The Ultimate Guide to Objection Handling: 40 Common Sales Objections & How to Respond

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November 19th, 2020.
The Ultimate Guide to Objection Handling: 40 Common Sales Objections & How to Respond

Every prospect you speak to has sales objections or reasons they're hesitant to buy your product. Why are sales objections unavoidable?

Because if the buyer didn't have reservations about your solution's price, value, relevance to their situation, or their purchasing ability, they would have already bought it.

To be successful, sales reps must learn how to both discover and resolve these objections.

Objection handling means responding to the buyer in a way that changes their mind or alleviate their concerns.

Some reps argue with their prospects or try to pressure them into backing down — but this isn't true objection handling. Prospects typically end up more convinced than ever of their position; worse, salespeople lose the trust and rapport they've built up.

Instead of telling your prospect they're wrong, help them come to a different conclusion of their own accord. And if you can't persuade them, that's a good sign they're a poor fit.

It's also important to distinguish between sales objections and brush-offs. While objections are authentic, brush-offs are excuses. Think of an objection as, "I see the value in your product, but I'm not sure about buying it for X reason," while a brush-off translates to, "I don't want to talk to you."

Objections are far more serious than brush-offs.

An Effective Method for Objection Handling – LAER: The Bonding Process®

A proven and effective method for objection handling is Carew International’s LAER: The Bonding Process®. LAER involves four steps — Listen, Acknowledge, Explore, and Respond.

When confronted with an objection, the first requirement is to listen to the objection. This demonstrates to your customer that you are interested in their concern and care about what they have to say.

The next step is to acknowledge your customer’s concern. This is where you demonstrate you have been actively listening. An acknowledgement can be something as simple as a head nod or a restatement of the issue. A sincere acknowledgement can circumvent an argument and have a calming effect. Sometimes, your customers just want to know that they are being heard.

The third step is to explore the concerns underlying your customer’s objection. It is imperative that you understand exactly what your customer meant by what they said.

For example, your customer may have stated a price objection, but perhaps the real reason they don’t want to work with you is because they like the competition’s salesperson and enjoy the attention provided by them. If you don’t take the time to explore with your customer to find out that they are using "price" as a smokescreen objection, then you won’t be able to respond appropriately.

The final step is to respond. Only once you have a complete understanding of your customer’s objection can you offer your response in the form of a recommendation, an alternative, a solution or a next step designed to address the customer’s concern and close the transaction.

Objection handling doesn’t have to be a painful activity for sales professionals. Instead, objections should be viewed as opportunities to help your customer and to grow your relationship with them.

Carew International’s LAER: The Bonding Process® is an effective method for handling objections that creates a positive, two-way transaction between the salesperson and the customer.

Why is objection handling important?

Nothing is more dangerous to a deal than letting sales objections go unaddressed until the final stages. The longer the buyer holds an opinion, the stronger that opinion usually is — and the harder you'll have to fight to combat it.

With this in mind, welcome objections rather than avoiding them. You can proactively identify them as well by periodically asking questions like:

  • "Do you have any concerns around X?"
  • "Are there any obstacles that would stop you from buying?"
  • "How confident do you feel you'd see success from [product]? Why?"
  • "You seem a little worried about X. What are your thoughts?"

When trying to overcome sales objectives, it is imperative you respond appropriately and avoid reacting impulsively to your prospect’s objections. Here are some helpful strategies for overcoming objections.

1. Practice active listening.

First and foremost, as your prospect is sharing their concerns with you, make sure you are using active listening skills to take in what they’re saying.

While your prospect discloses their objections, listen to understand, not respond. Avoid interrupting them while they are speaking, and give them space to voice their concerns and objections freely.

2. Repeat back what you hear.

Once your prospect has stated their objections, repeat back what you heard to ensure you are understanding correctly. Not only will this help clarify their points for you, but it will also help your prospect feel heard and valued, which is important for building trust.

3. Validate your prospect’s concerns.

After you have confirmed you understand where your prospect is coming from, continue building trust by empathizing with your prospect, and validating their point of view. No, that doesn’t mean you have to talk down on your product or recommend a competitor.

For example, if you are selling automation software and your prospect is worried about their ability to implement your software into their complex system, you could say, "I understand, implementing new software can feel like a daunting task. Thankfully, we have an incredible tech team that has experience working with similar organizations, and can handle a seamless transition for you."

With this response, you are acknowledging that their concern is valid, and are offering a solution to mitigate their fears.

4. Ask follow-up questions.

When you hear objectives, you want to do all you can to keep the conversation going in a natural way. If you hear your prospect pulling back, asking follow-up questions can be a tactful way to keep them talking.

