Objections are arguably the single most dreaded aspect of selling. Most salespeople spend their entire careers attempting to avoid objections from prospects. And when they do encounter sales objections, they scramble to overcome them.
Overcoming objections is such a critical part of sales that I decided to sit down with our Head Sales Coach at Sales Insights Lab, Tiffany Torres, for a wide-ranging talk about it.
The result is a conversation that’s chock-full of real-world examples and our most effective sales tips for overcoming objections, no matter where you’re starting from. Check it out:
The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What Objections Really Are—and Why They Happen
Marc Wayshak: I’m psyched to have you here, Tiffany. We’re going to be talking about objections—the dreaded “four-letter word” in sales that most salespeople spend their entire life trying to avoid, and then trying to overcome.
Why don’t we just start with talking about some of the most common sales objections that we hear about in our community? Let’s go through and riff off some of the most common objections in sales that we hear people talking about.
Tiffany Torres: Good to be here. There are so many sales objections we hear about all the time. Everything from, “Great, I just have to run this by my boss or my partner,” all the way to, “I’ll try it on my own,” or, “I think I’m going to try what I’ve already got.”
Marc Wayshak: Yeah. Or, “The price is too high. Your competitors are cheaper. The timing’s just not right.” There are so many objections that we can talk about.
The sales objections I want to focus on today tend to crop up later in the sale. Some people refer to objections as the resistance that comes up when you make a prospecting call—“I don’t have time to talk right now,” etcetera. That’s more kind of just general pushback. We’re talking about specific objections that you get after you’ve presented some version of your offering.
So let’s start with the question of why salespeople tend to get objections in the first place.
Tiffany Torres: So, sales objections usually come up because something got missed earlier on. This typically happens when you aren’t thorough enough in earlier parts of the conversation to really be able to avoid that happening in the first place.
Marc Wayshak: Yes, like maybe important questions were missed earlier on in the sales conversation. It’s hard to talk about this in theory, so let’s pick a specific objection as an example: “The timing’s just not right.” What would be an example of something that a salesperson might have missed in order to get that objection?
Tiffany Torres: Timing is probably one of the more nuanced sales objections, but it often comes down to missing the opportunity to fully understand whether the challenge is urgent for the prospect right now. It’s also about understanding what they’re going through besides the challenges that they’re facing.
I think it’s interesting because the timing objection can also be a form of the prospect being afraid of change and bringing up timing as a fictitious reason not to move forward: “I’m going to blame it on timing, but it’s really something else.”
I was actually in a sales situation a couple months back, where I was the buyer, and I brought up timing as an objection. But then I was like, “Wait, I’m objecting for no reason. I’m objecting because this is going to mean change and I’m nervous about that.” So I walked myself back through my own objection. It was just because I was feeling a little nervous about something else completely. So it had nothing to do with timing at the end of the day.
Marc Wayshak: Yeah. We chose the timing objection as an example, but we could pick out any objection and come up with a lot of reasons why the prospect might say it. But to me, a lot of times it just shows that it’s a cover for the fact that they’re simply not seeing enough value.
It’s either not a priority for them, or they’re not seeing enough value in what you’ve offered. And those are, by the way, two different things.
So on the one hand, the challenges that they’ve discussed are just not a priority for them, which is something you should have dealt with during disqualification or in the initial discovery conversation.
On the other hand, the fact that they’re not seeing enough value is more an issue throughout the entire sales process. The prospect didn’t make the connection between how big their challenge is and how important it is to solve it, and how your solution is really going to connect those dots.
Are they really seeing that your solution is connecting those dots? That’s the question.
Your example is a really good one, too. You knew the importance of the challenge you were facing, but maybe you felt like there might have been some risk in simply changing what you were doing. That connection from point A to point B—the bridge that the salesperson was creating for you—wasn’t super solid.
I think recognizing why sales objections happen leads us to this next piece, which is: How do we avoid objections in the first place? And so let’s talk a little bit about objection avoidance.
Avoiding Objections to Overcome Them
Tiffany Torres: Objection avoidance is one of the reasons why I actually get excited about getting an objection.
So many salespeople try to run so far from objections, and then when one comes up, they stress. And then in that moment of stress, they’re trying so hard to put the sale back together in their own head that they just completely overtalk it—and then it’s lost.
If we move sales objections into a place of curiosity and exploration, then all of the sudden there’s a really tactical framework that you can use to make sure that you’re learning from this experience.
When an objection happens, the thought process should be, “Why did that come up? What did I miss earlier on? Was there a key concept I missed? Did the prospect say something? Maybe it was just an offhand statement where I could have asked additional questions about that, but I missed it—and now it’s coming back to bite me later on in the sale.”
Marc Wayshak: A good example in terms of the timing objection might be the prospect saying something like, “We’re also working on three other projects right now.” Most salespeople would just say, “Okay, cool,” and move on. But a great salesperson….well, let’s just roleplay it right now. Imagine I’m the prospect and I say, “Right now we’re also working on three other projects at the same time.”
