“NO” *click*. That’s one thing almost all reps have experienced at least once in their sales career. Rejection is part of the game, and the best reps understand how to take that “no” and turn it into a positive response. Sales objections represent an opportunity—a chance to use a sales rebuttal to take control of the conversation.
Usually, sales rebuttal scripts are provided as part of your sales enablement and training materials and offer an arsenal of prepared responses to dozens of specific objections. These curated responses usually end up coming from a generic sales script source, which can be problematic because these scripts are almost always not specific enough to speak in a meaningful way to your prospect.
So what do you do? Going into battle without a game plan won’t work, but that doesn’t mean that pre-canned replies are necessarily the best way to handle an objection, either.
The strongest sales scripts are those you create naturally in the conversation. Instead of memorizing lines of dialogue, you should learn to “fish”—to not only understand how to create your own scripts but have a tactical tool to use against objections on the fly. But before we dive into the “how,” we need to understand the “what.”
How to Handle Sales Rebuttals and Objections
The common definition of sales rebuttal is “a counterargument to a prospect's objection.” Technically that is correct, but this description lacks nuance and encourages a defensive retort (an easy way to harden a prospect’s objection).
To redefine this more accurately, let’s first consider your options when handling an objection. You have three choices in most sales situations:
- Move on: aka give up. Okay, not much of an option, but there are moments when that’s all you’re left to work with, e.g. “How’d you get this number? Stop calling me!”
- Counter: aka get defensive. This usually takes the form of arguing directly about an objection, placing the prospect in a position of power.
- Redirect: aka taking control of the conversation. This tactic lets you prolong and steer the conversation away from the objection towards value statements.
As you can see, the third choice is the best and most professional option. Option two is less optimal, as it promotes taking an argumentative stance with a prospect—a surefire way to say goodbye to a sale for good. Option one should only be considered once the prospect has been deemed lost. So that leaves us with redirect as the ideal plan of attack when dealing with a prospect’s objection.
So let’s go back to that definition of a rebuttal and make it more accurate. A sales rebuttal is a "redirection of a prospect's objection.”
For example, say a prospect says, “Sorry, no budget.”
You redirect with:
“I completely understand. I’m actually not selling at the moment, but I was wondering if you currently use [tool or service] to [overcome challenge]?”
“I completely understand. I actually just wanted to share an idea with you that could help [company name] gain [specific benefit of your product/service]."
Redirection can be incredibly effective because the tactic is imbued with the challenger sales methodology, allowing a rep to politely wrestle control of the conversation back from a prospect and drive a shaky sale to a close. Redirection is also a great way to dig up additional challenges and open up a prospect, particularly in the early discovery phases of a deal.
The Sales Rebuttal Formula
This type of mindset sets the stage for objection handling that leverages a formula or methodology that you can apply to most selling scenarios. The sales rebuttal formula is:
Acknowledge > Redirect + Question or Redirect + Value Statement
This sales rebuttal formula comes in two flavors:
- Acknowledge > Redirect + Question (qualifying)
- Acknowledge > Redirect + Value Statement
Always begin your rebuttal with an acknowledgment. It shows that you’re listening and allows for a polite dismissal of the objection. The “redirect” is the pivot point in the sales rebuttal formula. The success of the objection handling comes down to how you navigate the conversation, which can take one of two forms: question or value statement.
The question you use should have three purposes
- Qualify the customer.
- Dig up possible challenges.
- Identify a connection between a benefit your product or service provides and a pain point your prospect has either communicated or has not realized yet.
It’s important to remember that the value statement should not focus on product or service features. Rather, it should describe a benefit that takes on a pain point or a challenge the prospect is facing.
When to Use a Question or Value Statement
The rebuttal action you should take depends on which stage of the sale you’re on. For simplicity’s sake, and because every organization uses a different set of sales stages, let’s look at the sales process as “acts”:
- Act 1: Beginning (cold, warm call—getting the meeting, prequalify)
- Act 2: Middle (the meeting, qualify, present)
- Act 3: End (negotiation, close, win)
This first act, like your early sales stages, will often call for Acknowledge > Redirect + Question since you are in the discovery phase and working to uncover the challenges the prospect is facing and what they are currently doing to alleviate them.
The second act, or your middle sales stages, will require you to switch between Redirect + Question and Redirect + Value Statement.
By this second phase of the sale, you’ll likely have a meeting booked. While this doesn’t mean the prospect is ready to buy, they are showing that they are somewhat interested in continuing the discussion. Because this interest could be lukewarm, the Redirect + Question is the best next step to take to dive a little deeper into the prospect's areas of concern and any potential reservations they may have.
By the third act, you’ve established that the prospect has a real interest and you’re moving closer to closing the deal. At this point, it’s important to consider your differentiators and how you can rebuttal objections related to how you differ from competitors.
Something to keep in mind: Objections in Act 2 and 3 are often a good sign. It means that the prospect has considered your product or service enough to think through the challenges of implementation. Objections at these stages can provide the tension you need to alleviate final concerns and drive the sale to a close.
Things to Avoid When Objection Handling
- Avoid shotgun selling: Do not load up all the features of a product or service into a pitch and blast them at a prospect in hopes that something will hit. Discuss benefits/value with precision aim.
- Reframe how you see objections: Do not emphasize the objection by counteracting with a direct defense of an objection. That’s adding fuel to the fire! Redirect the conversation away from a prospect’s gripe.
- Focus on the solution, not the sale: Instead, focus on the customer! It’s easy to forget the customer experience when you’re focused on the sale. Make a customer, not a sale! Talk to prospects about their problems and how to solve them, not your commodity and its uses.
- Don’t beat yourself up: Learn how to handle sales rejection with these useful tips.
Sales objections are never fun to receive from the other end of the phone. The good news for reps is that the most common sales objections can be easily overcome with the right combination of words. If you’re interested in learning more about improving your sales performance or your teams, check out our guide, “The Complete Sales Planning Handbook.”