Don’t ask questions that can be answered with a simple "yes" or "no". Make sure you ask open-ended questions that allow your prospect to continue expressing their thoughts on your product. The more information they provide, the more you have to work with to potentially turn the sale around.

5. Leverage social proof.

Depending on the nature of your prospect’s concern, sharing the story of another customer who had similar reservations and went on to see success with your product can be a successful approach.

If you are in B2B sales, you can also share relevant information about your prospect’s competitors and any success they’ve seen from overcoming a similar objection.

6. Set a specific date and time to follow-up.

If your prospect asks for more time to think things over, give them the time and space to weigh their options. However, you don’t want to leave them hanging. Set up a specific time and date to follow-up in the near future so too much time doesn’t pass, and offer to answer any questions they have in the meantime as they deliberate.

7. Anticipate sales objections.

Ultimately, the most effective strategy for handling sales objections is to anticipate them happening. When you are prepared to have objections come up, you’re far less likely to be thrown off your game.

Having a set of neutral recommendations ready to offer prospects when objections arise can keep sales moving. Because you listened to the buyer and explored their rationale rather than giving a knee-jerk response, they're usually willing to hear you out if you have a solution to offer.

Keeping track of the objections you receive most often is also helpful. Once you know what to expect, you can devote extra time to practicing and refining your responses.

We also recommend sales reps use role plays to boost their objection handling abilities. Take turns with another rep on your team posing common objections (like any of the 40 on this list), answering, and then giving each other feedback.

Now that you know what objection handling is, why it's important, and how to improve, let's dive into the 40 most common sales objections.

Sales Objections About Price and Budget

1. "It's too expensive."

Price objections are the most common type of objection and are even voiced by prospects who have every intention of buying. Beware — the moment you start focusing on price as a selling point, you reduce yourself to a transactional middleman. Instead, circle back to the product's value.

Example Rebuttal

"I'd love to unpack [product's] features and how it can help with the issue of [prospect problem] you shared with me."

2. "There's no money."

It could be that your prospect's business simply isn't big enough or generating enough cash right now to afford a product like yours. Track their growth and see how you can help your prospect get to a place where your offering would fit into their business.

Example Rebuttal

"I understand. Allow me to explain our other offerings that may be a better fit for your current growth levels and budget."

3. "We don't have any budget left this year."

A variation of the "no money" objection, what your prospect's telling you here is that they're having cash flow issues. But if there's a pressing problem, it needs to get solved eventually. Either help your prospect secure budget from executives to buy now, or arrange up a follow-up call for when they expect funding to return.

Example Rebuttal

"Let's schedule a follow-up call for when you expect funding to return. When do you think that may be?"

4. "We need to use that budget somewhere else."

Prospects sometimes try to earmark resources for other uses. It's your job to make your product/service a priority that deserves budget allocation now. Share case studies of similar companies that have saved money, increased efficiency, or had a massive ROI with you.

Example Rebuttal

"We had a customer with a similar issue, but by purchasing [product] they were actually able to increase their ROI and assign some of their new revenue to other parts of the budget."

5. "I don't want to get stuck in a contract."

A prospect with a genuine need and interest who balks at time-based contract terms is generally hesitant for cash flow reasons. Luckily for you, there are workarounds — find out if you can offer month-by-month or quarter-by-quarter payment instead of asking for a year or more commitment up front.

Example Rebuttal

"I understand. Let's talk about some different contract terms and payment schedules that I can offer you. Perhaps these would be a better fit."

Sales Objections About the Competition

6. "We're already working with [Vendor X]."

A prospect who's working with a competitor is a blessing in disguise. They've already recognized a need and identified a solution, so much of the education you'd otherwise be responsible for has already been done. You can spend your time doing the one thing you'd have to hold off on with a prospect who hasn't recognized their pain yet — talk about your product.

Just because a prospect is working with a competitor doesn't mean they're happy with them. Probe into the relationship and pay special attention to complaints that could be solved with your product.

Example Rebuttal

"Why did you choose [vendor]? What's working well? What's not? Allow me to explain how [product] is different."

7. "I'm locked into a contract with a competitor."

Perhaps the easiest competitor-related objection to handle, this phrase is worded in a way that broadcasts your prospect's feeling of being trapped. See if you can come up with a creative discount to offset the cost of breaking a contract early, or demonstrate ROI that will make up for the sunk cost.

Of course, your prospect could have simply chosen an overly negative turn of phrase. Ask questions about their relationship with the competitor to to determine whether they're actually happy or are itching for a vendor switch.

