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Handling Prospect Objections: The Four “No’s”

Sales folks face a lot of rejection when performing outreach, especially if it’s cold outreach. But it’s important for sales reps to quickly recognize that different objections should not be handled in the same way. Some can be accepted as a signal to move on, some can be eroded over time, and some require immediate action to challenge the prospect.

The truth is, the prospect or customer is not always right. Keep in mind that the prospect knows themselves better than anyone, but they may not know your offering. 

Knowing that prospect objections tend to come from a place of impulse and introspection, i.e. the prospect knows what they need right now, let’s reframe how we think of objections and look at how to handle some common types. 

Prospect Objections and Motivation 

Objections should not be blanket-classified as signals of poor fit or lead quality. Instead, we should frame objections in terms of the prospect’s level of motivation. 

Any party in a conversation is motivated to achieve something. If an inbound prospect inquiry comes through the door, we know they’re motivated to buy. As sales reps, we’re motivated to sell. 

When choosing a restaurant for dinner with our significant other, we’re motivated to end the conversation with just some kind of choice.

The outbound prospect target is still motivated. We just don’t know what that motivation is when we start of the conversation. 

An objection is a sort of expression of “inverse motivation.” The sales conversation wasn’t expected, not now, and the prospect is really interested in doing something else. Here, objection handling is not about being suave and charming the prospect (though that can work for some people). 

Objection handling is the art of finding a way to connect the prospect’s major motivators to our offering, then helping the prospect recognize that connection. 

There are so many possibilities depending on the prospect persona, the offering being presented, and the circumstances of a sales conversation that affect our ability to form the offering-motivation connection, so we can’t sufficiently deliver a playbook in this article. But we can classify common objections and talk about how to prepare to handle them.

Taking Action in Response to Common “No” Objections

Almost all objections, no matter how elaborate, can be simplified down to four common forms of a “no” response. 

The Four “No’s” in Prospecting

  1. No, Not Now 
  2. No, Not You 
  3. No, Not Me
  4. No, Not Ever

Each of these objections can be translated and paired with an action plan for digging deeper and discovering prospect motivation. 

1. No, Not Now

What they mean: “I’m thinking of literally anything else right now. Your offering may be relevant, but I have to take care of other priorities.” 

What we can do: Inquire about which objectives are most important to their job right now, and take clear notes. Set the prospect aside and nurture them over time, ideally by serving them information about their top priorities. If your offering has no clear ties to their top priorities, nurturing is still the right tactic, but bump them down on your list of high-value outreach targets. 

2. No, Not You

What they mean: “Your offering doesn’t fit my needs. I either have a solution that’s already working or I haven’t heard the right value proposition yet.” 

What we can do: Inquire about what they use today to accomplish their use case, or clarify why their use case doesn’t match what you’re offering. Repositioning your offering may help you immediately overcome this objection in the same conversation, so come prepared with creative use case examples, case studies, and competitor comparisons. 

Note that in some cases, there truly is no fit. If that’s the case, the sales rep is responsible for triggering internal action by notifying marketing and sales managers, or even the product team, to revisit targeting strategy or value propositions. 

3. No, Not Me

What they mean: “I’m not the person that would make a decision about this, or I otherwise can’t use this solution in my role.” 

What we can do: This objection is, in theory, the easiest to overcome because it requires only the slightest participation from the prospect: giving the sales rep a new point of contact to speak with. Of course, a referral can only be earned if the prospect believes it’ll potentially be valuable to their colleagues, so the sales rep needs to clearly spell out which personas tend to gain something from using the product.

4. No, Not Ever

What they mean: It’s a trick! If a prospect is giving this response as their initial objection, they’re distracted or deflecting for some other reason (usually one of the other three “No’s”). 

Note, however, that if a sales rep has gone through a fairly rigorous objection handling effort and arrives at this response, it’s probably genuine and the prospect should be disqualified.

What we can do: Try to dig deeper, but on the prospect’s terms. That means more passive communication, like an email that can be answered on their own time, rather than a phone conversation at that very moment. Shift the conversation away from value statements and the salesperson’s motivation, and focus on what’s going on in the prospect’s life right now that prevents them from having a conversation. That kind of change in narrative usually helps us both build some rapport and uncover the real objection. 

Taking the Next Step

Knowing what objections really are and knowing how to recognize them helps sales reps position themselves not just as sellers, but as problem solvers. And prospects feel more comfortable working with problem solvers — heck, they may even want to share more information with them. 

Sales, marketing, and product managers should work on equipping their sales reps with the information or resources they need to manage their prospect conversations. Revisit buyer persona definitions to anticipate prospect motivations. Build up a library of sales enablement assets or scripts that position different kinds of values at the forefront of the conversation. Stage coaching exercises that run through different objection scenarios. Take the ideas in this article and apply  and practice them to improve success rates. 

Which objections do reps at your organization hear the most? Start the conversation there, and you’ll be able to start developing your playbook.

Have sales reps at your organization had training to recognize and handle objections? Do you have a scenario-based conversation track defined for new hires? Are you utilizing an effective sales playbook and visualizing sales objection data in your CRM? 

Request a consultation with SalesWorks to explore ways to structure your sales program and refine your sales talent’s skills for effective results.

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