Price, budget, need, time, source, or authority — these are common objections in every industry. They may, or may not, have anything to do with a prospective client talking to a competitor. However, when it comes to product-specific objections or claims around a weakness of your company, you can be pretty sure there has been competitor interference. This article covers the why, the what, and the how of handling objections from competitor claims.
We created the Objection Handling Hierarchy to help you visualize the process for effective objection handling from a competitor’s claims.
You’ll notice that sales battlecards are at the bottom. For product marketers or sales leaders, your gut is probably telling you to get battlecards out to sellers ASAP. But you really can’t, or shouldn’t, start to build battlecards without being clear why you are doing it.
Emotion is “the why” behind what you’re doing with objection handling. And that emotion is trust. To navigate objections effectively, you need to build trust with your prospective client. You want to make them feel comfortable and confident in what they buy, and ultimately, in choosing you.
Emotion-based decision making doesn’t necessarily mean choosing to buy from the salesperson the prospect liked the most. It can also mean buying based on who sold them a better vision or connected to value more. Or who made it easier to understand the complexities between the solutions that they are evaluating.
Sellers Tip: In a deal, everything is an opportunity to connect with your prospect’s emotions and build trust. Everyone is different. Some people really care about product functionality and want to read everything. Others just need bullets on the high-level value. You need to figure out who they are and how to reach them on their level. Takes the time to read the person.
Objections might feel like a negative conversation, but they should always be seen as an opportunity. At a high-level, these three objectives should always be your focus:
Ok, so now that you have “the why,” we get to “the what.” Keeping it simple, there are essentially two ways a competitor can attack you. Their claims will either be true or not true.
There are 5 common types of competitor claim:
Once you’ve identified whether the claim is true or untrue, you have to decide the approach to take with your prospect. There are three approaches you should choose from: Address, Reframe, and Redirect. We call this the “ARR” of Objection Handling.
You will most likely use this one only when the claim is totally false. This is the simplest and most straightforward response. It’s basically a direct acknowledgment of the claim. It is blunt and direct and may be interpreted as aggressive so choose this approach carefully. Your tone can make a big difference in softening your words.
Seller’s Tip: I usually keep it light. Some of the things I have heard a competitor say to my prospects are so ridiculous that laughing about it with the prospect is the most authentic way to respond. Then, you and the prospect share in kind of an inside joke that also erodes and trust they may have had with the competitor.
The Reframe is used when a claim is based in some truth but has been twisted or overblown in importance. Instead of answering directly, you might choose to ask, “Why is that important to you?” This flips the conversation back to the prospect so that you get a chance to listen for more insights about their motivations. Once they have answered, you can ease their concern by helping them understand that what they are saying does not really matter in relation to their goals. Then you can shift the conversation towards where your product truly creates value.
You would redirect when the claim is true. The point of the redirect approach is to not spend any time on the actual objection; rather to steer the whole conversation in a different direction. Don’t try to refute or debate the issue. Move the conversation in a more positive direction.
Seller’s Tip: Stay in the values-based convo and be sincere. Have something positive to say about the point and turn it around to an area you want them to look at.
Building Objection Handling content can be more difficult than some other battlecards. But I want to share a tried-and-true 3-step method our team uses to that you can start using when you get back to your offices on Monday:
Step 1: Listen. Sit in on as many sales calls as you can; write down the objection verbatim AND write down the reps’ responses. Then, get all your sales reps in a meeting and conduct a whiteboarding session. Get them to tell you what works and what doesn’t. This is the quickest way to figure out which claims your reps find hard to navigate.
Step 2: Classify. When you have your sample of claims and responses, sort them into recurring themes. Identify the facts that support the rep’s responses that were effective.
Step 3: Prove it. Figure out proof point materials you need to support the rebuttal statements. Create an objection handling card.
Alternate Step 3 – when the facts don’t support the response, go ask the sales manager for help coming up with a new way to handle the objection. As long as you’re not doing this during quarter-end, they’re usually more than happy to help. Ultimately, It’s only going to improve their win rates.
Objections are an opportunity. If your prospect is letting you know what objections your competitor has fed them, this is a good thing. If they don’t tell you, you don’t get a chance to refute them. Here are three key points to remember about objection handling:
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