Example Rebuttal

"How is your relationship with [competitor]? Perhaps I can offer a discount to make up for the cost of switching over to work with us."

8. "I can get a cheaper version of your product somewhere else."

Find out what you're dealing with here. Are you in a competitive situation, and the prospect is playing you against a competitor to drive up discounts? Or is your prospect under the impression that a similar, cheaper product can do everything they need?

If it's the former, lay out your deepest discount and emphasize the features that make your product superior. Walk away if they ask you to go lower. In the second scenario, take advantage of the comparison. Play the differences up and emphasize overall worth, not cost.

Example Rebuttal

"What are the points of differentiation between [product] and your other option? What provides you with the most value and support?

9. "I'm happy with [Competitor X]."

What if your prospect is happy? The same strategy still applies — find out why they believe their relationship with your competitor is beneficial, and identify weak spots where your product could do better.

Example Rebuttal

"That's great. What components of the product or relationship are you most satisfied with? I'd love to learn more and see how we may compare."

10. "Competitor X says [false statement about your product]."

According to creator of Your SalesMBA® Jeff Hoffman, salespeople should first respond with, "That's not true," then pause.

Hoffman says 90% of the time this reply will satisfy the buyer and they'll move on. You'll seem confident and collected, whereas your competitor will seem desperate and insecure.

If your prospect is still unsure, they'll ask another question. At that point, you can provide more background in your rebuttal.

Example Rebuttal

"We manufacture our products in Canada, not Thailand. I have a map of our factories and distribution routes if you'd like to see it."

Sales Objections About Authority or Ability to Buy

11. "I'm not authorized to sign off on this purchase."

No problem. Ask your prospect who for the name of the right person to speak to, and then redirect your call to them.

Example Rebuttal

"Who is the right person to speak to regarding this purchase? Can you redirect me to them, please?"

12. "I can't sell this internally."

Well, your prospect might not be able to, but you can. After all, you sell your product every day. Ask your prospect what objections they anticipate, and help them prepare the business case for adopting your product. Check with Marketing to see if there's any collateral you can leverage on your prospect's behalf.

Example Rebuttal

"What objections do you think you'll face? Can I help you prepare the business case for when you speak with your decision-makers? I may have some enablement materials I can share to help."

13. "[Economic buyer] isn't convinced."

If you've already addressed objection #12 by providing internal selling advice and coaching and your prospect just can't hack it, it might be time to walk away. While it's heart-rending to give up on a prospect who's on your side and just can't convince the higher-ups, it's also a waste of your time to keep butting heads with someone who will never see your product's value.

Example Rebuttal

"That's too bad. If anything changes, please don't hesitate to contact me. I'd love to help you get your team onboard."

14. "We're being downsized / bought out."

This happens rarely, but when it does there's usually nothing you can do. If there's no more company, there's no more deal. Wrap the relationship professionally so when your prospect finds a new gig, they'll be more likely to restart the conversation from a new company.

Example Rebuttal

"Thank you for your time and for speaking with me regarding this product. If you're ever in need of [product or service], please don't hesitate to contact me."

15. "There's too much going on right now."

Ask your prospect to define their competing priorities for you. If they can't, it's likely a brush-off and you should press them on precisely why they don't want to engage with you.

If they can provide concrete answers, don't sweat it. Set a meeting time for a follow up and send over helpful resources in the meantime to stay on your prospect's radar.

Example Rebuttal

"I understand. What are some of your competing priorities? I'd love to schedule a follow-up call for when your calendar clears up."

16. "I'm part of a buying group."

Buying groups enable independent companies to team up and make joint purchases from vendors — usually getting a far better price than they'd be able to secure on their own.

If your company isn't on their list of approved suppliers, however, your prospect probably won't be interested. After all, you can't offer them the same discount for purchasing in bulk.

Respond to this objection by delving into the details of their membership. When you've learned more, you can decide whether it makes economic sense for this prospect to work with you — and if there's an opportunity to become one of their buying group's vendors.

Example Rebuttal

"Are there limits on who you can buy from? What price are you currently receiving? What companies belong to your buying coalition?"

Sales Objections About Need and Fit

17. "I've never heard of your company."

Treat this objection as a request for information. Don't give an elevator pitch, but provide a very quick summary of your value proposition.

Example Rebuttal

"We're a company that sells ad space on behalf of publishers like yourself. I'd love to speak with you about your revenue model and see if we can help."

18. "We're doing great in X area."

If you hear this objection, ask a few more clarifying questions and do a little more qualification.

Example Rebuttal

"What are your goals? How much progress has been made?"

