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Is it Time for a More Mindful Approach to Handling Objections?

Objections, whether a new issue we’ve never encountered or one we’ve heard a hundred times, tend to create stress for both buyer and seller. Buyers have often experienced such aggressive responses to their concerns in the past that the mere thought of sharing an issue with a salesperson makes them wildly uncomfortable. Meanwhile, salespeople have experienced scenarios where buyer “smoke screens” mask real issues, leaving them at a complete loss for how to help the buyer.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way – there is a more mindful approach to addressing buyer concerns that can facilitate a collaborative conversation that leaves both buyer and seller feeling valued and supported.

Quiet Confidence

Handling buyer concerns or objections often goes off the rails even before an issue is raised. Enthusiastic salespeople who have spent previous interactions working to understand their buyer’s business issues and decision criteria reach the presentation stage and unwittingly move from dialog to monologue. This can be triggered by even the most innocuous statement like, “We are really excited to show you our solution today, we are confident it’s the best alternative for your business and look forward to demonstrating why that is.”

Certainly, many salespeople have been taught to be enthusiastic about their own solution, but is that enthusiasm really going to encourage the buyer to share their honest feelings about what they see? For many of them, the answer is no. Once we have taken a position that we believe our solution is the best alternative, any feedback from them that is contrary to that may be perceived as challenging our position and launching a debate they simply want to avoid. This doesn’t mean they will buy from us in order to avoid the debate, it means they will stop communicating and we may not even uncover issues or concerns. This is an enormous problem because we cannot address issues that we aren’t able to identify.

In order to avoid this, we need to make clear throughout the engagement, and especially when presenting a recommendation, that our objective is NOT to convince them to buy from us. Instead, it is to help them figure out what is best for them. We need to demonstrate a quiet confidence that allows us to be vulnerable and open to the possibility that we don’t have the best solution. By demonstrating that helping them make the best decision is the ultimate win for us, we make it safe for them to share any concerns openly and honestly and thus overcome the first obstacle to handling an objection, which is not getting it at all.

Great, They are Telling Me What They Don’t Like … Now What?

Once we’ve created an environment where buyers are comfortable sharing concerns, we need to moderate our initial reaction when they share objections. Countless training programs have taught salespeople to be prepared for objections by having an answer at the ready for any objection they hear. However, anyone who’s had even one marriage counseling session (or sufficient emotional intelligence to know this without counseling 😉) knows that what people want most when they express a concern is to be heard and understood – they want to feel valued. What they don’t want is to feel marginalized, ignored, or categorized. When buyers raise concerns and we answer too quickly, we send a message that they aren’t unique, they aren’t special, they are just like everyone else. In fact, there is even an objection handling method called “feel, felt, found” that explicitly tells them they are just like other people. If our buyers don’t feel we genuinely care about their issue, they will be reluctant to engage in a conversation to address it.

So, when faced with a concern, we want to start by taking the time to fully understand it. What exactly do they mean by, “Your price is too high?” When they say something like, “I’m concerned about your service organization,” what are they worried will happen if they decide to work with us. If they tell us, “Your product doesn’t have feature X,” how do they feel this will impact their organization? In addition, we want to be certain we understand whether this is one of several concerns or is it perhaps the thing keeping them from moving forward and getting what they want to buy. Finally, we need to understand how significant the issue is; whether it could keep us from working together or is merely a minor distraction for them. When we take the time to understand the issue BEFORE trying to address it, we demonstrate a genuine concern for them that encourages a more open and honest conversation, and we avoid taking misguided actions that do more harm than good.

Discover the Solution Together

The good news with buyer objections is that there is almost always something – some set of actions that could be taken or adjustments that could be made – that would address the issue and allow them to move confidently forward with our solution. However, only the buyer can decide what that actually is – only the buyer can tell us what must be done in order for them to move from no to yes. Yet most salespeople are conditioned to offer up suggestions without ever engaging the buyer in the process. Believe me, I know!

