Sales objections are an opportunity—a chance to use a sales rebuttal to take control of the conversation. But in a moment of prospect opposition it’s difficult to maintain such a positive perspective. As a sales rep, you know this, as prepping for objections is part of the job.
Usually this means studying sales rebuttal scripts and collecting an arsenal of prepared responses to dozens upon dozens of specific objections. These curated responses usually end up coming from a generic sales script source. This approach is problematic, as the hundreds of sales scripts available online are too broad, or fixated on making the sale, not making a customer. Meaning, these scripts are almost always not relevant 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.
After examining many of the popular guides, speaking with sales reps, and reviewing the best practices, a trend arose. The list of scripted sales rebuttals shared common mechanics that relied less on the specific words used and more on the levers those phrases pull.
Instead of listing out lines of dialogue for you to memorize, let’s “teach you 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”.
What is a Sales Rebuttal or Objection Handling?
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 embolden a prospect’s objection).
Before we refine this definition, let’s 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 take control of the conversation. This tactic lets you prolong and steer the conversation away from the objection towards value statements.
As you can see, choices two and three are the only professionally viable options. Option two is less optimal, as it promotes taking an argumentative stance with a prospect, a surefire way to say goodbye to a closed sale for good. That leaves us with redirect as the ideal plan of attack when dealing with a prospect’s objection.
You can now see why the common definition of sales rebuttal is inadequate in describing how to handle an objection. A more effective definition of sales rebuttal is “a redirection of a prospect's objection.”
For example, say a prospect says, “Sorry, no budget.”
You redirect with:
“Completely understand. I’m actually not selling at the moment, but I was wondering do use [tool or service] to [overcome challenge]?”
“Completely understand. Not selling at the moment. 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 challenges and open up a prospect, particularly in the early phases of a sale.
The Sales Rebuttal Formula
All this thinking sets the stage for objection handling that leverages a formula, a methodology, that you can apply to most selling scenarios. The sales rebuttal formula is:
Acknowledge > Redirect + Question or Redirect + Value Statement
The 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 critical component, the pivot point, in the sales rebuttal formula. The success of the objection handling comes down to how you redirect, which can take one of two forms: question or value statement.
The question you use should have two purposes. One is to qualify the customer, and the other is to dig up challenges and find an opening to issue match, meaning correspond a benefit of your product or service to a pain point a prospect has either communicated or has not realized yet.
The value statement should NEVER list product or service features. The value should describe a benefit that takes on a pain point, a challenge, the prospect faces.
When to Use a Question or Value Statement
Regardless of what stage you’re on, when that inevitable moment of “I’m not interested”, “No budget”, or the always fun “How’d you get this number?” comes, you’ll need to lean into one of the formula variations. Whether you use “1” or “2” really depends at which stage of the sale you’re on.
For simplicity’s sake, and because every organization uses a different set of sales stages, we’ll split up the sales process into “acts”:
- Act 1: Beginning (cold, warm call—getting the meeting, prequalify)
- Act 2: Middle (the meeting, qualify, present)
- Act 3: End (negotiation, close, win)
What “act” a sale is in will determine whether you use 1 or 2. For instance, Act 1 will often call for Acknowledge > Redirect + Question since hard sells at the early stages of a sale will likely bolster resistance with an already objectionable prospect. There are scenarios that require you offer value upfront, e.g. in response to a question like “why are you calling?” during a cold call. But usually, if you answer an objection with a question, there’s a good chance you keep the conversation open until you find an opportunity to issue match (corresponding a benefit of your product or service with prospect’s pain point) and shift to value propositions.
Act 2 will require you to switch between Redirect + Question and Redirect + Value Statement.
By this second phase of the sell, you likely have a meeting, so you’re dealing with a somewhat interested buyer. This interest could be barely luke warm, so objections are inevitable, making Redirect + Question necessary. On the other end of the spectrum, you could have a significant amount of interest, providing you with the opportunity to sell your benefits using Redirect + Value Statement.
By Act 3, you can almost see the commission in your checking account. It’s time to close. The only question that will help you here is some version of “What can I do to have you sign today?” Otherwise, you’ll want to reinforce the overall value your product or service is providing the prospect.
Something to keep in mind: Objections in Act 2 and 3 are often a good sign. The prospect has considered your product or service enough to think through the challenges to implementation. Objections at these stages can provide the tension you need to alleviate final concerns and drive the sale to a close.
The Sales Rebuttal Formula in Action (Examples)
Remember that the point of this formula is to help you develop your own relevant scripts or learn a method for responding to most objections without relying too heavily on pre-canned retorts. But for inspiration, here are five examples of the formula applied to common objection scenarios:
1. Objection: “Is this a sales call?” (Act 1)
Redirect + Question: I’m not trying to sell anything at this point. I was wondering: what [tool or service] are you currently using to [handle task relevant to the prospect’s job]?
Redirect + Value Statement: I’m not trying to sell anything at this point. I would like to send you some information on how to [value statement that gets at a pain point].
2. Objection: “Send me an email.” (Act 1)
Redirect + Question: Certainly. To make sure I send over relevant information, can I ask you a few questions?
3. Objection: “No budget.” (Act 1, Act 2, Act 3)
Redirect + Question: I understand. Did you know that [particular challenge] is costing you [this much] a year?
Redirect + Value Statement: I understand. Many of our customers like [big company name] felt the same way until we broke down how we could save them [specific dollar amount].
4. Objection: “My boss said no.” (Act 2, Act 3)
Redirect + Question: I’ve been there. Could you help schedule a meeting with him so we can show him/her the value we provide?
Redirect + Value Statement: Totally understand. Let’s have him/her discuss over lunch with one of my execs.
5. Objection: “I’m not interested.” (Act 2, Act 3)
Redirect + Question: I understand. I was wondering: what [product or service] are you currently using [to overcome a particular challenge]?
Redirect + Value Statement: I understand. Many of our current customers like [big name customer] felt the same way at first. Not another sales call! But after they learned how we help companies [value statement driving at pain point] they realized the serious benefit we could bring to their business.
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.
- Avoid dwelling on 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.
- Avoid focusing on 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.
- Avoid beating yourself up: Learn how to handle sales rejection with these useful tips.