Handling objections is one of the more difficult skills for an SDR to learn. Knowing the difference between when a prospect is just pushing back and when they actually have a legitimate objection is vital to a successful qualification & follow up process. Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities to practice.
As an SDR, you’re handling rejection on a daily basis. Most phone calls go unanswered, and most answered calls don’t lead to…well…leads. But the real difference between leaving a call exhausted or exhilarated doesn’t have to correlate to whether or not the prospect takes a call. Knowing how to handle prospects’ objections, and take the conversation in the best direction based on their rebuttals, can make the difference between SDR burnout and prospect turnout.
While every sales development environment is different and has its own unique objections, by following a few universal guidelines you’ll be able to make the most out of the objections prospects throw at you.
Don’t take it personally
Prospect pushback comes in all shapes and sizes, and the appropriate response is often case-specific. With that being said, there is a rule to handling objections and pushback from a prospect that works for everyone: Don’t take it personally. It’s a challenge to separate yourself from your outreach, and many seasoned SDRs still struggle with this. It’s part of human nature to react to rejection and ask yourself what you, as an individual, could’ve done differently.
But take a step back for a moment and think about what an objection really means. It’s basically the prospect telling you that you haven’t provided the right product/service information to warrant further interest. It has nothing to do with you as the SDR! You could have a weird sounding voice or an abrasive laugh and it would matter less than the actual information you’re trying to provide.
An objection is the prospect telling you that you haven’t provided the right information to them yet. Expecting a positive response from that would be like using the wrong bait when you go fishing and still expecting to catch something. You don’t think the fish hates you because you used the wrong bait, so why would a prospect be any different.
Keep asking questions
Once you’re mentally prepared to handle objections you can start developing an actionable strategy for handling them and moving forward from it. This process is going to look different for every SDR, but one thing that every SDR should do is keep asking questions.
As long as you’re familiar with your qualification criteria you should have no problem coming up with follow up questions that will either further qualify or disqualify the prospect. While some objections are true deal stoppers, the majority of them really only object to a specific point or piece of information you’ve shared.
As an SDR I would keep a sticky note on my desk with the 5 qualification questions I needed to ask to fully qualify a prospect. This gave me instant ammo when a prospect objected and tried to bring the conversation to a close. Instead of giving control over to the prospect, I kept it by asking the next question on my list. Once my list was exhausted, if they still didn’t want a meeting I would know that I provided everything I could to the conversation and walk away knowing I did everything within my control.
Know the difference between later and never
Just because the conversation is over doesn’t necessarily mean the relationship is. Once you’ve run out of qualification questions and they throw their last objection at you, future success can come down to how you interpret the last objection. More specifically, you have to understand the difference between ‘later’ and ‘never’.
It can be tricky because, as assertive SDRs, our job is to continue following up unless explicitly instructed otherwise. That means leaving a lot of conversations with something along the lines of, “Sounds good [prospect], I’ll touch base in a few months to see if anything has changed”, and the most common response is, “yeah that’s fine”. Well what does that even mean? Are they just being courteous or will they actually be more interested down the road?
Ultimately, that determination is up to you, the SDR, based on the conversation you just had. You don’t want to be wasting future activities for an account you know won’t be qualified, so getting ahead of that is important to your future productivity. For example, if their final objection was timing-based, connecting in a few months will be worth the effort, but if their final objection was about something more static, like a missing product feature (that’s not on the future roadmap) or an incompatibility, it might be worth keeping them off your list. You can always kick them to marketing and let their campaigns go to work.
If you still can’t figure out how you should follow up with them, just ask them. “Would following up in a few months be a good timeline or do you suggest I follow up later/sooner/never?”. Prospects are people too, and they’ll appreciate the transparency and authenticity of your question.
Disqualification is just as important as qualification
Which segways nicely into this last point. When dealing with an objectionable prospect there’s a good chance it becomes disqualified. This shouldn’t be seen as a failure. Disqualification and qualification are both good outcomes! Failure happens when you walk away from a call and you still have questions for the prospect that you didn’t get around to asking.
This can be a weird concept to accept because you don’t get comp for disqualifications (should you? Maybe that’ll be my next blog). While they don’t bring in revenue like qualified leads do, disqualifications provide different kinds of value, like market intelligence. In a vacuum, knowing why a prospect doesn’t qualify only gives you anecdotal evidence, but combined with every other disqualification, patterns will start to emerge. This gives your org valuable data they can use to shape the direction of your product and company as a whole. All of a sudden your disqualifications sound a little more valuable, don’t they?
On a micro level, each disqualification will also help you shape your messaging and outreach because you’ll gain a better understanding of what resonates with your target persona. Did you receive a lot of push back for one particular differentiator? Maybe it’s time to reword it or scrap it altogether. Was the prospect taken aback by your demeanor over the phone? Make a plan for what you’d do differently next time it happens and stick to it when it does.
Ed Catmull, one of the cofounders of Pixar once said, “the only failure is if you don’t learn from [your failures], if you don’t progress.” and that couldn’t be more true in sales development. As SDRs, there’s a lot of failure on a regular basis. For many reps, this can be a turn off and cause quick burnout in the role. But for those that can learn from their failures and adapt when faced with objection after objection, the future is bright. The more you fail, the more chances you have to improve. Capitalizing on your own letdowns will lead to more future success than you ever thought possible.