I remember learning this lesson very early in my career when faced with what felt like a particularly challenging objection. After hearing the buyer’s concern (probably only superficially at that), I offered up my proposed solution, “Here’s what I can do, A, B, and C,” I said. To which my buyer replied, “Nope, that won’t do it.” So I tried again, “Ok, then how about we do D, E, and F?” I suggested. “Not gonna work,” was the response. This actually went on for a few more rounds before I was totally dumbfounded and asked a question that forever changed my approach. “What could we do to resolve this issue for you?” I asked, more out of exhaustion than insight. What my buyer said next was actually easier to get done than ANY of the ideas I had offered myself. Better yet, I learned an invaluable lesson about how all of us think when we are buyers.

As buyers, when we really want something, even if we have a concern, we may well have determined a path to address it before we’ve expressed the concern. As sellers, we need to remember this and give space for buyers to share with us what ideas they’ve come up with. Consider this part of the objection handling conversation to be less about us trying to get them to buy and more of a workshop where buyer and seller collaborate to figure out what can be done to address an issue. You may find yourself as surprised as I was.

If they don’t have ideas of their own, no worries. We can always contribute your ideas as well – it’s a workshop after all. However, one word of caution, when we do offer ideas, we should always offer them in the form of questions. For example, instead of saying what I did so many years ago, “Here’s what I can do for you…,” say something more like, “What if we could do this, would that address the issue and allow you to move forward?” By offering our ideas in the form of questions we are better able to avoid inadvertently making commitments even before we know if they will work.

Only Two Possible Answers

Despite all the stress we may feel about coming up with an answer to the buyer’s objection, if we take the approach outlined here, answering the objection is actually the easiest part of the entire process – because there are now only two possible answers to every objection we hear. Once we’ve worked with the buyer to determine what must be done to resolve the issue, the answer is either, “Yes, we can do that,” or “No, we cannot.” In some cases, buyers will have concerns that require something we simply cannot do. As salespeople it’s important to identify those situations – preferably as early as we possibly can – and to move forward knowing we did our best to understand and assist our buyer. While not every opportunity can be won, they can nearly always be understood.

Becoming Expert at Objection Handling

Naturally there’s a bit more to executing this consistently than we’ve had time to cover in a short blog post. No worries though, we want to help you become expert and handling buyer objections. So we are going to provide you with access to our online learning program on objection handling free of charge. Simply click here to register and you’ll have access to all the learning and practice modules you need to become fully proficient with this conversation … and well on your way to less stress and better results.

Want to talk through your most challenging objections or have a conversation to see if or how Axiom can help your sales organization? You can schedule a call with us here.

At Axiom Sales Kinetics we’ve spent thirty years helping sales teams coach, learn, and sell more effectively. We offer a unique, mindful alternative to traditional sales training. Unlike traditional sales training events, we embed our methodology into your sales cadence, delivering dramatically better sales results. To learn more about Selling the Axiom Way, our Kinetics Sales Effectiveness Platform, or our unique, guaranteed approach, please visit us at www.axiomsaleskinetics.com.


Why Sales Transformation May be Your Easiest and Most Meaningful Initiative Ever

These days many people cringe at the thought of a transformation project. After trying or surviving digital transformation, cultural transformation, business process transformation, and organizational transformation, does anyone really want to endure another transformation project?

The very word transformation implies difficulty. Oxford languages defines transformation as “a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.” It is in essence a 180° turn from what we do and how we do something today. Sounds overwhelming, exhausting.

But imagine how that changes if what we do now, and how we do it today, is actually the hard way? What if today we are swimming upstream, or for my cycling friends, we are riding into a strong headwind. If that’s the case, this “transformation” or 180° turn is actually going to have us going with the flow. It’s going to make our lives easier and allow us to move at a significantly faster pace. For most companies, that is exactly what sales transformation is about. 

Today, most sales organizations are actually fighting against the natural flow in three very important ways.

Sellers and Buyers Have Competing Objectives

First, when it comes to how salespeople engage with buyers, the approach generally has buyers and sellers at odds, with different and sometimes even competing objectives. This creates tremendous friction and tension that reduces the pace and undermines effectiveness. Here’s a simple example to illustrate the point. When it comes time to present a recommendation, most salespeople have a singular objective – to convince the buyer to select their solution. However, most buyers have a very different objective – to figure out what is best for them. This difference in objectives often causes buyers to shut down, to withhold information about what they really think about our solution, making it even more difficult for salespeople to achieve their objective.

