Objection Handling Playbook

Fire up your cold calls: Cognism’s Objection Handling Playbook

Say hello to cold calls that convert with Cognism’s objection handling playbook!

Keep reading and you’ll find out:

  • What objection handling is (and why it’s important)
  • A five-point plan for handling objections
  • How to resolve the four most common sales objections
  • Objection handling examples from real-life cold calls

1 - Objection handling: the basics

What are objections? | What is objection handling? | Why is objection handling important? | Objections vs. obstructions: what are the differences? 

What are objections?

An objection is when a prospect raises a concern about the product or service the salesperson is selling.

They can be about anything, but some of the most frequent objections you’ll encounter in B2B sales will be around price, need and timing.

FAQ: Are objections a sign that the prospect isn’t interested? 

Absolutely not! They’re an indicator that the prospect is interested, but doesn’t yet have a full understanding of your product or service. It’s your job as a sales rep to give them that understanding.

You do this by objection handling!

What is objection handling?

Objection handling is the process whereby a sales rep (that’s you!) works to alleviate a prospect’s concerns. It’s about filling in the gaps in their knowledge and guiding them to a position where they’re ready to purchase.

FAQ: Aren’t most objections false?

No - most objections are entirely valid. You can’t just brush them off. You have to provide insight and give the prospect a compelling reason to choose your product/service over others.

Why is objection handling important?

Being able to handle objections effectively can determine whether a call succeeds or fails. If you don’t answer a prospect’s objections, they’ll simply walk away.

FAQ: How quickly should you address objections on a cold call?

The simple answer is: as quickly as you can! 

The longer you leave it, the stronger the prospect’s concerns will become - and the harder it will be for you to change their mind.

Objections vs. obstructions: what are the differences?

Objections aren’t the only things that can impede your cold calling progress. You’ll also encounter obstructions - so it’s important that you know the differences between the two.

  • An objection is something that a prospect is unsure about regarding your product or service (e.g.: “I don’t know how this would help me”). 
  • An obstruction is when the prospect gives you an excuse as to why they can’t do something (e.g.: “I don’t have time for this call”).

Skip to Objection handling examples for strategies to deal with the most popular objections and obstructions.

Feargal McDonnell, Regional Sales Director at Salesforce, shares his take on objection handling. Press ▶️ to watch.

 

2 - Objection handling: the process

Here’s the deal: objections can arise at any time during your cold call and be about any subject.

So it’s essential that you have a process for handling objections in place. If you try to wing it, you’ll only make it harder for yourself! Your prospects will see right through it and your chances of booking a meeting will be nil.

At Cognism, we teach our SDRs to follow a five-point plan when they face objections on their cold calls.

Let’s delve into each point one by one 👇

Listen to the prospect | Ask open-ended questions | Solve the objection | Confirm the solution | Move on | What if you can’t solve the objection?

Step 1 - Listen to the prospect

It may sound obvious but a lot of sales reps forget to do this. In their rush to make a sale, they talk more than they listen. 

This is the wrong approach. The best salespeople are always those who listen. 

One rule of communication during a sales call - the 70/30 rule - states that the prospect should do 70% of the talking, while the sales rep should only do 30%. 

What’s the benefit of this? 

The more the prospect feels like they’re being heard and understood, the more likely they are to buy. Simply listening to their objections is the first step to making a sale more probable.

Here’s another useful stat for you: 

When buyers were asked what they wanted from salespeople, 69% answered: “to listen to my needs.” 

So, objection handling rule #1 - stop talking and listen to your prospects’ objections. 

The more you listen, the more you’ll learn - and the knowledge you’ll gain will help you out massively when it’s your turn to respond.

Step 2 - Ask open-ended questions

Listening is one thing; letting the prospect know that you understand their objections is another.

A great way of doing this is to ask qualifying questions. It will help you to build trust and rapport with your prospect. 

However - don’t just ask any questions! You should always ask open-ended questions.

