We handle objections all the time both at work and at home. But how skilled are we at handling them and does it matter anyway? In a business setting with a prospect it could be a pivotal point.

Objections may be just a way for the prospect client to test you; at least it shows an interest is being taken. Of course an objection may be one you have heard many times before and have no difficulty in handling.

But the curved ball may be thrown you at a key moment; so you need to know what to do.

Everyone/thing is entitled to object
Everyone/thing is entitled to object

Preparation. A cunning move is to anticipate what might be coming up. Think how you might answer and then rehearse the objection and response
out loud.

This might sound excessive but we know that when the ball is then thrown you will answer with more confidence and the words will come more easily to your
brain and mouth. Equally your body language will give less away in terms of surprise and uncertainly.

Don’t Counter. Up comes the objection and your instinct is to give an immediate response to deal with it. But a better technique is reply with a clarifying question. For example: “I am most annoyed with your service….etc”. And you reply with a question. “Tell me
more – what exactly is the issue you are unhappy about?” This has two effects:

  1. They have to create more information which may put them under pressure,
  2. They may give you detail that enables you to respond better. You have more thinking time.

Rationalise: Why are they objecting?
They may have a genuine concern but sometimes objections are flung across the room to impress others in the audience, or you. Maybe they are natural objectors on principle. If you can spot this then you are better equipped to answer.

Respond: Ok, it’s time to respond. Try to give an honest and spin-free answer. To prevaricate only annoys and reduces trust, not that you should weaken your position or say something that you might regret. It maybe you have to stall by saying you will get back by a specified time.

Close off: Finally confirm with them that you have handled their objection to their satisfaction. If they say yes then good news. But if you didn’t have the courage to ask for closure, then maybe they went away unsatisfied, even though you thought you had it sorted. The act of inviting a response forces them to make a decision. They may not agree. If so, you have a choice: Go back over the ground again and seek further clarification about their objection, or agree to disagree.

Follow up: You may find their objection is now on a different basis. In the end there may still be disagreement. You can then summarise what the perception is for both parties and maybe a plan as to how this might be resolved.

At the end whether there is agreement or not, a follow-up email summarising what was said gives you and them a record of the event rather than relying on subjective memory.

Emotion. The rather clinical approach described above may not be enough. The other party is upset or plain angry. Here you have to manage this with a degree of empathy.

They object and you answer along the lines of: “I understand how you feel”. If that sounds insincere that it might be: “I can see you are upset/unhappy/concerned/passionate/irritated by this”. Here you are tapping into their emotional state.

Mirror and Match. If they are talking rapidly then match their pace rather than using a slow or soothing delivery. The latter would smack of patronisation or worse still, sexism. UK Prime Minister David Cameron is probably still smarting from the flak he received when he invited female MP Angela Eagle to ‘Calm down dear’ (But in the rough and tumble of a raucous Commons debate worse has happened).

David Cameron does not manage to appease Angela Eagle
David Cameron does not manage to appease Angela Eagle

Third Party. Bring in others, for example: “I understand this is an issue for you – indeed you are not alone. A few others have had similar concerns”. Here you are legitimising their point but you then go on to say: “But when we explained why we were acting in this way they understood and agreed our point.”

This view of a third party helps to give you more street cred or authority. Of course it must be truthful.

Seek Allies. It may be possible that their objection can be overcome by involving an ally who confirms your version of events. This must not be seen as an attempt to gang up on the objector.
It’s better if the ally is seen as a neutral person and not your buddy.

Listening skills. Beyond clarifying the objection, being able to demonstrate your listening skills helps to build rapport. Not just the words you use but by looking at them with undivided attention, not glancing down e.g. at your smart phone, but nodding to encourage them to speak. Finally, that your voice registers genuine concern.

There is no magic wand for dealing with objections particularly if they are fully justified and the other party is fired up, but you do have tactics and the tools above to deploy.

These can put you on top or at least mitigate an unfavourable situation