Rethinking the Sales Approach to Objections: A Buyer-Centric Perspective 

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Summary: Discover how a buyer-centric approach, shifting from objections to concerns, can revolutionize your sales strategy and build trust with customers in this insightful article.

Language Matters

In business, and in life in general, the words we use can make a big difference. They can influence our mindsets, beliefs, thoughts, and actions. The word “objections” and the phrases “overcoming objections” and “handling objections” have been used in our profession for many years. We tend to not even think about that – but I’m going to ask you to.  

Have you ever heard a buyer say, “If only I could find a seller who could overcome my objections?” I sure haven’t. Set your defensiveness aside for a moment and ask yourself – can you see how combative that phrase is?  

Here’s another way to think about it:  

If your sales training materials accidentally fell into the hands of your best customers, how would you feel? Would you be mortified, or proud?

Shifting our focus from “objections” to “concerns” transforms the conversation from combative to collaborative, placing the buyer’s perspective at the forefront. 

When we use the term concerns instead of objections, it fundamentally alters the tone of the conversation and influences our mindset, beliefs, and thoughts, which influences our behavior. It signals that we’re not here to argue, or convince, or win, but to understand and support. This linguistic shift paves the way for a more open and cooperative exchange. It reduces buying friction.  

The Baseline: A Buyer-Centric Model for Resolving Concerns

While the purpose of this article isn’t to teach our model, it’s difficult to make the other points in a vacuum. So, here is the model that we teach.  

Acknowledge: In this step, you reflect and summarize the buyer’s perspective and feelings with empathy. This doesn’t mean you agree – but your goal is to demonstrate understanding of the concern from the other person’s perspective (and any feelings or emotions involved). You should do it with an other-centric approach, using a “you statement” (versus, “I understand”), such as “You’re feeling pressured by your boss to resolve this issue quickly and are concerned that our approach will take too much time. This makes you wonder if we might not be the best choice to support you.”  

Clarify: In this step, you ask questions and “peel back the layers of the onion” to truly understand the concern. It’s important to “get it all out on the table,” and because buyers often feel that their sales rep does not understand them or their issues. Ask questions until you get to the root cause of the concern.  

Categorize: This step occurs only in the mind of the seller (the others are interactions or dialogue). Here, based on what you learn, you categorize the concern as: 

  • Disbelief: Skepticism or lack of belief. They’re not sure if something is true or possible. 
  • Distortion: Misunderstanding, misinterpretation, or misconstrued or incorrect/incomplete facts. Something’s “distorted.”
  • Disadvantage: Lack of a desired feature or presence of an undesired feature. Not fixable.
  • Disqualifier: A misunderstanding or change in FACT (Funding, Alternatives, buying Committee, and Timing/urgency) or NASA (Need And Solution Alignment).  

Respond: The response is contextual based on the concern, the scenario/situation, and mostly, the category of concern.  

  • Disbelief: Support the area of concern with proof – facts, data, testimonials, or case studies. Refer your buyer to a similar existing customer, if appropriate. 
  • Distortion: Confirm their need and share how you can help them. Avoid “correcting” them but do provide evidence that addresses the area of misunderstanding. Distortion, when addressed, may naturally lead to Disbelief. If so, use the process again to resolve their skepticism. 
  • Disadvantage: Weigh the pros and cons of your solution with the buyer. Emphasize the benefits of what you can do for them and determine if the disadvantage prevents the buyer from reaching their desired future state. Determine whether they are willing to move forward, despite an unresolvable Disadvantage. Remember that people make compromises all the time when they are making decisions. 
  • Disqualifier: Take a step back to understand your error in qualification. Explore NASA (Need And Solution Alignment), re-qualify the opportunity, and perhaps even validate your earlier discovery. If the opportunity remains viable, move forward in the process accounting for the changes you’ve uncovered. 

Confirm: We confirm to ask and learn whether we have satisfactorily resolved the concern. 

Why This Model Works

Walk Into Concerns Fearlessly

Salespeople often hesitate to dig deeper into buyer concerns, either tending to avoid the topic or respond too aggressively. However, the power lies in exploring the concerns purposefully, where understanding is the goal, not immediate resolution. 

It’s natural for sellers to feel apprehensive when faced with concerns. We often fear that addressing them might lead to more resistance. I once had a salesperson say to me… 

“Wait a minute, Mike. You actually want me to ask my prospects to tell me even more about the concern they raised?? 

Yes. Yes, I do. By embracing concerns with confidence and a genuine desire to understand, we create an environment of trust. This openness and fearlessness allow for a deeper level of rapport and ultimately leads to more successful outcomes. 

Poor Past Practices

Traditionally, sellers have resorted to tactics akin to MAD Magazine’s “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions.” Such approaches, from ignoring or sidestepping concerns to delivering snappy retorts, serve only to alienate modern buyers.  

Many older sales training programs encouraged an almost-confrontational approach to “handing objections,” which often backfires today. Ignoring concerns or responding with a planned comeback can lead to a breakdown in communication or loss of trust and respect. This approach creates a defensive atmosphere, making it harder to move forward in the sales process. It creates friction.  

Patience is a Superpower of Selling

I’ve often said that patience is a superpower of selling. Adopting a buyer-centric approach sets us apart. Rather than pouncing on concerns, we take a moment to breathe, relax, and truly seek to comprehend. We become curious.  

Rushing to address concerns can inadvertently escalate the situation, and if the salesperson responds to the wrong concern, they may even raise a new one. By taking a step back, giving the buyer space, and showing genuine interest in their perspective, we demonstrate a commitment to their needs. This patience is not a sign of indecisiveness, but a testament to our dedication to providing the best solution. We want to operate in their best interest.  

Acknowledging is Powerful, Too

The act of acknowledgment is transformative. It disarms buyer defensiveness, fostering an atmosphere of trust and openness. 

When we acknowledge a buyer’s concerns, we validate their feelings and perspectives and show that we understand and care. This act of recognition demonstrates empathy and understanding. It’s like saying, “I hear you, and your feelings matter” (but better, because you’re doing it from their perspective, not yours). This simple gesture can significantly lower the buyer’s natural defensive response, paving the way for a more constructive conversation. 

Relevant Responses Improves Resolutions

When we respond based on the type of concern, we’re more likely to resolve it. This targeted approach shows we truly grasp the buyer’s situation and boosts their confidence in us. 

Tailoring our response to the type of concern shows a deep understanding of the buyer’s situation. It not only addresses the immediate issue but also demonstrates our expertise and commitment to their success. This level of relevance builds trust and increases the chances of a positive outcome. 

Closing Thoughts

By adopting this buyer-centric perspective and model, sales professionals can revolutionize their approach to concerns, fostering deeper connections, and ultimately driving more successful outcomes. This shift from objections to concerns represents not only a linguistic nuance but a fundamental change in the way we engage with buyers. It makes a difference, it reduces friction, it builds trust and credibility, and best of all – it works.  

Modern Sales Foundations

Use a buyer-centric approach to improve sales results.

What it takes for salespeople to deliver value has changed significantly as the modern buying process has evolved. Modern Sales Foundations™ (MSF) is an end-to-end sales training program that teaches sellers the buyer-centric strategies and approaches needed to excel in today’s marketplace.

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