Consultants often panic when a prospect starts sharing their objections and concerns about working together.
Have you ever sold a consulting project or engagement without getting at least one question from your buyer? Unless you're selling lower-priced products such as books or self-paced online courses, I'd bet that never happened to you.
I love hearing objections because I know they are a sign of interest. When it is clear to the prospect that there's no point in working together, they are explicit about it - no means no. But when they share a question or concern, they are giving you implicit permission to work on resolving them.
I believe the best advice on how to handle objections is a simple one:
Don't respond. Ask a question to clarify what the actual objection is.
Most of the time, what the prospect says is not the actual objection. You need to ask questions to go deeper and understand it. And once you find it, you can also ask questions to help the prospect work through it.
That's why learning powerful questions is key. Here are some useful questions to employ when replying to objections from your clients and prospects (credits to the great Alan Weiss):
- Why do you feel that way? (Get at the true cause.)
- What else? If we resolve this, can we then proceed? (Is this the sole objection?)
- But isn’t that exactly why you need me? (The reversal approach.)
- What would satisfy you? (Make the buyer answer the objection.)
- What can we do to overcome that? (Demonstrate joint accountability.)
- Is this unique? (Is there precedent for overcoming it?)
- What’s the consequence? (Is it really serious or merely an annoyance?)
- Isn’t that low probability? (Worry about likelihoods, not the remote.)
- Shall I address that in the proposal? (Let’s focus on value.)
- Why does it even matter in light of the results? (The ROI is the point.)
Important: Always employ follow-up questions. The ones above need to be used as "triggers", for you to identify issues that need to be further clarified. It's supposed to be a helpful conversation, not an interrogation.
Also, notice the non-judgmental tone of the questions in the list. You don't want to be on the defensive when dealing with objections. There's no need to feel attacked.
The goal is to understand what's in your buyers' minds, question their thinking with calm and naturality, and show them that you are working together to overcome the issue.
Ironically, the more questions you ask to understand their objections, the easier it will be for you to overcome them.