If you confuse objection handling and negotiating, you could be losing sales.
In this article, we’ll look at what objection handling and negotiating are (and what they aren’t). Then we’ll go in-depth to look at 5 techniques for handling objections and sales negotiation, so you always walk away with a win.
Let’s get started.
- Handling objections vs. negotiating
- Objection handling techniques
- Sales negotiation techniques
- One final tip
Handling Sales Objections vs. Negotiating
Objection handling and negotiation may seem similar — like two different parts of the same sales process — but they have two very different goals and should be approached differently.
Moving someone from prospect to paying customer isn’t easy. You can make it harder on yourself by not fully understanding the purpose behind each of these stages, and getting them out of order.
So let’s quickly review what they are:
You are still selling at this stage in the process.
You are breaking down barriers, pushing the prospect closer to the point where they convince themselves of the sale because they can’t think of a reason not to.
Objection handling is often thought of as just a part of the sales process, but in reality, it is the crux of the sale.
Don’t negotiate before the prospect is sold, and don’t revert to “selling” when you’re in negotiations. Once you enter negotiations you should already be selected as the vendor of choice.
If you continue to try to sell your client on your product, you may end up losing the sale because you come off as over-eager.
Negotiation is what most people think of when they think of salespeople making a deal. Negotiations can take anywhere from days to months, and will determine how big of a win your sale actually was.
Bottom line, objection handling is about getting the sale. Negotiating is about working out the details once the sale is made.
Objection Handling Techniques
Now that we know what the goal of objection handling is, let’s look at 5 techniques you can use to swat away any objections and make the sale.
#1 – Learn From Your Losses
The first thing you should do before you ever get into the sale is research. Not just research into the customer, but research into yourself and your process.
Review your lost opportunities over the past year and look for themes.
Which sales objections came up most often?
Which ones were the deal breakers?
What areas will require product development?
What can you work or talk around?
Figure out what went wrong so you can avoid it in the future.
Learn from your losses. It’s only a failure if you don’t learn from them.
But don’t stop there. Review your near-losses and close calls as well — opportunities you won but almost didn’t.
Your goal here is to determine what made the difference, what changed your prospect’s mind and pushed them over the line to the sale.
What were the biggest hurdles to closing the sale, and how did you overcome them?
Use these insights to create a “cheat sheet” of common objections, and craft 2-3 potential responses for each. Test them out and revisit them often. This will give you valuable ammo for handling objections.
#2 – Understand Your Prospect’s Real Concerns
Often the prospect’s stated objection isn’t the real issue. It does, though, point to an underlying concern. You can’t overcome an objection you don’t know, so it’s important to work out what the real concern is.
You need to determine why the objection is an issue for them, and why they bringing it up now. Sometimes the timing of an objection can reveal more than the objection itself.
This isn’t the time for assumptions. Guessing at the prospect’s intention can put the entire deal at risk.
It’s also important that, in trying to understand the true cause, you don’t act like their concern isn’t real. Validate and acknowledge the prospect’s concern. Nurture the relationship here.
Once they’ve expressed their concern, try to uncover the underlying problem and the reasons behind it. Ask them why.
Only respond to their objection once you’re sure you understand the real concern
Never answer a question without understanding the context behind it! When in doubt, place the ball back in the prospect’s court. It’s their job to clarify.
#3 – Stop Putting up Speed Bumps
Often, you can be your own worst enemy during a sale. Every prospect has a vision of their ideal solution. Your job is to help them realize that vision, not distort it. You distort the prospect’s visions by:
- Answering unasked questions
- Pitching unwanted features and benefits
- Misaligning your solution to their pains or use-case
- Saying anything that creates unnecessary risk in the prospect’s mind
Sometimes objection handling is about knowing when to step back.
It’s very easy for an over-eager salesperson to get in their own way. Figure out their ideal solution, help them picture it, and then GET OUT OF THE WAY.
In short, don’t talk yourself out of the sale.
#4 – Go for the “No”
What if the prospect still says no? The natural response is this:
- “Is it over?”
- “Is this going to be a deal-breaker?”
- “Should we just call it quits?”
But hold on…
Remember, “no” isn’t necessarily the end. (Just don’t let the prospect know that.) Sometimes a no is the prospect’s way of regaining control. If you accept it and get up to leave the room, they might call you back to the table.
Just because you’re walking towards the door doesn’t mean you have to go through it… unless you want to.
By acting as if the objection is a deal-breaker, you can test its importance — and maybe identify the prospect’s real concern.
“No” isn’t a clear enough objection to fight. Walking towards the door can identify the real issue so that you can handle the objection head on.
Don’t just wait for the customer to make the first move. When there’s a particular objection that comes up repeatedly, bring it up before your prospect mentions it. Get it on the table early and seek resolution.
This builds genuine credibility and rapport.