However, something magical happens when salespeople abandon their objective of winning a sale and instead embrace the buyer’s objective of determining what’s best for the buyer. Buyers open up and share more information, allowing for a more productive and candid conversation. Issues can be discussed and often properly addressed. If the solution really is right for the buyer, the two parties can figure that out together in a more efficient and relaxed way. If it isn’t right, the seller wastes less time on an opportunity that they will not win anyway.

That’s just one example, but throughout the typical buyer-seller journey there are many more opportunities to transform the engagement in ways that radically improve results while reducing effort.

Training Events Don’t Align With How People Learn

Now let’s move to the second major way in which sales organizations are typically fighting against the natural flow – how people learn. In most organizations, implementing a new sales methodology, improving the team’s skill in a particular area, or preparing them to sell a new solution is accomplished primarily through training events. To be sure, these are more often virtual than they used to be, and more often on-demand than they once were. However, they are still events in that salespeople are presented with content that they are then expected to consume and apply. While there may be considerable effort put forth to make the experience pleasant and the content engaging, this approach is actually contrary to how people develop skills and apply knowledge.

The learning cycle for acquiring a new skill or becoming incremental more proficient with an existing skill is actually well understood and documented. For our purposes here, we will use the Learn, Practice, Apply, Evaluate or LPAE model. For each new skill to take hold and become a part of the salesperson’s toolkit, they must complete the full cycle. However, each cycle also requires sleep, which is where our minds actually do much of the work associated with learning. So, we cannot stack multiple skills on top of one another in a two-day or three-day training session and expect anyone to get good at them. In fact, those people who do acquire new skills after attending this type of event generally don’t do it because of the event, they do it in spite of the event. Believe me, I know. We spent two decades training salespeople in traditional training classes before numerous studies conducted on our behalf by Western Michigan University’s Evaluation Center with our clients made clear, people who were using what they learned were acquiring the skills after class by breaking the learning down into small pieces that they would develop one at a time.

So, a radical transformation in how we train and develop salespeople would be to abandon traditional sales training classes in favor of a model where everyone on the team is expected to acquire or further develop a new skill every week, as a standard part of what they do. Instead of putting people in classes once or twice a year and overwhelming them with more than they can digest or apply, they would become comfortable at developing a new skill or acquiring new knowledge on a regular cadence. When it comes to skills associated with a sales methodology initiative, this can dramatically increase adoption and impact. Instead of 20% adoption of new skills, this approach, has allowed some organizations to achieve 80% adoption. Not only is it more effective, but it’s also dramatically easier to execute as scheduling hassles are significantly reduced.

Managers Provide Feedback Instead of Coaching

The third area in which most sales organizations are fighting against a strong headwind is in how managers interact with sellers. Unfortunately, this topic requires a more in-depth exploration than we have space for in this article. But not to worry, if you’d like to read more about transforming managers into exceptional coaches, simply click here to download our free Guide to Sales Coaching. This brief paper will show you how transforming the way companies set sales goals and how managers interact with sellers can drive continuous improvement and dramatically better results, with considerably less stress.

While it’s true that a transformation requires effort, anyone who has turned to downstream after paddling against a river’s flow or turned downwind after pedaling into a headwind can tell you, the benefit far outweighs the effort. For most organizations this is exactly what sales transformation will be like.

Not sure sales transformation is right for your organization? You may be correct; it isn’t right or even possible for everyone. If you’d like to learn more, let’s schedule a brief call to talk about your organization. We’ll give you an honest assessment, not a sales pitch, so you can figure out if sales transformation is an initiative worth exploring in your situation.

At Axiom Sales Kinetics we’ve spent thirty years helping sales teams coach, learn, and sell more effectively. We offer a unique, mindful alternative to traditional sales training. Unlike traditional sales training events, we embed our methodology into your sales cadence, delivering dramatically better sales results. To learn more about Selling the Axiom Way, our Kinetics Sales Effectiveness Platform, or our unique, guaranteed approach, please visit us at www.axiomsaleskinetics.com.