What are open-ended questions?

They’re any type of question that doesn’t require a “yes” or “no” answer.

Why are open-ended questions important?

  • They let the prospect know that you’re interested in what they have to say.
  • They encourage the prospect to open up and start revealing more.
  • They enable you to gain information about the prospect and their business. The more information you have, the easier it’ll be to handle their objections!

Open-ended questions: the best ones to ask

Cognism’s SDRs use the following checklist of qualifying questions on their cold calls:

  • What’s the biggest challenge your team/company is currently facing?
  • What takes up the most time in your day?
  • What does your manager care most about?
  • What’s prevented you from solving this problem in the past?
  • How do you think a new product would solve your problem?
  • What’s your timeline for getting this problem fixed?

Step 3 - Solve the objection

By this point, you’ve listened to your prospect and gained more understanding about their objections. Now it’s time to solve them!

This step requires some quick and nimble thinking. Three things can help you here:

Stay calm

Don’t let yourself be derailed by objections. Look on them as opportunities - the prospect is giving you something to work with!

Remember what you’ve done on past calls

How did you handle objections from other prospects/companies? Over time, you’ll build up a library of solutions you can deploy whenever they’re needed.

If you’re a first-time SDR - listen to calls from your senior colleagues. Note down the solutions they use.

Answer the prospect’s most urgent objection first

The reason for this?

Once you’ve resolved their most pressing question, it makes answering all the other, less troublesome objections much easier. You’ve shown that you’re a rep to be trusted and the prospect will feel more certain that you have the solutions they’re looking for. 

Step 4 - Confirm the solution

In this step, you have to find out if the solution you’ve offered meets the prospect’s requirements.

Here’s how to do it:

Ask the prospect the following:

“Are you happy with my solution?”

If the prospect says “yes” - great! You can continue with your cold call.

If the prospect says “no” - you’ll have to go back and make sure you’ve fully understood the objection. Ask some more open-ended questions and see if the prospect’s answers point to an alternative solution.

Top tip

When confirming your solution, repeat the prospect’s words back to them. For example, if they’ve objected to the pricing, you can say: 

“I understand the pricing is higher than you expected.”

It’s an easy tactic for confirming your understanding of the objection.

Step 5 - Move on

When (and only when) the prospect is satisfied with your solution should you move on to the next stage in the cold call. This could be either facing another objection or (hopefully!) closing the call.

Top tip

Don’t spend more time on one objection than necessary. 

Listen to the objection, ask questions, define it, provide a solution - and then progress to the next one. Never go back to an objection once you’ve addressed it!

What if you can’t solve the objection?

If the prospect asks you something that you genuinely feel you can’t answer - don’t blag it!

Here’s what to do instead:

Tell the prospect you’ll have to refer their question upwards - and always, always agree on a timeframe for you to supply a response.

What are Josh Braun’s tips for handling objections? Press ▶️ to see Cognism’s interview with Josh.

 

3 - The 4 most common B2B sales objections (and how to handle them)

Cognism’s SDRs qualify leads according to the BANT criteria:

Budget

Authority

Need

Time

Is the prospect able and willing to buy?

Is the prospect the ultimate decision-maker?

Does the prospect have a problem that your product can solve?

Is the prospect looking to buy quickly?


The most common outbound sales objections are based on one of these four areas.

For this section of our playbook, we asked our sales team to select the four objections they see most often during their cold calls. Each of the four objections corresponds to a particular part of the BANT criteria. We also asked them to tell us how they would deal with these objections.

You won’t want to miss this - keep scrolling 👇 for some insightful sales hacks!

“I don’t have the money to buy.” | “I’ll have to speak to my boss about this.” | “I really don’t need your product right now.” | “It’s not the right time for me to buy.”

Budget - “I don’t have the money to buy.”

If a prospect says this, ask yourself a question: what’s the reason behind the objection? 

Is it genuinely that the price is too high, or is it that the prospect doesn’t see the value of your product for the price they’ll have to pay? 

