As a sales manager, it can be exhausting to hear the excuses your team make for not closing opportunities.

“It’s too tough out there, all I get is objections”
“They are not happy with the rate, can we discount?”
“They are not ready to make a decision, I’ve said I’ll call back in a few weeks”

A team who are ill-equipped to deal with customer objections cause all sorts of problems; lengthy sales cycles, overly-discounted rates, lost opportunities… not to mention extra work for you.

So, as their manager, how can you turn their negativity around and empower them to get past common sales objections and confidently ask for the business?

Fortunately, objection handling is a simple skill that can be learned. In this blog we share with you 3 steps you can use in your next team meeting to coach your team in skilled objection handling.

1. List and group objections

Teams often complain that there are hundreds of objections they have to deal with on a daily basis. However, once written down, you’ll find there are normally less than 15, of which many are variations of the core 5:

No money
No time
No authority to say yes
No need
No need now

ACTION: In your next team meeting, grab a marker pen and ask your team to shout out all the common objections they can think of. List them on the board and then group similar ones together (e.g. No money: “Your rate is too high” / “It’s too expensive”/ “We don’t have the budget for it”)

2. Re-frame their mindset: Objections are questions

When salespeople get an objection, many revert to fight or flight mode. Often they see objections as negative personal attacks and either become defensive and justify their position, or become passive and allow the objection to end the sales conversation.

However, objections are not negative. They occur because the customer has a question that is unresolved. So, in order for the customer to buy, all the salesperson has to do is work out what question the customer is asking… and answer it.

As their coach, encourage them to see objections as positive questions, even buying signals, that help them understand what it is that the customer really needs.

ACTION: On the whiteboard, take each objection and ask your team to shout out the possible questions the customer may be asking. Write them on the board next to each objection. Example:
Objection: “Your rate is very high!”
Possible questions the customer is asking: “How are you different?” “Why are you twice as expensive as these guys?” “Do you offer discount?”

3. Coach them to handle objections:

Once they are thinking of objections as positive buying signals, you can use a simple model called AIR to help them understand the customer’s objection and handle it. The key objective here is to coach the salesperson to stop jumping in to fix the problem and instead, start questioning to understand the customer’s real concern.

The AIR objection handling model:

First, coach them to acknowledge the customer’s issue, and repeat back the objection. This is an important step as it shows the customer the salesperson is listening and provides empathy and understanding.

“Thanks Rachel, I really appreciate you sharing that with me”
“So you think the rate is high?”

Next the salesperson should isolate the problem. Here they ask probing questions to understand the real concern. If the objection is about product, service or price, it is important to understand if the customer is comparing ‘apples with apples’. Encourage your team to think about the way their product differentiates from the competition, and come up with great questions to help you understand the customer’s point of reference.

“Oh really, I’m surprised; why do you think the rate is too high?”
“Let me understand, what specifically are you comparing it too?”
“What return on investment would you want to see to justify the rate?”

Finally, the salesperson should respond by summarising their concern and resolving it with a good solution. High-influence solutions are founded on benefits, examples and statistics.

“I understand you’re concerned the software may not give you the increased productivity you desire. So you can see the results for yourself, we can set you up on a 30 day trial of the programme for free. We find 95% of our customers are fully satisfied with the return on investment after just 30 days, and there is no obligation to continue if it is not for you.
Does that resolve your concern?
Great, let’s get you set up.”

ACTION: Write up AIR on the whiteboard and explain the theory. Now, pick an objection and ask your team to think of questions and phrases they could use to help them Acknowledge, Isolate and Respond to this objection. Go through each of the core objections until they feel comfortable they have a strategy for each one.

In summary, by using the three steps above, you will empower your team with the right mindset and technique to handle objections with confidence. You will also set a best practice for objection handling that you can use day-to-day to coach your team towards ongoing sales success.