How to Build an Objection Handling Framework
Help your Sellers Hit Their Number NOW
We have a client, Present Your Science, that is the foremost leader in scientific presentation coaching in the world. The founder identified the niche while teaching at Penn State and has since grown a customer list that includes the likes of NASA, Harvard, Sloan Kettering, Pfizer, PepsiCo, Bayer, The CDC, and The US Army. With a logo placemat like that, it’s hard to believe that there’d be any objections during a typical sales cycle. Yet they were consistently answering the same questions over and over with prospects. The not good news was that they were wasting time with an inefficient sales process. But the really not good news was that their existing messaging wasn’t communicating their unique differentiators and undeniable solution benefits - so who knows how many prospects found a solution elsewhere without considering Present Your Science.
Their founder, Melissa Marshall, forwarded me an email thread she had with a prospect. “This is a great example of the conversations I have with prospects all the time. This is a client that’s a perfect fit for us. I’m in direct competition for this project with another company that we don’t even consider a competitor!”
Objection handling. It’s something your sellers are doing every single day, and it’s a missed opportunity if you, as a marketer, aren’t packaging responses to commonly asked questions in a way that helps them use the opportunity to sell value over features. Value lets you sell at a higher price. Here’s an overly simplistic example:
Objection: why is the white car more expensive?
Missed opportunity: because white is the most popular color.
Value selling: because it will keep your family safer since it’s higher visibility and less likely to be involved in an accident.
Ultimately, objections typically fall into one of four categories: price, quality, trust, or stall. Knowing which bucket each of your individual objections falls into can help you understand what your prospect is actually worried about.
If they are questioning the price — you need to do a better job selling the value, not just the features.
If quality is the issue, you’ll need hard evidence of how you do it and how you do it better. This is the WYWN (why you why now) messaging that makes your product/company/solution the undeniable winner. In many markets, peer validation is also quite helpful in these situations.
When dealing with trust issues, your seller may need to work harder on building a relationship with the prospect where they are an expert and offering solutions to the prospect’s problems, not just trying to sell them something. If this is something you’re struggling with, check out The Challenger Sale. It’s a good methodology if you run up against this type of objection frequently. (If you don’t want to read the whole book, Hubspot has a pretty good summary here.)
If your prospects are just plain stalling, then likely you’ve reached the very last stages of the sales cycle and they’re anxious about something — figure out what it is and remove the block. If you still have pricing options up your sleeve, sometimes a change in pricing model or incentive is enough to get the prospect unstuck.
Once you’re ready to tackle building an objection handling framework for your sales team, here’s a quick to-do list to guide you through the exercise:
Brainstorm: Get your ideas flowing. Use the golden rule of brainstorming —there are no bad answers!
Compile a list of all the objections you hear about your product/service. Talk to your sellers — they will be able to rattle them off.
Write out long form answers to the objections — don’t worry about the specific messaging, just get all your thoughts in one place.
Align: This will help make sure the messaging you create helps the prospect advance through the buying process, instead of trying to tell them everything at once (i.e. noise!).
Identify what type of objection each question is: price, quality, trust, or stall. This will help frame your answer when you better understand the intent behind each objection.
If you have a buyer’s journey created, align the objections with the stage that each will most likely come up. If you don’t have a formalized buyer’s journey, you can use these generic stages: awareness, consideration, decision.
If you have a messaging and positioning framework created, then align each objection with the benefit(s) it relates to. If you don’t have a formalized framework, take some time to drill into your notes to figure out what the value is that you’re providing. (Then check out this blog post on how to write your first Messaging and Positioning Framework!)
If you have personas built, then assign the appropriate persona(s) to the objections that most likely apply to them. (If you don’t have personas yet, here’s how to get started!)
Wordsmith: Time to get that copy TIGHT. Work hard to be specific and focused.
Select the objections that you want to tackle — it’s probably not everything on your initial list. There’s likely overlap and fringe objections that really do require personalized response. Write out your objections list in clear, common language that sounds like your customer and resonates with your sellers.
For each objection, define the one take away you need the prospect to understand in order to topple this objection. Look at these closely — keep drilling down to make sure you get to the value or benefit. Keep asking yourself - “and?” or “so what?” until you have an answer that your prospects will pay more for.
Wordsmith your answers until they are tight, concise and easy for your sellers to remember and rattle off. Rewrite your answers to resonate with all the personas for whom they apply.
Package: Besides helping your sellers close deals faster, this is fantastic evergreen content that you should incorporate into your existing content calendar. Here are some ideas:
Create an objection handling battle card for internal distribution. Here’s our free template to get you started.
Build webinars around the value prop in each objection. Find customers who have realized that value and invite them to present in the webinar. This peer evidence will be much more compelling and effective than your own words. Build demand generation campaigns around these in real time and on demand to help get the messaging in front of prospects at the right stage of their buying journey.
Pull punchy sentences out for social media posts (we like to use Canva to create images that catch your attention when scrolling, and for instagram’s image-only format).
Create slideware for each objection to fit in your seller’s pitch decks. They can save them all in the deck appendix and add them where appropriate when building out individual sales decks, or have them at the ready if an objection comes out of left field during a sales meeting.
Add to your website with SEO in mind — align objections with the long tail SEO terms you’re targeting. Write blog posts for each with keywords in mind. Create SEO pages (that aren’t linked to your navigation) that specifically answer those questions and optimize so your prospects can find that information when they are doing their research.
For Present Your Science, we packaged the common objections into 6 value statements. Their sales cycle is unique in that it’s largely driven by a TED talk and word of mouth (their #1 search term is “Melissa Marshall,” the founder’s name), so they don’t need an overly complex website. By the time they hear from a prospect, the sale is usually close to closed. We wanted to make sure it was easy for prospects to self-resolve their objections easily when doing their limited research, so we created a single webpage, featuring the value statements with tight, direct copy, along with ample evidence from happy customers. It’s a compelling page for someone who is nearing the bottom of the funnel and ready to make a purchase decision. Additionally, the copy is packaged for pitch decks and emails— helping to direct the conversation to a place where the prospect is able to commit. Plus, it just saves time by eliminating the need to constantly write one-off emails that are redundant.
So many times when we talk to our clients, they have an overwhelming amount of work to do. There are SO many marketing tools and mediums and tactics to choose from. Most of the time, when we’re helping to figure out the best way to use limited resources, we start at the bottom of the funnel and work our way up. Working through the objection handling process with your sellers is marketing support that can move the needle almost immediately. Plus it’s a great excuse to build alignment and collaboration with your sales team — which is always a good thing.
If you’d like to tackle objection handling for your company and need a hand, we’d love to help.