19. "We don't have that business pain."

This objection is often raised as a brush-off, or because prospects haven't realized they're experiencing a certain problem yet. And while ultimately you might discover they really don't need your product, don't take this objection at face value.

Example Rebuttal

"Interesting. What solutions are you currently using to address that area of your business? Perhaps you can give me some new ideas for my customers!"

20. "X problem isn't important right now."

Sometimes, a simple "Oh?" will be enough for your prospect to start talking. Listen closely for real reasons the need has low priority versus platitudes. Keep in mind that excuses can be a sign that your prospect understands they have a problem and is trying to rationalize their inaction. Capitalize on this and instill a sense of urgency.

Example Rebuttal

"Oh, really? Tell me more about that. What are your current priorities?"

21. "I don't see what your product could do for me."

Another request for information packaged as an objection. Reconfirm the goals or challenges you've discussed and explain how your product can solve specific problems.

Example Rebuttal

"Interesting. Can you share what specific challenges you're facing right now? Perhaps [product] presents a solution we have yet to discuss."

22. "I don't understand your product."

If your prospect literally can't wrap their head around your product, that's a bad sign. If your product is particularly complicated or specialized, it may be time to disqualify your prospect lest they churn two months from now.

Don't give up immediately, though. Ask your prospect what aspects of your product they're unclear on, then try explaining it in a different way. Alternatively, bring in a technician or product engineer to answer questions out of your depth.

Example Rebuttal

"What aspects of the product are confusing to you? I'd love to connect you to a customer success technician or product engineer to help you better understand how we can help you."

23. "I've heard complaints about you from [company]."

Word-of-mouth reviews are powerful, which can be both a blessing and a curse. Rather than immediately defending your solution, business, or brand — which will only validate the criticism — thank them for sharing the feedback with you. Then follow up with an offer to add value.

This gives you an opportunity to establish credibility and trust with your prospect. Once you've given them a positive experience, they'll naturally form a high opinion of you.

Example Rebuttal

"Thanks for sharing that feedback with me. I'll pass it along to [relevant department]. While we're on the phone, would you be interested in hearing a few tips for improving your average invoicing turnaround time?"

24. "We don't have capacity to implement the product."

This objection can be a deal-killing roadblock. Depending on what product you sell, it's possible your prospect will have to add headcount or divert resources to fully take advantage of your offering, and if they truly aren't able to, you might have to disqualify.

Another tactic is to assess your prospect's current duties and day-to-day to see what job responsibilities could potentially be eliminated or made easier by your product.

Example Rebuttal

"I hear you, and I want [product] to add value, not take it away. What are your current day-to-day responsibilities in your job? I'd love to explain how the product, once onboarded, can alleviate some of those."

25. "Your product is too complicated."

Find out if your prospect is confused about specific features or if the product is indeed over their head. If it's the latter, you might have to disqualify. But if it's the former, remind your prospect that they'll have help from your customer service team should they choose to buy and that you'll be on hand to answer any implementation questions they have.

Example Rebuttal

"What features are confusing to you? Remember, our customer service team will be available 'round-the-clock to help with implementation."

26. "You don't understand my challenges. I need help with Y, not X."

It's crucial to make your prospect feel heard. Restate your impression of their situation, then align with your prospect's take and move forward from there. A lot of misunderstandings and hard feelings can be resolved simply by rephrasing your prospect's words.

Example Rebuttal

"I apologize! Allow me to restate my understanding of your challenges, and please let me know what I'm missing or misstating."

27. "You don't understand my business."

If you sell to a specific industry, chances are you do know a bit about your prospect's business. Let them know that you have experience working with similar companies, and have solved similar problems in the past.

If you simply made an incorrect assumption about your prospect's company or industry, don't be afraid to own up to it. Your prospects will appreciate your candor.

Example Rebuttal

"Sorry — I assumed X was true, but it looks like that doesn't apply to your business. Can you tell me a little more about X?"

28. "Your product doesn't have X feature, and we need it."

Try suggesting a supplementary product that can be used in conjunction with yours. But if that specific need is a must-have and your product can't solve it, your prospect might not be a good fit. Time to disqualify and move along to a better fit opportunity.

Example Rebuttal

"Have you checked out [partner or conjoining product]? It's a good fit with ours and can be used alongside to solve for Y."

29. "We're happy the way things are."

Maybe everything really is going swimmingly. But more likely, your prospect is having some sort of challenge (after all, who isn't?). Do some light qualification to determine if they're facing any problems you can solve, then move forward or disqualify based on their answers.

Example Rebuttal

"That's great! Can you tell me how you're currently solving for X?"

