Understanding vs. overcoming objections through empathy
By Brandon Aguirre
Whether you’re a diehard NFL fan or grew up watching The Price is Right, you might be familiar with over/under betting.
For sports fans, this type of betting is about guessing if the combined score of a game will add up to more or less than the projected total number set by oddsmakers—and if you’re right, you get a nice payout.
In The Price is Right, you guess the price of a dishwasher or some other exciting merch, and if you’re
the closest guess without going over, you win!
Almost all bets in the sales world focus on the “over” when it comes to objections and closing the deal.
The thing is, when we focus on overcoming objections, we put the focus on our ego instead of the prospect. On the other hand, when we empathize and understand their objections, we genuinely put their needs first (not just by lip service) and become a partner to them—whether they buy or not.
There always have been and always will be objections, and the advice hasn’t changed in a long time.
Today, we’ll look at what you say and how you say it from a place of caring about your prospects. I’d like to wager that this will bring you better sales and better clients, but you’ll have to try it out yourself.
Detach from the outcome
The first way to be more understanding of your prospect’s objections is to detach yourself from the outcome. I know, I know, you have quotas to hit! Is this just reverse psychology?
Well, kind of. If you can detach yourself from the outcome that this person must become a sale for you, you can have a genuine conversation and let them walk away if your product isn’t right for them.
When you’re detached, it doesn’t matter whether they buy or not. What matters is that they trust you as a person who is being realistic and honest with them. This will pay itself back in dividends throughout your career.
Respect decision makers
One of the oldest “objections” in the book is that the person you’re talking to wants to talk to their board, spouse, boss, or someone else before making a decision. The typical response in sales books is to invalidate that they need help making a decision and that they’re more of a “boss” or “leader” if they just say yes right now.
This approach isn’t cool or genuinely helpful. Instead, lead with the question, “Are there any other people who should be consulted about this decision, and what do you need from me to help them know the details of this opportunity?”
That way, you can be the friend and hero instead of the jerk nobody trusts.
When you’ve practiced your sales script for a few weeks, getting complacent with your prospects can be easy. You naturally want to control the conversation, stay in the driver’s seat, and persuade them through the process of buying your product.
Especially if you’re cold-calling, you’re the one initiating conversation, so it makes sense that you’d be doing most of the talking, or so it seems.
The problem is that some prospects are ready to say no the second they pick up the phone. They know it, you know it, and yet you still try to get as much time in their ears as possible to change their mind.
When you focus on actively listening, hearing what they say, and responding with respect, the whole conversation is disarmed and can happen more organically.
Sales scripts are great, but listening to your prospect and responding to their questions, needs, or sometimes their blunt dismissal will set you apart from every other salesperson who won’t let them breathe.
They don’t want to fight you, and you don’t want to twist their arms, so be cool and just have a real conversation.
There’s a saying: “When people show you who they are, believe them.” If a prospect says they’re not interested, let them not be. Plenty of fish in the sea want to work with you. Let this one go.
As simple as it sounds, leading with empathy goes
a long way in sales, not just for the sake of the sale but
also for building a network of good relationships
that will have your back when you need them.
Stop saying “actually”
Remove the word “actually” from your vocabulary entirely when responding to misconceptions. Yes, people will have assumptions about your product, network, you as a person, or whatever it is.
That’s fine; they can have those opinions, even if they’re wrong. But we’re not here to be the “wrong answer” buzzer when they’re telling you their thoughts. They usually get their opinions from somewhere, so give them a chance.
Listen first, and don’t be afraid to use some humor when addressing misconceptions. In my business, if someone says to me, “I know about networks like yours; you just want to own my book of business”. I can respond with, “I’ve heard that some networks operate that way, and that would definitely not be a great fit if that were the case. You can keep 100% of your business as part of our network. What do you think about staying completely independent?”
Again, this disarms the conversation, clears up the misconception, and lets the prospect save face.
Prove your worth
Another common objection is that the price of your product is too high. There are plenty of ways to address this objection. You can talk about the cost of inaction, tell a story about the worst-case scenario, or share some stats from your best clients. These are all reasonable ways to address their concerns about price.
The best you can do, though? Simply run the numbers for the specific prospect. There’s a chance that your product might be too expensive for their stage of business, and if that’s the case, they’re probably not the best fit for you either.
The more you can back up your claims with specific outcomes, the more you can prove your worth and establish trust with your prospects. If you can’t prove it, don’t promise it!
Meet indifference with value
Indifference can be one of the hardest objections to understand because it feels like a stalemate. You might have had a few conversations with a prospect; they agree with everything you say, and yet they won’t act.
You keep diligently updating your CRM with touchpoints, but you know they just don’t care as much as you do. Remember, detach from the outcome and get creative in providing value in other ways.
Keeping up with indifferent prospects feels draining only if you’re trying to feed your ego. If they don’t care, let them not care. But don’t write them off as a total loss, either.
If you’ve been actively listening to their needs and concerns, share valuable content (not only written by yourself) that they might find interesting now and then.
If they’ve talked about needing to hire in their business, share their job postings or keep an eye out for someone. I had this exact thing happen with a prospect who wasn’t ready to work together but needed a commercial lines manager. I had a friend looking for a new position and introduced them to my prospect. They thanked me endlessly, and I know I have their trust when they’re ready to work together.
As simple as it sounds, leading with empathy goes a long way in sales, not just for the sake of the sale but also for building a network of good relationships that will have your back when you need them.
You can choose to keep betting on the “over” and do more, more, and more to overcome objections and push your prospects to the finish line.
Or you can take a step back, bet “under,” and let them be the ones making the decision when they’re ready. If it’s not for them, you can walk away knowing you understood their objections, took a genuine interest in their needs, and provided value as a partner.
Put your ego aside, try this approach, and may the odds be ever in your favor.
Brandon Aguirre is the sales leader for PIIB, Insurance Journal’s #11 Top Agency Partnership. Brandon connects independent agents with the resources and referrals they need to become profitable producers. Before joining PIIB, he managed PIIB’s account at Foremost Insurance and in 2021 assisted in getting the group their largest-ever profit-sharing payout. As an engaging and committed sales leader, Brandon is known for listening to people first and sharing practical, no-frills advice. When he isn’t closing deals on the golf course and helping his clients buy private planes, you can find him on a date night with his wife, Irma, hiking with their three boys, or reading the latest book on sales.