How to Train Your Sales Teams on Customer Objection Handling
Handling objections is one of the key requirements of any Sales Exec – whether you’re selling widgets or multi-year contracts – you’ll encounter an objection somewhere along the way.
In this article, we’re going to show you how to handle objections, and why your company should be building effective customer sales objection handling into any sales training program or Sales Playbook.
* There’s also a link at the bottom for a FREE Sales Objection Handling Template.
Jump to section:
- What is a Sales Objection?
- Why should you create an Objection Handling Script?
- The Open Door Sales Knowledge Theory
- Why should you train your salespeople on Objection Handling?
- Common objection handling problems in Sales Playbooks
- How to include objections in your Sales Playbook
- I’m scared to address objections!
- Why customer objections are actually GOOD for you
- Identifying a ‘cover’ objection
- Free MS Word Sales Objection Handling Template
What is a Sales Objection?
The definition of a sales objection is where a customer has raised a concern, worry or blocker to your sales pitch or proposal. It could come in a number of forms, and may be very specific to you, your company or your product (e.g. I prefer a competitor’s product), or may be more general (e.g. we don’t have any budget currently).
Sales Executives then have to find a way to overcome the objection in order to reassure their customer and move the sale along.
There is no gimmick to handling objections. I repeat: there is NO gimmick to handling sales objections!
I often see videos or articles online about ways to manipulate your customer through an objection by diverting their attention or by aggressively pushing them down a particular path. But, in the majority of B2B sales, where you want your sales teams to respect your customers and for your customers to reciprocate that respect, gimmicks, tricks and manipulation don’t work. If customers are raising an objection, it’s because they have a genuine concern or issue that needs to be addressed. Think about it logically and apply care and consideration to how you address your customers’ concerns.
Why should you create an Objection Handling Script for customer objections?
Customer objections are part and parcel of any sales process. It’s rare that a customer will move through the entire sales process without raising a single objection. Sometimes, you don’t even register that the customer is raising an objection. For example, if a customer says, “So is this something you’re experienced in delivering?” – that is an objection. The customer is saying “I’m unsure about your level of experience in being able to deliver this solution or service.”
Other times, the objection is very obvious. The customer might say they have no budget, no interest, or that they plainly don’t like your company.
And, very often, the same objections come up time and time again, across different sales reps.
By not creating an Objection Handling Script for your sales team or company, you’re not leveraging useful company knowledge about how ‘Sales Exec A’ handled this objection last year, so that ‘Sales Exec B’ doesn’t have to come up with their own additional answer to the objection. Each Sales Exec is having to figure everything out for themselves every time, and this takes up unnecessary time. You can then integrate your Objection Handling Script into your overarching Sales Playbook Template.
Share your sales knowledge: The Open Door Sales Knowledge Theory
We have a saying at Contemsa – it’s the ‘Open Door Sales Knowledge’ theory.
When you collect, record and share common sales experiences such as common customer questions or important sales objections, you are effectively opening the door to your company’s sales knowledge – and making this valuable knowledge available to your sales teams.
When you don’t write that info down and share it, you’re shutting the door. And then each time a Sales Executive comes up against an objection, they can’t go through that door to access the sales knowledge they need, they have to knock on the door, and beat it down. They have to go looking for the key; they have to figure out how to open the door. You get the idea. And that happens every single time a sales rep encounters a new issue or situation.
So, make it easy for your sales teams: record and share this valuable knowledge and keep the door to your sales knowledge open.
Why do we need to train salespeople on common sales objections?
Overcoming price objections from customers is one of the top challenges salespeople face in their jobs – showing just how important being properly prepared to handle objections is for our sales teams. And we can fix this challenge so easily by having this information recorded in your Sales Playbook.
42% of salespeople feel they don’t have enough information before making a call, so improving the sales knowledge that sales teams have at their disposal, through mediums such as customer objection handling scripts, will reduce the reluctance of many salespeople to pick up the phone and start prospecting.
And that’s an important point to remember: customer objection handling isn’t just an activity for late on in a sale when fielding a client’s objections, it’s also applicable before you even pick up the phone or make the first contact – ensuring you have the detailed information you need to have a credible conversation with customers.
Common objection handling problems in Sales Playbooks
Not including the actual customer objections people are asking
Showing salespeople how to effectively handle objections is a key component of any Sales Playbook – but very often, companies choose NOT to include certain objections and responses in their playbooks because they’re concerned about covering sensitive topics or shining a light on some areas that the company might prefer to avoid.
For example, I once worked with a client where the main objection was that they were a startup and they just didn’t have the experience of working with clients that their competitors did. To put it bluntly – they had no experience at all, but they believed they had a great product. They also had a stellar line-up of staff who had come from some of the world’s top organizations, or had proven themselves at delivering success for customers in the past.
But, the problem was that the startup didn’t want to acknowledge openly that they didn’t have this experience within their current company. Instead, they hoped customers wouldn’t ask anything about their current customer track record, and desperately tried to redirect conversations to focus on their team’s previous successes or product features.
This was totally the wrong approach. By avoiding talking about the issue of prior company experience, this became the first topic in customers’ minds.
Instead, what you should be doing is focusing on the actual objections that customers are asking. Don’t avoid them – because the only one who gets negatively impacted is your company, because your sales reps aren’t able to effectively field an objection that probably does have a sensible answer that the customer can appreciate and work through.