If the price is too high

Emphasise the value of your product or what makes you different from the competition.

Avoid the temptation of going straight to discounting. Doing this can devalue your product. 

If the prospect has a genuine pricing objection, there are other things you can suggest instead of taking money off. Consider bespoke payment terms that help spread the cost of investment without reducing the overall price.

If the prospect doesn’t recognise the value

Explain how your product will change their life for the better! 

This could be anything from saving them time or money or helping them to generate leads and revenue. Give the prospect a compelling reason to buy from you!

A compelling reason needn’t necessarily be based on pricing or cost. It could be anything from certain product features, the level of customer service that your company provides, or customer reviews.

Top tip

A great strategy for resolving pricing issues is to bring up some of your company’s success stories. 

Prove that other organisations are achieving results with your platform and that the expenditure is worth it. 

Mention some satisfied customers who work in the same industry as your prospect (this is a very important point - whichever customers you mention, they must be relevant to the prospect). 

Always have some suitable case studies and testimonials to hand during your cold call.

Authority - “I’ll have to speak to my boss about this.”

To handle this objection, start by confirming what the prospect’s concerns are. Return to your open-ended questions!

Maybe you can provide some information that will stop them from referring their query upwards. If you play this right, you can turn the prospect into a champion for your product. They can help you get the buy-in you’ll need from the ultimate decision-maker.

Top tip

If the prospect’s manager does have to be involved, immediately arrange a time to speak with them.

Need - “I really don’t need your product right now.”

With this objection, you need to get to the root of the problem. What’s stopping them from buying? 

It may be that the prospect loves certain product features, but not others. It may be that they just can’t see (yet!) how your product will help them.

Two things will assist you here:

Data

Provide the prospect with some data that displays the difference your product can make. Always have two to three stats nearby whenever you’re cold calling. 

However, check that the stats you’ve chosen are relevant to the prospect’s industry or business. There’s no value in sharing sales statistics with a marketer, for instance, or giving revenue growth data from your enterprise clients to a startup!

Content

Make use of the materials produced by your B2B marketing team. 

Come prepared for the cold call with a couple of appropriate customer case studies. If the prospect has a couple of very specific questions, maybe you can direct them to a blog or two on your company website. 

Keep up to date with the content your business is publishing and utilise it in your objection handling.

Time - “It’s not the right time for me to buy.”

How you handle this objection all boils down to the prospect’s reason for delaying. 

But whatever their reason is, the most important thing to do is to create a sense of urgency. Remind the prospect of the costs of not buying your product now.

This is where all the research and information you’ve gained during your cold call will come in handy. Use what you’ve learned to turn the objection on its head. 

Here are a few scenarios from Cognism’s sales team to get you thinking:

  • Is the prospect’s company launching a major new product or initiative? Perhaps your product can help them out at this critical phase.
  • Has the prospect’s company recently acquired funding? Show them how your product is a wise investment and can take their business to the next level.
  • Has the prospect only recently joined the company? Tell them your product can help them to achieve great results and make a big impression early on.
  • Did the prospect’s business have a bad quarter? If so, tell them that adding your product to their tech stack will turn their fortunes around.
  • Is the ultimate decision-maker yet to join the company? Explain to the prospect how your product will help their manager once they arrive.

The trick is to turn a disadvantage into an advantage.

Let’s recap the objection handling process one last time: 

  1. Listen to the prospect’s objection.
  2. Ask the prospect some searching questions.
  3. Uncover the reason behind each objection.
  4. Present an effective solution.
  5. Confirm the prospect is satisfied and then move on.

Next up - some real-life examples of objection handling! 

Cognism’s Associate Sales Director, Saif Khan, runs through the top cold calling objections and how to overcome them! Press ▶️ to watch our sales training video.

 

4 - Objection handling examples

2 sales experts present their tactics for handling specific objections and obstructions.

Scroll 👇 to learn from some real-life cold calls.

