Salespeople, beware! 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 overcoming objections and negotiating for a sale, so you always walk away with a win.
Let’s get started.
- Overcoming objections vs. negotiating
- 5 objection handling techniques to overcome common sales objections
- 5 sales negotiation techniques to close the deal after overcoming objections
- One final tip
Overcoming Objections vs. Negotiating
Objection handling and negotiating 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.
The most important thing to realize is that objections are not necessarily a bad thing. When your prospects are voicing objections, it can be a great sign that they want 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.
5 Objection Handling Techniques to Overcome Common Sales Objections
Now that we know what the goal of objection handling is, let’s look at 5 techniques you can use to overcome common sales 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 in sales, and craft 2-3 potential responses for each. Test them out and revisit them often. This will give you valuable ammo for overcoming objections.
You can also find a comprehensive list of common sales objections, and what they really mean.
#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 are 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 to defuse their objections. Your objective is to 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 overcome all of them. Prove the value, and let them sell themselves on your product.
5 Sales Negotiation Technique to Close the Deal After Overcoming Objections
Once you overcome 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.
Plan your timeline:
First, you need to have a timeline planned out.
As you approach your prospect, you should set a personal goal date or a deadline, so you can better organize yourself. Have an idea of when each step should be taken, from first contact to following-up, all the way to actually closing the deal.
Don’t necessarily rush to meet those deadlines, but try to keep to your scheduled plan. Flexibility would be great, but falling behind can be disastrous.
Decide your pricing envelope:
Next, you need to 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
You want to approach the meeting with a deep understanding of your prospect and their business goals.
No matter which step of the process you are in, you must always prepare as best as you can before making a move and going on to the next phase.
First thing you need to do is to research your customers. You need to know the details of their product or service and how their business operates. That will allow you to adapt your sales presentation to focus on how your own product or service can meet their needs.
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.
Industry and market-based research:
The second thing is to understand the market and industry standards. Aside from knowing what your customer needs, you also need to learn about your competitors and what they offer. Have an idea of the price average for what you are selling, and know what the market demands and tendencies are.
This will give you a better idea of how much you can offer and even help with a proper negotiating strategy.
#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 .
Be clear when you communicate product information.
There is no room for miscommunication when you are trying to come to an agreement with your customers. Be as clear and transparent as you can be about your terms, your services and/or products, your prices, everything.
To get the prospect to want what you’re selling, they need to understand why they need your product in the first place.
Make sure you’re explaining all of the benefits of closing a deal with you. Tell them how your product can provide a solution to their pain points. Use data and statistics to give more credibility to your claims.
You already know your product is the best for them, make them see it the way you do.
Don’t be afraid to set the price anchor.
The price defines the value and worth of your product — making it key to position it properly.
Creating a pricing strategy is a challenging and complex process — one that requires extensive market/competitor research, as well as a study of consumer behavior.
Keep in mind, you didn’t put all that effort into creating a concrete pricing plan for your product only to settle for something less for the sake of a sale. Nowadays, with the freemium and premium options out there, salespeople must know how to pitch terms confidently the minute they step into the price conversation.
Decide what you’re willing to compromise on — in advance!
Sometimes, there are product features and benefits which a customer just can’t be persuaded to buy, or they just can’t afford to.
Know what can be negotiated about your offer, and be ready to give and take in order for you both to meet each other halfway.
However, you have to make sure you’re not giving up too much just to make a sale. Don’t depreciate your product for the sake of a sale. That leads us to the next tip.
#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.
Listen closely as you negotiate
Sometimes you just need to listen. Negotiating should not be about you pushing what you want to sell based just on your goals, it should be about offering the option that is most likely to be the right fit for a customer.
Active listening is essential for you to understand your client’s needs and to adapt your offer to be as appealing as possible to the prospect. They’ll tell you more than they’re aware as you both discuss and negotiate.
Answer all questions patiently
Rushing will only hurt your negotiation process because it makes it seem like you only care about the final result. Worse, rushing makes it feel like you are pressuring the prospect.
They need to be at a comfortable place to be more open to offers. And they have the right to ask as many questions as they’d like before making a final decision.
Asking enthusiastic questions about the product is an indication that they’re interested and they’re trying to get as much information as they can to make up their minds.
Know when to walk away
If you have tried everything and you have been quite patient, but you see that…
- The sale might be dragging on for way too long
- The client is pushing you to compromise more than you can
Be aware, it’s likely that the deal is stalled for good. Even if you end up making that sale, imagine how much time and energy invested in one prospect you could have used to make other sales.
Sometimes, it is better to walk away and focus on another client than to insist on one that you feel will not come through.
#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.
For further reading, you can find more sales negotiation tips here.
The bottom line?
In every sales negotiation, the seller’s main focus should be on creating a compelling value proposition that clearly presents a solution that is perfectly aligned with the client’s concerns.
A lot of time and energy goes into researching and planning, but if the negotiation doesn’t go as planned, all those efforts will go to waste. So spend as much time practicing your negotiation process as you would in preparing for your sales bid.
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.
Knowing how to overcome objections successfully and how to negotiate 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 maintain 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.