Responding to objections with flaky responses
Sometimes I read a sales objection script, and the responses are not really responses. They’re a series of polite sentences, that don’t really answer the objection.
Here’s an example for a mini vacuum cleaner.
“Your vacuum cleaner isn’t as powerful as some of your competitors’ products. Why shouldn’t I use a more powerful vacuum?“
Flaky response: The Atomiko5 has five speeds, ranging from Moderate to Super Fast. We power the Atomiko5 using rechargeable batteries so you can keep your Atomiko5 running around the clock.
A better response: The Atomiko5 might not be as powerful as corded products on the market, however, because it’s powered by rechargeable batteries, you don’t need to worry about messy cords or staying close to a plug socket. Instead, you can use the Atomiko5 in a wider range of locations for ultimate convenience, such as the car or your shed – giving you greater flexibility but with enough power to get the job done properly.
Don’t skirt around the issue – address it head on with a strong response. Own up and explain the issue.
In some situations, you might not be the most powerful, but for customers with a budget of X, you might be the most powerful option in that particular price category. Or, you might not have the experience of your competitors, but you do have an innovative and exciting product that you know customers will love once they use it.
If you don’t address the issue effectively, then you’ll just end up creating responses that salespeople can’t actually use in a real-life scenario. Give them the tools they need, not just the info that makes you look good. There’s no point having a pretty-looking, nice-sounding playbook that has no substance in the real world.
How should I include Sales Objections in our company playbook?
We recommend including 3 – 5 of the most common sales objections that your salespeople are being challenged with in your sales playbook, each with a short response of a couple of sentences. This is usually just a short paragraph that gives a few key points (then if a longer response is required the salesperson can go off and investigate further, but the key is to give the salesperson the headline info to manage the objection during a customer conversation).
Our sales playbooks have the Sales Objection section located near to the end of the playbook, after we’ve educated people on the product, the market opportunity, the target customer profile and so on. Basically, we aim to put the Objections section in where objections would typically occur: once the customer has understood a little about the product, who it works for, why it fits their situation and once you’ve proposed a solution and price.
I’m scared of addressing our company’s common sales objections – what should I do?
Ok, this is a common thing. You’re not the only one to worry about putting your most difficult conversations in one place, on paper, and then handing them out.
Imagine if it was about you as an individual and you had to write down all of your faults and then distribute copies to lots of people. It would be hard. We get it.
But the thing is, these aren’t faults. These are just opportunities for you to address customers’ concerns.
We all have concerns when buying any product, such as:
- Will it work for me?
- Can I trust that it functions properly and isn’t going to break?
- Can I afford it? / Will it be worth me spending this money on this product?
- What if I don’t really need it?
- Should I be buying from a competitor instead?
- Am I making the best choice?
Why customer objections are actually a GOOD thing!
Objections provide your salespeople with the opportunity to address customers’ worries and hesitations – what could be better than a customer verbally telling you what is wrong, rather than going quiet and ignoring your emails.
The customer is actively signalling that there’s an issue they want you to resolve by answering their objection. They’re making it clear and obvious.
That is…until they’re not. Sometimes they use a cover objection to avoid addressing a real objection.
So, what’s a ‘cover objection’ versus a real customer objection?
A cover objection is like a white lie. The customer might not feel comfortable addressing the objection they are actually concerned about upfront, so instead, they invent a cover objection (like a cover story) to mask their true objection.
So how do you know if it’s a REAL objection or just a cover objection?
Well, sometimes it might be obvious, sometimes you might just have an inkling that something is off, and sometimes you might not know until you dig deeper.
Here’s how you can find out if it’s a real objection or just a cover for something else:
Customer: I just don’t have the budget for this project right now. It’s too expensive.
You: Ok, so let me understand that properly. You’re saying that you’re not looking to address this problem currently? Will you be revisiting this project at a later date? What is the financial impact of not addressing this problem (and how does that compare to the cost of delivering the project to fix the issue?)
So, at this point, if your customer comes up with figures that suggest that the cost of ignoring the problem is higher than fixing the problem, then they may decide to have another look at budgets and business cases. Or, they may tell you that they’re waiting until the next financial year to get further budget for the planned project.
Or, they might come up with another excuse.
Very often, if there’s a few different excuses, they’re probably cover objections. Perhaps there never was a budget signed off and the customer has been stringing you along. Or maybe they don’t actually have the authority to make a decision on the project.
How you respond to the objection, and the questions you ask following the customer’s objection will give you the information you need to decide how to handle the customer’s ‘true’ objection.
Now, it’s impossible to plan for every customer eventuality and nuance in a playbook, but it’s important to make your sales teams aware of what to look for when addressing customers’ concerns, and share some common issues that other salespeople have encountered when going through the entire sales process for a particular product, service or solution.
Free MS Word Sales Objection Handling Template
So, now we’ve covered why you should include Customer Objections in your Sales Playbook, and how to do it effectively, we’ve put together a simple Sales Objection Handling Template for free – which you can build into your Sales Playbook, or use as a standalone Customer Objection Handling Script.
The template gives you the pointers for how to start building in objection handling to your sales training documentation – and how to share knowledge between your sales teams.
The template is in Microsoft Word format – so it’s ready to edit and use!
Objection Handling Template
Download a Word format of the Sales Objection Handling Script Template – nothing to fill in, nothing to pay – just a straight download! Simple.