Deflating Your Toughest Prospecting Objections
Jason Bay has over 13 years’ experience leading sales teams, and coaching salespeople. He is the Founder and Chief Prospecting Officer of Blissful Prospecting. Drawing on his vast experience, Jason has carefully developed a methodology for effectively deflating prospecting objections. He joined Predictable Revenue to share this approach with our audience.
Use Empathy To Deflate “The Balloon Of Tension”
As most salespeople will know, prospects are often quick to offer objections. Frequently this stimulates an urge amongst sales professionals to contradict what they are saying. However, this is never a fruitful way to proceed. It inflates the “balloon of tension”, exerting more pressure on the relationship. “A lot of times when a prospect says something like ‘not interested,’ our gut reaction can be ‘well, how could you not be interested when you don’t know even know why I’m calling?’” explains Jason. This in turn leads to salespeople becoming almost confrontational. “It adds air to the balloon, and it really creates this environment where there’s more tension.”
Instead, salespeople must try to “take air out of the balloon. We want to try to de-escalate”. It’s widely appreciated amongst sales professionals that “people buy based on emotion, and then justify with logic”. Because of this, it doesn’t matter how much better your solution objectively is than their existing system, “if they’re in a state where they’re completely armed and don’t want to listen to you. So, the question is: how do we disarm them, and get them into a state where they would even entertain the idea of listening to us?”
The answer lies in developing a keen sense of empathy. In trying to achieve this, a good starting point is attempting to better understand your own emotions. So, when a prospect objects to your outreach, how does that impact you? “Oftentimes when this happens, when the prospect gives us this ‘not interested’, we feel misunderstood. And then we come back with a rebuttal.”
Our response might be to explain that other clients felt the same way, but they now feel different. Or that we are sure that we can help, despite the prospects’ hesitance. However, this is unlikely to have a positive impact on them. “The entire time, the prospect is thinking ‘what’s wrong with you? I told you I was not interested. I don’t have time.’ And they end up feeling misunderstood too.”
This creates a dynamic in which each party is essentially just saying “I’m right”, in disagreement with each other. Eventually this leads to the prospect, “who has the ultimate power, saying ‘no, actually I’m right. And I’m going to hang up the phone now’.”
With a fully developed sense of empathy, however, salespeople can break this cycle. By empathizing with the prospect first, and acknowledging their feelings, you can lay the groundwork for a more fruitful relationship. “We need to make them feel like it’s okay that they’re not interested.”
The EVO Framework: Empathize, Validate, Offer
Jason has developed a theoretical framework where salespeople can utilize their empathy more effectively. This is called the EVO framework, which stands for: empathize, validate, offer. As a conceptual tool, this framework can help salespeople to approach objections in a more productive manner. For example, when objection handling, salespeople can often go wrong by starting at the end. “We start by asking ‘hey can I just get 30 minutes of your time?’ We oftentimes start with what we want, and we need to start with what the prospect needs.”
The EVO framework teaches us that we need to begin by looking at things from the prospect’s perspective. Specifically, it urges us to empathize and validate. Doing this helps us to achieve two things: “that’s going to disarm the prospect, and it’s going to help us have a better understanding of where they’re coming from. It’s going to get them to open up a little bit.”
Step 1: Empathize
The EVO framework can be adapted for use across a range of different objections. Let’s take a simple objection as a starting example. All too often, when we speak to prospects they push back with “I’m just not interested”. So when you apply the EVO framework, the first thing you need to do is empathize with them if this happens. “We need to talk to what we think they’re feeling, what they’re thinking.”
Accordingly, we need to reply in a manner, which demonstrates that we understand and appreciate their feelings. “So, what we need to do is use a phrase like this: ‘hey, sounds like I might have caught you in the middle of something’”. By empathizing in this way, we are acknowledging that they are busy, rather than brushing their feelings aside.
Step 2: Validate
Once we have empathized with the prospect, the next thing we need to do is to validate. It’s important to make the prospect feel that it’s completely ok that they don’t want to speak with you. This can be accomplished with a phrase such as: ‘hi, sounds like I might have caught you in the middle of something, which is totally understandable because I’m totally cold calling you out of the blue here’.
It’s important to construct your own phrases, rather than relying on stock ones. So just make sure you use a phrase with the right underlying message. This should simply acknowledge that you probably caught them in the middle of something, and express that it’s totally understandable if they don’t want to speak with you at that point in time.