Tiffany Torres: That’s super interesting, Marc. So walk me through how those three other projects affect what we’re talking about today.
Marc Wayshak: And now we’re digging into it, right? We’re diving into the challenge because that could be the thing that’s going to lead them to eventually say the timing isn’t right, because they really have to focus on these three other projects. So to your point, don’t just run away from it.
Disqualification Is Key to Overcoming Objections
Tiffany Torres: I think a lot of sales objections come up because there’s so much bad sales advice out there, and so many of us just feel like this little jack-in-the-box where we’re waiting to share our benefits and share how much they’re going to get out of it and stuff like that.
I did this back in the day where I would think, “Let me just ask enough questions to get them to listen to what I have to offer. And then they’re totally going to get it. It’s totally going to make sense to them.”
But in reality, I need to ask them the questions they need to hear in order to understand their challenge, and they need to understand how their challenge connects to what I have to offer.
Marc Wayshak: There’s obviously a lot going on there in that very insightful idea, but it’s basically that we need to take prospects through a process of discovery, to use more broad language. We call it disqualification more specifically.
The point is to really help them see and determine the magnitude of the challenge that they have, and get a sense of their commitment to deal with that. And once we have an understanding of how important it is to them, and all that stuff, then we’re connecting a solution to that—assuming that they’ve shown enough commitment to get even some semblance of a presentation from us.
This is so different from the traditional sales process, which is basically show up, open up your jacket pocket, pitch a bunch of crap, and essentially be like a talking website.
Tiffany Torres: It’s so true. When salespeople show up with these huge presentations, with these huge pitch decks, then it falls apart. And I certainly used to be in this space where I was thinking, “Okay, I guess in order for me to sell more, my presentation has to be prettier, or I guess the document has to be prettier.” Dude, it’s not the presentation.
Marc Wayshak: It’s not the presentation. Most salespeople are just following a process—or they’re not following a process at all—that’s taking them down a road where they’re pitching.
The prospect could have told them something that would’ve been really useful to explore that might have stalled the sale, whether it was about another decision maker, whether it was about the timing, whether it was about their commitment, whether it was about their budget, all this stuff that should have been dealt with during that initial phase.
But because most salespeople are so focused on pitching, they kind of glaze over it and then get into this place of having to overcome objections after the presentation.
And so I think salespeople misdiagnose the problem. There’s a pain in their lower back, and so they assume there’s something wrong with their lower back. But actually, as we all know with spinal issues, a lot of times pain in your lower back could actually have to do with vertebrae in your neck, or something else entirely. It’s the same thing with sales objections. Most salespeople end up assigning blame to their presentation, like you said: “My presentation wasn’t compelling enough.” But really the problem is that you just didn’t dive deep enough in that discovery or disqualification conversation to understand what was really going on.
Tiffany Torres: Exactly. And that’s why every objection is so meaningful, and you are not going to learn without making the mistakes. You can’t just learn without messing up a lot.
Marc Wayshak: Totally.
Tiffany Torres: So every time you get a sales objection you should think, “Ooh, it’s time! Something’s going to happen.” Either you’re going to figure out how to work the objection so that you learn more about this prospect and you help them to not shoot themselves in the foot, or that experience is going to help you with the next prospect and avoid letting that next guy shoot themselves in the foot.
How to Actually Overcome Objections in Sales
Marc Wayshak: This idea of prospects shooting themselves in the foot is right on. I think that leads right into this next piece.
Let’s say we’ve gone through what we believe is a good discovery. We’ve presented a solution that we think is appropriate for the challenges that they’ve discussed. So, for the most part, we feel like we’re pretty on track. Let’s just take that assumption. Now still we get an objection like, “The timing on this just isn’t right. I’d like to revisit this in six weeks or three months.”
What’s the process from that point of actually overcoming the objection, of handling it?
Tiffany Torres: I’m going to talk about this in two parts. First of all, most salespeople will reply to that type of timing objection by saying some version of, “No, no no. I’ll tell you all the reasons why now is okay.” And they just try to saturate their prospects with all the reasons why they’re wrong.
And I can tell you: I was selling for 15 years before I got the right training, and that does not work.
Never have I ever experienced a prospect’s mind being changed by that sort of response. Never. So what we need to do instead is slow it down. Don’t be afraid of sitting in that space of objection. Be curious. Why is the prospect really saying these things?
Marc Wayshak: Yeah. This idea that we can somehow overcome objections by persuading prospects away from the objection is faulty. It will only get you into a kind of back-and-forth tug-of-war or arm-wrestling match with the prospect.
The problem with persuasion is that there’s this assumption that we are somehow a step ahead of the prospect, or the prospect is kind of dumb. Persuasion almost implies that we’re dealing with a toddler—which is ironic, because as someone who has a toddler, I can tell you that there’s certainly no persuasion of a toddler.
But in all seriousness, I think that’s really a problem.
