Objection your honour! In many courtrooms, objections are either sustained or overruled by a judge. In a negotiation, the customer plays the judge (and opposing lawyer, too). Their decision is (most often!) final, so it’s your job as the business manager to cleverly handle customer objections to ensure they make the right call.
Objections are part of most commercial discussions. In both selling and negotiation meetings, the key is to be prepared. How? By anticipating and planning for objections beforehand.
All too often we have observed meetings with clients whose customer raises an objection early in the discussion and the business manager treats the objection as an interruption to their proposal and responds with “I’ll deal with that later.”
This type of response can appear dismissive, and often leads to the customer shutting down and becoming disengaged. In this example, the business manager failed to identify that the objection raised was a high priority for the customer and needed to be resolved to their satisfaction for the proposal to move forward.
It’s important to remember that objections are raised for a couple of reasons. Usually, those reasons are either tactical or emotional. In some situations, commercial buyers will raise prepared objections during a proposal to see if they can glean additional concessions or benefits from a supplier. The challenge is to determine if an objection is genuine or a disruptive tactic.
Some common objection methods commercial buyers might use are:
- ‘If you don’t ask, you won’t receive’
- Never accepting the first offer
- Refusing to acknowledge good profit margins
- Setting a conditional or demanding tone
In other cases, objections are raised for entirely different reasons:
- Lack of understanding of the proposal
- To reset control of the conversation
- As a request for more information
- Covering the objections of absent decision-makers
When objections are raised, it can be easy to default into negotiation-mode. Often this comes from a place of willingness to provide a solution on the spot, wanting to be proactive to the customer’s needs, and to clear the way to continue on with the proposal.
However, whilst it may seem like a proactive stance, defaulting to negotiation instead of addressing the objection, actually derails the selling process.
For example, a customer might raise an objection about the price being too expensive, or the margin not high enough. While you may have discounts in your armoury, you don’t want to end up in a discount percentage negotiation in the middle of your selling proposition. Selling and negotiating at the same time is counteractive. Always sell the proposition first, then negotiate the details.
As objections are going to be faced in almost every negotiation discussion, below are some tips on how to best handle them.
- Keep calm. Don’t get flustered or become impatient.
- Listen carefully. This means actively listening to show you are on their side.
- Acknowledge the objection to indicate you understand the concern.
- Refine the objection and isolate it – this helps to ascertain if the objection is genuine.
- Define – play it back to them for clarity and to show you’ve understood.
- Overcome or outweigh through reselling or confirming the benefits.
- Close it out – seek agreement or acknowledge if further investigation is required.
Anticipating objections should be part of your preparation process. When preparing for a meeting come up with a list of objections you might be likely to receive. A great way to do this is to think what are the questions you don’t want to be asked? Then plan your responses accordingly. Planned responses will allow you to handle the objections more confidently and fluently, it will also reduce the feeling of surprise.
To improve your ability to handle customer objections and become a stronger negotiator, register for one of our courses here…