#5 – Understand That Pricing is NEVER the Real Issue
Pricing issues are never really a pricing issue. They’re a value issue.
There is a direct correlation between pricing and conviction (value). The less confident a prospect is that your product will solve their problem, the greater the pricing pressure.
If your customer is 100% certain that your product will solve their problem, then chances are you’ve already made the sale — pricing is rarely an issue when they’re confident of the value.
When a prospect says the price is too high, learn what they would need to see to justify paying more, and show them you can deliver on that.
Let your prospects answer their own objections. You may not need to handle all of them. Prove the value, and let them sell themselves on your product.
Sales Negotiation Techniques
Once you’ve dealt with your customer’s objections — and you’ve convinced them to go with you as their vendor of choice — the sale has been made and negotiations can begin.
Our goal here is to finalize the terms of the sale to make sure both parties feel they are gaining value.
This isn’t supposed to be you vs an opposing party. It’s you and a customer working together to find the best fit for both of you — you want it to feel like a win win. This requires careful planning and preparation. Here are 5 tips to ensure you and your customer both walk away feeling like you’ve won.
#1 – Have a Game Plan
You should never begin negotiating without a plan. You need to know exactly what you want out of a negotiation, what you’re willing to take, and what you’re willing to concede.
Determine your pricing envelope — your best, worst, and most likely scenarios.
Create a list of potential negotiables — setup fees, minimum commitments, etc. — and assign trading values to each of them. Contract terms have value too.
Your goal is to find a balance where both parties feel they are getting equal trade value.
Know your non-negotiables, and stick to them. Your non-negotiables are non-negotiable for a reason. Never let them be on the table. It will put you at a weaker bargaining position.
Your prospects will have their own envelope and negotiables too. Your non-negotiables, and those of your customer, will define the boundaries of the negotiation. Then it’s your job to persuade them to come closer to your best-case than theirs.
#2 – Consider Your Prospect’s Environment & Business Drivers
Like I mentioned above, it’s important to know the real and perceived value that your customer will get from your product.
What do you believe is of value to this particular prospect? Why?
Internal and external factors influencing their decisions may include:
- Buying team, business challenges/goals, and individual motivators
- Short and long-term strategy — expansion, relocation, new technologies, etc.
- Competitive pressures, market trends, and general business environment
Once you know what factors and drivers are influencing your prospect’s decisions, and what value they’re hoping to get from the deal, you need to determine their most likely alternative to you — a competitor, in-house development, or doing nothing.
This tells you how much leverage you have in the negotiation, and what approach you need to take.
If their primary problem is just as easily solved by a competitor, then you don’t have much leverage, and you instead need to focus on the unique advantages that your product or service provides.
#3 – Never Give Anything for Free
Negotiations are about both parties getting roughly equal value. Always get something comparable or greater in return when you give concessions.
Never give anything away for free.
If you must make a concession, know what items could raise the value for you:
- Commitment to sign within an agreed-upon timeframe (EOM, EOQ, etc.)
- The longer initial term (annual vs. monthly contracts, multi-year agreements)
- Case study or reference account, use of the logo in marketing materials
- Introduction or referral to other potential clients
- Better payment terms (upfront vs. monthly payments, shorter collection times)
Offering things for free lowers your solution’s (and company’s) perceived value. Don’t do it. Always get something in return. It’s a known psychological trick that if the customer has to give something up, even if it’s small, they will perceive your product as more valuable .
#4 – Know When NOT to Negotiate
Sometimes there are certain things you can’t back down on — doing so would create undue risk to the business, regardless of how much you may want the deal, the new logo, or the revenue.
Owners and Sales Managers, it’s your job to know when it’s NOT time to negotiate. Set guidelines, educate your reps, implement checks and balances. Then stick to them.
This is easy if you’ve done a good job creating your pricing envelope and valuations.
You can always live to sell another day. Don’t sell your soul to make the sale.
#5 – Quarterback the Process
As sales professionals, it is our responsibility to drive the procurement process.
Consider the various buying centers involved: project sponsors, technical buyers, legal, procurement, etc. You must always be working these functions in parallel.
Don’t get stuck reacting to the whims of a buyer. Take charge from the beginning, build trust, and control the narrative. This is the best way to ensure that buyers don’t walk all over you, and that you preserve your negotiating power.
One Final Tip…
You and the buyer are both after what’s best for your individual businesses. This is no secret. Your customer will try to get the best deal possible, and they may decide that they’re not getting what they want and leave entirely.
Don’t take it personally. There will be another sale. Try to determine what went wrong, and then move on to the next sale.
Successful objection handling and negotiating ultimately comes down to 5 things.
- Know yourself, your customers, and your marketplace.
- Remember that “pricing objections” are really about conviction and value.
- Have a game plan and never give anything for free.
- Own the process and maintaining control.
If you keep these principals in mind, you’ll be able to dominate the sales process — objection handling and negotiation — and smash your revenue goals.