When I listen to sales calls, when I hear people get sales objections—even solid salespeople—a lot of times they’ll respond to an objection by talking for four, five, six minutes, just babbling, saying words. And the prospect is politely listening, but it’s not moving the needle at all. And that is crazy destructive to the sale. You’re never going to persuade them simply by throwing up all over them all the reasons why their objection is either not valid or they should think a different way.
Tiffany Torres: Exactly. And I think the more that you try to push, the more entrenched they become, which is really interesting. And then in addition to whatever objection they had, they’ll usually come up with more at that point.
The goal of appropriately handling the objection is to slow it down and let them say what they need to say—because even if they don’t say it, they’re thinking it. Letting them get it out of their mouth is the important thing, so that you can understand where they’re coming from. And then you can approach a conversation from that standpoint instead of all the head trash that you’re afraid of—that maybe they think you’re too expensive, all those things that you think are going on, let the other person say it before you assume.
Slow It Down—Don’t Try to Solve
Marc Wayshak: I think this is a good place to get into a little tactic. Let’s say your prospect says, “The timing of this just isn’t right. Can we table this for six weeks?” The standard salesperson says, “Let me tell you all the reasons why this is the right time.” Now tell me how you would address that objection differently.
Tiffany Torres: So again, slowing the conversation down, really making sure that you’re pausing through it, giving them some kind of back-and-forth, some kind of “make nice” in the conversation where you’re going to say, “Oh, that’s a really interesting statement. Help me understand what makes you say that.” And then getting them to go deeper into what’s going on in their world, or what they’re seeing, or what they’re really afraid of.
Marc Wayshak: And not being in a rush to solve it. People always make fun of the idea that, when talking to their partners, men always rush to try to solve their partners’ problems right away. Rather than just listening, which is what their partners really want, right?
And by the way, although the general stereotype of this is about men, this is not actually a gendered thing at all. Every salesperson I’ve ever listened to, left to their own devices, is going to try to solve the objection as quickly as possible. Even if they do some kind of initial digging or slowing it down, most salespeople are just dying to solve the objection. It’s like there’s tension, a pin in their seat, and they need to solve it. And obviously the goal is not to do that.
Tiffany Torres: What’s interesting about that is I think that “solver mindset” is really common, because I certainly have that as well. I’ll have a friend come to me with problems and I’m like, “What you need to do is X, Y, Z.” And I think that there’s correspondence, there’s definitely a Venn diagram there between salespeople and, or people that have to do sales, and that solver mindset.
The issue is when you start to get good at slowing it down and asking questions, it affects the entirety of your sale, not just objections, because one of the places where we get a lot of people having issues is in trying to solve during discovery. We’re not solving anything in discovery. You haven’t shown that you understand their issues well enough. Once you stop trying to solve objections, you’ll actually start to find that your discoveries go much better as well. That whole situation will be slowed down and you’ll be taking it step by step.
Marc Wayshak: Yeah, that’s so true. I like to use the doctor’s analogy here. Imagine walking into the office of an orthopedic surgeon saying, “Hey doc, my elbow hurts.” Now, the quack doctor immediately says, “Oh, well, we’ve got this incredible procedure called arthroscopic surgery!” And he just goes into this persuasive pitch. No good doctor would do that, right? They’re going to slow it down, really understand what’s going on with your elbow before suggesting any kind of treatment. Good salespeople think like good doctors.
I don’t fully understand where it comes from, but again, almost everyone I’ve ever observed in sales, when left to their own devices, is just dying to have the solution right away. They’re like a five-year-old in class answering a teacher’s question. When they think they know the answer, they’re just dying to get it off their chest. Instead, we need to slow it down and let the prospect talk, because your stupid solution…it’s too early. Get them to really fully dive in.
Tiffany Torres: Absolutely.
Marc Wayshak: Anything else you would add to this conversation around overcoming objections in sales?
Tiffany Torres: Yeah. One other point that I would make is that the less that we can dread any specific sales situation and just accept it as an experience that we’re either going to win from or we’re going to learn from, the more we’re going to be open to growing in general.
Marc Wayshak: Yeah. If you mess up on this set of objections, there’s more opportunities, right? There’s pressure to be perfect. There’s this idea that handling an objection is going to make you worse. But, like you said, either you win or you learn. Like we always say some will, some won’t, so what? Next.
Thank you, Tiffany. This was awesome. Thanks for being here.
Tiffany Torres: Thanks for having me.
So there you have it. Now you know Our Top Sales Tips for Overcoming Objections. Which of these ideas did you find most useful for overcoming objections in sales? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below to join the conversation.
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About the Author Marc Wayshak
Marc is is the best-selling author of three books on sales and leadership, including the highly acclaimed titles Game Plan Selling, The High-Velocity Sales Organization and his forthcoming book, Sales Conversations, Mastered.
Marc is a contributor to Inc, HubSpot, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Huffington Post Business. He also hosts a popular YouTube channel on sales strategy with over 103,000 subscribers.
Marc helps thousands of people his data-driven, science-based approach to selling that utilizes all the best tools available to sales organizations today.