During the sales process, the prospect may – and usually does – mention obstacles to getting the deal done. Reasons they might not want to do the deal. They might say “It’s too expensive,” or “your competitor has feature X that you don’t have, and we really need feature X.”
This is a normal part of the sales process. These are called “objections” and the process for getting through them is objection handling.
Objection handling is an important skill for sales people. But if that skill is augmented with great product knowledge (provided by product managers) sales take off.
Prospects may have all kinds of objections, and not all have to do with the product. A prospect might be concerned that your company might go out of business, or that there won’t be enough skilled consultants to handle their implementation needs, just to give two examples. But in this article, I focus on handling objections related to the product.
To a large degree it’s not because they are mean or terrible people. There are two reasons. First, objections are used as a negotiating tactic. The prospect might want a better deal, or more services, or just to keep the sales person off balance. And having a few good objections gives the prospect leverage in the negotiation.
But the other reason, and the focus of this article, is that the prospect is working to reduce the risk of making the wrong decision.
The cost of making a wrong decision, especially when buying a business application or service, is very high. There’s the monetary cost – usually substantial for an enterprise application or system. And the change management cost of moving an organization to a new system – your system – is likely to be very high as well. If the new system – your system – doesn’t work, and doesn’t deliver the business value expected, there’s no good outcome for the prospect. At best the prospect has egg on their face. More likely, they don’t get promoted, or they even get fired. And since the business results aren’t there, the business suffers.
So, prospects do everything they can to reduce those risks.
But the risk mitigation we’re concerned about in this article is their product-related buying objections, and how to get the prospect past them.
There is an ethical consideration at the outset in the objection handling process. It applies to the whole selling process. And that is that you must have a good faith belief that your solution will actually benefit the prospect.
Don’t be the person who makes any promise necessary to get the business, when your solution isn’t actually a good fit for the prospect. And don’t enable your sales people to do that either!
That said, let’s get down to brass tacks.
From a rational standpoint, we have one main goal when responding to a prospect’s objections – to reduce their perception of risk.
Better product knowledge, and being able to show how customers are using the product to solve their real world problems, goes a long way toward addressing these objections. If you can talk about a customer who has faced a similar problem as the prospect’s, and solved it with your solution that gives you a strong, persuasive story for reducing perceived risk.
Likewise, showing the prospect a demo of your product that shows how it addresses their specific needs is great for reducing perceived risk.
You can predict many product-related objections in advance. These types of objections come up in almost any sales situation. They include:
You can sometimes preempt objections like these upfront. Asking good questions during discovery (see the previous article) and doing a good prospect-focused demo will help reduce objections. But they’re always likely to come up.
How do you prepare the sales team for these kinds of objections? The best way is to give the sales people true stories they can tell about how other customers have been successful. For each of the expected objections, you prepare various stories based on the experiences your customers have with your product and on your various design and implementation decisions. And of course, if you have amazing features that are differentiating, you want to have stories about them as well.
There are three key story types to develop:
This brief article has just touched the surface of objection handling. I hope it’s given you some ideas and techniques for getting started helping your sales team achieve and crush their quotas!
Do you provide objection handling tools for your sales people? I’d love to hear about what you’ve done in the comments.
Your host and author, Nils Davis, is a long-time product manager, consultant, trainer, and coach. He is the author of The Secret Product Manager Handbook, many blog posts, a series of video trainings on product management, and the occasional grilled pizza.
Please log in again. The login page will open in a new tab. After logging in you can close it and return to this page.