“I don’t have the time.” | “I’m not interested.” | “Is this a sales call?” | “I’m using a similar product.”

“I don’t have the time.”

Morgan J Ingram is the Director of Sales Execution and Evolution @ Jbarrows Sales Training. He had this to say about this obstruction.

“When someone says that, most likely, it's not true. There are instances where it could be true, but probably it's not true because why would you pick up the phone if you don’t have the time?”

To counter this obstruction, Morgan recommends you say something like:

“Yeah, I completely understand that you're busy right now. However, all I'm asking for is 30 seconds of your time. And in that 30 seconds, I'll explain to you what we do over here. And if that's relevant, we could put time on the calendar to call you when you're prepared for it. Or if not, you can hang up on me.”

“Does that sound fair?”

Morgan explained his reasoning:

“No one wants to be unfair, so most people say, that's fair. That's fine. If you can get your value prop done within 30 seconds and the prospect agreed to it, guess what? You just booked the meeting and you won’t have to deal with any further objections.”

“I’m not interested.”

When a prospect says this, Morgan responds with:

“This sounds like it might not be a priority right now. But typically, when I talk to Sales Directors, they’re struggling with these 3 things, (X, Y and Z). Is that currently on your radar or am I just completely missing the mark here?”

Morgan said:

“There are multiple different ways that a product can serve somebody. So what you need to do is figure out, okay, he's or she's not interested in that. But there are other things that they probably could be interested in that I offer.”

“All you have to do is find out what they’re interested in and then insert a new value prop based on that.”

Video 11 - How to answer im not interested

 

“Is this a sales call?”

Here’s how Morgan typically answers this objection:

“Hey, you know, this actually is not a sales call. The reason for this call is to see if you're interested in getting on a sales call.”

“I know I'm calling out of the blue and you're probably not comfortable with taking cold calls at all. I completely understand that. All I'm asking for here is 30 seconds of your time.”

“Nothing too crazy, just to quickly explain what I think might be able to help you and your organisation based on my research. And if that's not interesting to you, it's okay to tell me ‘no’ and we’ll part ways.”

“Does that sound fair?”

Morgan revealed more about this tactic:

“Ultimately, what you’re doing as an SDR is not getting people on sales calls. You’re calling to see if there's interest to actually get on the call. The real call is with your AE!”

Video 12 - how to answer is this a sales call

 

“I’m using a similar product.”

When David Bentham (Inside Sales Director at Cognism) hears this, his immediate response is - perfect!

He had lots to share about solving this objection.

“The first thing to say is: don’t call anyone’s baby ugly!”

“If they've got another vendor and they’re enjoying it, the last thing I want to do is be really combative and get into an argument.”

The number one question that David likes to ask prospects who say this is:

“How would you rate your current vendor most of the time, on a scale of 1 to 10?”

And if the prospect replies with 8 or 9, you can follow up with:

“Okay. What would make it a 10?”

What’s the reason behind asking these questions? David said:

“With these questions, you’re getting the prospect to reveal the pains they have with their current vendor, that you can hopefully address and fix.”

Morgan had a different tactic for dealing with this objection. He’d say:

“Okay. Out of curiosity, are you married to that solution?”

If the prospect says:

“No, we’re not married to it.”

Then you can follow up with: 

“Why?”

In contrast, if the prospect says they’re really happy with their current provider, then you can ask them:

“What would you improve about it?”

Morgan told us why this tactic worked for him:

“Asking questions like these can change a conversation. Now you’re digging deeper into the prospect’s current vendor, their likes and dislikes about it.”

“The ‘what would you improve’ question is a good one to ask because nothing is perfect. There’s always something we would like to change about the tools we use. And it’s better than asking ‘what sucks about it?’ because it’s positive. You’re not getting into an argument, you’re just a curious person.”

Listen to the live cold calling episode of Cognism’s Revenue Champions podcast, starring David and Morgan! Press ▶️ to hear them in action.

 

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