My very first day at my very first job was as a holiday sales associate at Best Buy.
The 16-year-old me was nervous to say the least. It was my responsibility to persuade customers to buy a $2,000 computer. That seemed like a massive among of money to convince someone to spend. And if by some miracle, I succeeded, my job wasn’t over. Best Buy then wanted me to upsell them a $200 product insurance plan.
I felt unprepared and had no sales training. I dreaded people telling me no.
Even if a customer came in knowing the computer they wanted, I was still supposed to upsell them the insurance plan.
After hearing excuse after excuse — “No,” “I’m not interested,” or “I’ll think about”— I stopped trying to sell the insurance plans for fear of rejection.
When the season was over, Best Buy politely told me that they would not need me any longer. Rejected again.
We’ve all experienced rejection in relationships, school, and work. If you’re a sales professional, you think you experience rejection multiple times a day, every day.
But what many of us perceive as rejection is really an objection. And objection is not rejection.
Sales objections are familiar, tried-and-true phrases we hear frequently:
- I don’t have time right now.
- We’re not interested.
- We don’t have budget for that.
Whereas some examples of rejection are:
- Take me off your list and don’t ever call me again!
- You and your agency suck.
Sales objections are signs of concern, confusion, risk aversion, stalling or a fear of change. They are a natural part of the human condition and our decision-making process. In many cases, they are instinctive responses. But objections actually can be a sign of engagement.
Rejection is very different. It’s an outright refusal to accept an idea or request—a firm no. At times, it’s delivered with a harsh and deliberate tone. Sometimes it comes off as a personal insult.
While rejection and objection can and often do feel the same, it’s important to be able to tell the difference and know how to respond. If not, your sales work will suffer, and you’ll lose the opportunity to close more deals.
Successful salespeople understand the reasons behind the kinds of responses to prospecting. Follow these 3 rules of overcoming sales objections and you’ll be adding more wins.
Rule #1 – Sales Objections Are Emotional
The human decision-making process is emotional first and then logical. The challenge is to not respond emotionally to your prospect’s rejection. Prospect objections are among the most difficult. That’s why so many salespeople avoid prospecting like the plague, fearing the rejection and the impact on their careers and income.
Average salespeople respond by either fighting back or giving up. The fight becomes an argument with prospects trying to persuade them that their concerns about change are unfounded. It’s an emotional response to those objections.
Remember: In a sales conversation, the person with greater emotional control has the highest likelihood of getting their desired outcome.
High-performing salespeople understand this fact, don’t take it personally and exert emotional control.
Rule #2 – Not All Sales Objections Are the Same
Sales trainer Jeb Blount, in his book aptly titled, Objections, breaks down objections into three categories he calls RBOs:
- R Reflex Responses
- B Brush-Offs
- O True Objections
These are your prospect’s rote reactions. It’s not an intentional slight or attempt to deceive, but they are an automatic response to your pitch and probably those of any other salespeople.
Here are some examples:
- We’re not interested.
- I’m busy.
- We’re all set.
- We’re good.
The prospect is not responding. They are running on autopilot.
A brush-off is your prospect’s way of telling you to bug off nicely. It’s about avoiding conflict. Examples:
- Call me later.
- Why don’t you send me some information?
- Send me an email in a month.
Salespeople often misinterpret brush-offs as a sign of accomplishment. “She must be interested because she told me to call in a month,” the deluded salesperson thinks. “I’ll put that in my calendar right now.”
While the prospect might indeed be interested, they have not really given you any real indication of interest.
True Sales Objections
True objections on prospecting calls tend to be more transparent and logical. They typically come with a reason and seem genuine. Here are a few:
- We just signed a new contract with your competitor, so there’s no reason for us to meet right now.
- I can’t meet next week because I’m going to be at our industry’s tradeshow in Chicago.
Do you hear the difference between the reflex responses, brush-offs, and the true objections? Knowing the distinctions between the three leads to a better sense of where your prospect mindset and how to respond.
Rule #3 – Objections Follow the 80/20 Rule
When I ask salespeople to tell me how many types of objections they hear, the answer is usually the same: an infinite, never-ending number of objections.
Too many salespeople think each RBO is unique, special and one of a kind. They end up winging it when it comes to a response. In reality, each industry has a rather common set of RBOs. Usually, there are 3-5 RBOs that makeup 80% or more of prospecting objections.
What are the most common RBOs you face in your agency?
- “We’re all set.”
- “Just send me some information.”
- “We handle that in-house.”
- “I’m not the right person.”
- “We have an agency.”
The key to overcoming objections is to identify what the most common objections are that you and your team hear. Create great answers that get prospects past the RBO. Then practice and refine your responses.
Here is what high-performing salespeople do:
- List common RBOs encountered in their prospecting and script answers to each, often working with sales colleagues to get the best possible answers drafted.
- Practice those scripts. Role-play the answers with a colleague and refine your answers. Memorize them until they become natural.
- Use the scripted answers on some prospects and continue to modify your answers.
Having scripts prepared in advance helps you stay in your logical brain, rise above disruptive reactionary emotions and regain control of the conversation.
Back to Best Buy
In the months after I was let go by Best Buy, I stopped looking at what happened as a rejection, but rather as an objection that could be overcome. The next summer I asked my former manager if they needed help. It turned out they were short-staffed.
I began to listen to customer objections in the computer department carefully and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I was going to succeed no matter what.
The other sales associates and I began to compare the objections we heard and created responses that we role-played with each other. Here is one that I heard regularly and a reply that worked great.
Customer: I don’t think the computer will break. There’s no need for the insurance plan.
Me: Did you drive to the store today?
Me: Do you have a spare tire in the trunk?
Me: I drove to work today, and I don’t think I will get a flat tire on my way home. But, like you, I have a spare tire in my trunk just in case. It’s better to be safe than sorry. How about we take another look at that insurance plan?
It worked incredibly well.
I went on to lead not only our Best Buy store but the entire Midwest in insurance plan sales that year. At the next holiday season, I didn’t get fired. I got a raise.
As a sales professional, remember that objection is not rejection. Work with your colleagues to create a list of the most common sales objections you hear and categorize them as Rs, Bs or Os. Get to work on scripting and spend the next three months testing and refining your answers. You’ll retain better emotional control, learn more and find a dramatic uptick in your prospecting work.