduce the tension by ensuring the customer feels the freedom to choose and gets the message that pressure is off. Remember they are avoiding a sales call, so when you Drop-the-Rope®, whether by the words you use or your tone of voice, you have the greatest opportunity to achieve your new objective – to help them see you as someone who can potentially help them with their business rather than a sales rep to be avoided. 

Additionally, this approach ensures that they feel in control and can escape the conversation at any time, thereby avoiding the emotional baggage that comes from fighting with a self-centered sales rep. The simple truth is the more they feel the freedom to leave the more likely they are to stay engaged.

 

What’s Next?

As Co-founder and CEO, Tom’s primary role is to create content that helps people live, sell, and serve more effectively. Find him on LinkedIn

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