Handling Sales Objections: Learn to Bridge, Pivot and Advance to Keep the Sales Process Going
By Kelly Wirges
Objections are a delicate part of the sales process. It’s vital that salespersons not attempt to “overcome” objections on the spot, and instead address them carefully and professionally. I advise salespersons to continue through the sales process when objections arise, carefully addressing them using a process and tactics that I call a “1-2-3, Bridge, Pivot and Advance” technique.
First, the best way to avoid resistance is to anticipate and prepare for objections. Salespeople should practice addressing objections before meeting clients. If objections do arise, a prepared salesperson is ready to concentrate on listening to the prospect rather than being focused on how to respond. Salespeople that are too eager to “make their case,” can make prospects feel like they are being “sold” – and that sense can increase emotions and bring communication to a halt. Even though a prospect is objecting, he or she is providing valuable information and creating an opportunity to understand his or her concerns.
Many sales representatives rush to share information they believe will change the prospect’s position. That approach can backfire and the opposite effect – a prospect becoming defensive – can occur. Instead, the salesperson should keep communication going, being careful not to overdo it.
Here are my “easy-as-1-2-3” steps to addressing objections. They are: 1) Bridge, 2) Pivot and 3) Advance.
Build a bridge to defuse emotions and put prospects at ease by agreeing on an issue, complimenting them or using an empathy statement. When prospects raise objections, they expect a rebuttal. Showing empathy, understanding and genuine concern lowers resistance and emotions. It also demonstrates that the salesperson is not going to launch into an attack or further attempt to sell. For salespeople, the bridge provides an opportunity to switch the attention to the information you are about to share. If they don’t incorporate a bridge, clients may be “locked” on their objections, distracting from the salesperson’s message.
The first step is to agree. Any of these three statements will then help build a bridge:
“I agree; repeat customers are an ideal business situation.”
“I completely agree and that is exactly why you will love working with me.”
“You’re absolutely right and that is one of the greatest benefits of working with my company.”
The next step is to compliment. Useful phrases include:
“I want to compliment you on exploring your options.”
“I want to compliment you on appreciating the importance of …”
“I want to compliment you on building a successful company. The business owners I work with would love to be in your position!”
As the third step, empathize. These statements show empathy:
“I can appreciate you are looking for the best value for your investment.”
“I understand your concern about finding an affordable plan that delivers results.”
“I appreciate you are considering all of your advertising options. If I were a business owner, I would do the same.”
In step two, after easing the prospect’s concerns, a salesperson should share using any of the three types of pivot transitions to open a discussion.
The Ask-a-Question Pivot. This keeps the discussion going by asking about specific information. The idea is to change the focus from concerns expressed to the value of your products and how you can help clients achieve their goals. Salespeople should remain calm and objective so prospects do not become
defensive. Some sample statements are:
“May I ask you a question?”
“I am curious…?” / “Would you mind sharing…?”
“Would it be correct to assume …?”
The Consult Pivot. This enlightens the prospect by providing research, product information or showing confidence in your products. To a prospect, this demonstrates value, piques interest and encourages discussions. You might try these phrases:
“One thing to consider is…” / “Please allow me to share with you…”
“Were you aware…?” / “Did you know…?” / “You might be surprised to learn…”
“I know I can help you with that…” / “I am certain we can find a solution for…”
The Testimonial Pivot. Testimonials build confidence in the salesperson’s ability to help clients meet their goals. You could suggest:
“Some / many / a few customers have shared with me…”
“Successful business owners tell me…”
“My clients tell me…” / “Some of my best clients tell me…”
After providing the necessary information and if no other objections exist, the salesperson can then advance the sale or encourage a meeting. Some phrases for this “closing the sale” stage are:
“Does that answer your question and make you feel confident in …?”
“Do you have any further questions or are you ready to move forward?”
“Is there anything else keeping us from moving forward with this strategy?”
“Here’s what we need to do to get started…”
Salespersons can try these statements to lead prospects to a meeting:
“I would like to verify my understanding of the challenges you are facing, and share ideas to help you achieve your goals. We really should get together. Do you have time now or tomorrow at (time)?”
“Are you open to setting up a meeting to explore a few opportunities to increase your sales?”
“I would enjoy sharing information I have uncovered about your industry, as well as the ideas I have developed to help you increase sales. Are you available now, or can we set up a meeting?”
Go Back If You Must
If a prospect continues to object, salespersons should not continue sharing information. Instead, it’s time to go back to the “bridge” and “pivot” stages before progressing in the discussion.
If the prospect is becoming agitated, there’s a different strategy. It’s then time to thank him or her for the opportunity provided, then confidently employ your “professional exit strategy” to keep the doors open and let the prospect know you will be back.
While there is no foolproof method of addressing objections to earn every sale, I can confirm from years of following these steps, and coaching others to do the same, that these three steps lower defenses, open more discussions and ultimately, increase sales.
Kelly Wirges, president and CEO of ProMax Training & Consulting, Inc., of Omaha, Neb., has helped hundreds of companies develop practical, customized solutions to retain, develop and align talent with business strategies and increase sales and revenue. She has authored 50 training programs and has trained more than 200,000 people to increase their success. She can be reached at [email protected] and 800-898-0444.