Five Steps to Handling Objections

By Heather Baldwin

Objections are an integral part of selling. For every reason you can think of for why your prospects need your product, they’ll think of a reason they don’t. The question is: How do your reps handle these objections? Do they have a system for fielding them effectively? Or do they each do their own thing and wing it as the objections fly their way? If it’s the latter, now’s the time to train your reps to stay sharp every time they hear an objection, says Brian Sullivan, founder of Precise Selling ( and author of 20 Days to the Top (Sourcebooks, 2005). Sharp, says Sullivan, is an acronym for these five steps.

1. Stop. For many of us, our first instinct when we’re feeling attacked by an objection is to start defending ourselves. Don’t do it, says Sullivan. Instead, stop and mentally count to three. Don’t talk, don’t think about what you’re going to say and don’t start feeling defensive. Just stop and wait.

2. Hear. Stopping yourself from jumping all over an area of concern takes effort. It takes even more effort to fully focus on and hear what your customers are telling you. Listening, Sullivan reminds us, means not thinking about your rebuttal but tuning in entirely to what your prospects are saying.

3. Ask a question. To make sure you have a full understanding of what prospects are saying – even if you think you know – ask a question. Then keep asking questions until you are absolutely sure you know what the prospects are thinking and feeling. “Too many salespeople neglect this step because they feel they already know what prospects are thinking,” says Sullivan. “Don’t assume.”

4. Respond. Begin by saying you understand their concerns and don’t lessen the importance of their opinion, cautions Sullivan, by saying: I’ve never heard that one before. Then address the concern, digging into your arsenal of materials, if necessary, to back up your response with statistics and facts. Treat your response like a bullet and deliver a focused presentation only on that concern. Do not go off on a tangent.

5. Pack it up with agreement. After you respond, get confirmation and agreement that you have sufficiently addressed prospects’ concerns. Make sure they are content with the response. If they are, great. If not, find out what’s still bothering them and address it. If you can’t convince them, confirm that the objection is still a concern and then move on. If prospects ultimately go with a competitor’s product or decide not to decide, at least you’ll know why.