“What this has, is a really interesting disarming effect where the person feels like they can relax a little bit. They think, ‘okay this person’s actually paying attention and we’re having a dialogue. He’s not just going to come back with his rebuttal’.”
Step 3: Offer
Once we have empathized with the prospect and validated their feelings, we’ve laid down the groundwork for making the offer. There are two ways of approaching this. The first is the “would it hurt” option, which incorporates a permissions-based opener. This method is best suited to times when you are getting objections straight away, before you’ve even had a chance to say much. When faced with this situation, say something along the lines of:
“Hey, sounds like I might have caught you in the middle of something, which is totally understandable because I’m totally calling you out of the blue here. But I did some research on you and, while I have you on the phone here, would it hurt if I got a minute to just tell you why I’m calling? Then you could let me know if you want to keep chatting?”
The second approach is more effective in situations where you’ve been able to give your pitch, and the prospect has then stated that they’re “not interested”. When this happens, say something along the lines of:
“Hey, you know, sounds like you might be taken care of, which is totally understandable. This might be a long shot, but you looked a lot like this other company, X Company. They’re having difficulty getting their reps to pick up the phone more, and overcoming call reluctance. Would it hurt if I shared a little bit more about what I found when I was doing some research on you guys?”
This approach works equally well with cold emailing as it does with cold calling. You will also be able to put case studies to good use when employing this method.
You’re showing them: ‘I did my research, you look a lot like this other company.’ Make sure that the companies you worked with, which you mention in the case studies, are in the same industry, ideally with a similar persona.
EVO Framework Case Study: The “Already Taken Care Of” Objection
To really illustrate how to effectively apply the EVO Framework across different situations, let’s look at another scenario. This time, we’re going to apply it to the “we’re already taken care of” objection. This includes similar objections, such as “we’ve already got a vendor”, “we already have a solution for this”, “we do it in-house”, and “we use your competitor”.
This is a particularly tough objection to get around, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t always succeed. “One out of ten, or two out of ten times you might get something from this. It’s a really hard one to handle.”
As always with the EVO Framework, the first thing to do is to empathize. They are probably thinking “I’m already happy with the vendor I’m using”, or “none of my team has complained about what we’re currently using”. Additionally, they are probably worrying about the complexity, cost, and timeframe of vetting a new supplier and rolling out a new solution.
As salespeople we need to empathize and address those feelings. So, if the prospect says “we’re already taken care of”, respond with something similar to this:
Sounds like you might be pretty happy with your current solution, and that’s totally understandable. I’m sure that you know, having been in the position for x number of years, that it’s pretty complex to roll out a new solution.
That’s all you need to say at first. By doing this, you are empathizing with them and validating their feelings. This is the best way of softening them up and making them more amenable to your offer. When you do then make your offer. It’s a great idea to use a technique based on the love-hate dynamic, which involves going to a review website and looking at your competitors’ products there. Read and summarize the four- and five-star reviews. What do people really love about the platform? Next, summarize the one- and two-star reviews. What do people really hate?
For example, Jason once worked with a company whose biggest competitors were Microsoft Teams. As a result, prospects would frequently say to him that they were already using Teams. His response was:
“Sounds like you’re already taken care of, and that’s totally understandable. I’m sure you know, being the director of IT for 10 years at ABC company, that it’s really hard to roll out a new video solution. This might be a long shot, but while I have you, I’m just curious if you don’t mind sharing? A lot of times what I hear about teams is that people really like that it integrates with a lot of tools, but one of the things I often hear complaints about is that the whole mobile app solution is really not very user-friendly, and it drops calls a lot? What’s your experience been?”
In doing this, you can allude to the aspects of a product that people dislike. This can encourage your prospect to acknowledge that their team has made complaints about that aspect of the item. In turn, this opens up the door for you to make a pitch. In this eventuality, you should say something along the lines of:
“Well, as I said, you definitely know what you’re doing, but I wouldn’t be doing my job unless I asked you, would it hurt to share how some of our customers are solving those challenges right now? Then you could decide if you want to keep talking further or not. I was just hoping I could get a conversation with you started around it.”
As with any approach in sales, this won’t work all the time — particularly if the prospect genuinely is very happy with their existing solution. But generally speaking, there are usually at least one or two things that professionals dislike about any product. “With all of the clients that I’ve worked with, their prospects have never been 100% happy with their current solution. There’s always something that is left to be desired.”
If you would like to hear more useful advice from Jason on deflating prospecting objections, including tips on handling specific oft-encountered problems, then watch the full video with Predictable Revenue below.
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