30. "I don't see the potential for ROI."

This is a sign that you'll have to prepare a formal pitch for either your contact or her managers, either using internal numbers provided by your prospect or customer case studies. Nothing sells quite like hard numbers.

Example Rebuttal

"I'd love to show you. Can we schedule a time for me to explain some more about our product's potential for ROI to you and your team?"

31. "X is just a fad."

You might hear this objection if your product pioneers a concept that's new to your prospect's industry. For example, social media is now widely accepted to be a necessary part of a sound business strategy, but seven years ago many would have scoffed at it.

Now is the time to pull out any testimonials or customer case studies you have to prove ROI of your product. If you're pioneering a new concept or practice, you'll have to show that it works.

Example Rebuttal

"I understand why you may think that! Let's schedule a time for me to walk through how our product helped some other businesses like yours find success with X and why it's here to stay."

32. "Your product doesn't work with our current [tools, set-up]."

This objection can be a deal-breaker if the buyer is committed to their existing solutions. However, sometimes your product will replace these tools or make them obsolete. A workaround may be possible as well.

To find out, ask some questions.

Example Rebuttal
"Which tools are you currently using? How integral are those tools to your [strategy]? What do those products help you accomplish?"

33. "Your product sounds great, but I'm too swamped right now to handle [implementation, roll-out]."

Prospects are often put off by the effort required to switch products, even if the ROI is substantial.

To empathize with them, prove that you're trustworthy, and ensure they do have the bandwidth. Next, combat their reluctance to change by digging into the costs or pains of their current situation.

Calculate what they stand to gain — in time, efficiency, money, or all of the above.

Example Rebuttal

"I understand. It typically takes our customers [X days/weeks] to get fully up and running with [product]. How many minutes do you spend every day [task]?"

Sales Objections that Are Actually Brush-Offs

34. "*Click.*"

If your prospect hangs up on you, don't sweat it — it happens to everyone eventually. Try reaching out to a different person at the company using a different approach.

Or you can go on the offensive. Wait a few seconds, then call back. Which approach you choose is purely dependent on how your conversation with your prospect went before the hang-up.

Example Rebuttal

"Sorry, looks like we got disconnected! Do you have a few minutes?"

35. "I'm busy right now."

Of course your prospect is busy — almost every professional these days is. Simply explain that you're not looking to give a full-blown conversation, just have a quick chat about whether or not a longer discussion about your product would be a good fit at their organization.

Example Rebuttal

"I don't want to take up too much of your time! Can we have a quick chat about your challenges with X and how [product] may help?"

36. "I'm not interested."

During a prospecting call, it's far too early for a prospect to be able to definitively say they are or aren't interested in your product. Offer to send over some resources and schedule a follow-up call.

Example Rebuttal

"I understand. Can we schedule a time for a follow-up call? In the meantime, I can send over some resources so you can learn more."

37. "Just send me some information."

This is a great opportunity to segue into some qualification.

Example Rebuttal

"I'd be happy to send you some materials, but I want to make sure that they're relevant to you. What are you interested in learning about?"

38. "Call me back next quarter."

Prospects will often say this to dissuade you from pursuing a conversation. But don't let them off that easily — it's a vague brush-off uttered in the hopes you'll fade away and disappear. Ask some questions to question their motivations for brushing you off.

Example Rebuttal

"What's going to change next quarter?" 

39. "How did you get my information?"

Hopefully, you're not pulling numbers from lists you got off the internet — because if you are, your prospects have every reason to be annoyed. Don't get defensive — simply remind the prospect that they filled out a form on your site, or signed up for more information at a trade show, or that you simply came across their website and wanted to reach out to see if you could help.

Example Rebuttal

"I came across your website in my research and believe that [product] would be a great fit for you!"

40. "I hate you."

A disclaimer: Generally, prospects won't actually come right out and say this. And it's obviously not necessary to become best friends with someone to sell to them. But if you and your prospect really just don't get along, consider handing them off to a colleague lest your company lose the deal for good. The upside? This objection has nothing to do with your product or its value.

Example Rebuttal

"I'm sorry you feel that way. Can I hand you off to my colleague [name] to continue the conversation? Perhaps he'll be a better fit!"

Time to Handle Those Objections

Objections are an inevitable part of sales. Some are legitimate reasons to disqualify, while others are simply an attempt to brush you off.

But as long as you're familiar with common objections and equipped to answer them, you'll be able to distinguish between prospects who have the potential to be good customers and prospects with whom you need to part ways.

Want to learn more? Get tips on how to handle price objections here.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in September 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.