Handling Sales Objections

As the waiter served my family our dinner while we were out celebrating my granddaughter’s birthday, her three-year-old brother declared his favorite mealtime phrase, “I don’t like that.”

We hear this often at dinners, as my sweet and opinionated grandson is a very picky eater. He even uses the phrase when he has chosen the meal sometimes. Either the food wasn’t plated just as he had imagined or he changed his mind about it. This time though, my daughter was tied up with her youngest child, so I stepped in. Because handling sales objections is what I do during my day job, I decided to approach his objection like I would any other.

So I asked “why?”

The dialogue went like this:

He said, “I just don’t like it.”

“But you haven’t even tried it.”

“I know I don’t like it.”

“You chose it.”

“I chose mac and cheese.”

“That is mac and cheese.”

“No it’s not, it’s not yellow enough.”

Rather than try to solve the first statement, “I just don’t like it,” I used a process for handling sales objections that I’ve refined over the years to get to the meat of the matter. It wasn’t that my grandson just didn’t like it, or that he had chosen it and changed his mind. Rather, it was a simple color issue.

Handling Sales Objections

We all face objections every day in the payments world. Merchants often raise reasons why they won’t move, won’t consider moving, or won’t even listen to what you have to say. Handling objections may be the biggest challenge salespeople face, especially the ISO.

I am sorry to say, but there are no shortcuts. In fact, most people try to short circuit the questions by jumping in at the first comment that appears to be an objection. The results are not positive.

After a situation like that I often get a call from the deflated salesperson asking me what I would have done, and I think, “something completely different.”  Handling objections is not about responding to the actual objections, it’s about diagnosing them.

Dig a Little Deeper

In almost every case, an objection is a symptom, not the true issue. You need to probe a little to get to the true issue. To do so, you need to refrain from the temptation to immediately respond to their objection and instead ask the merchant a question.

These questions can vary, but unlike the simple one-word question, you want to ask a question that garners more detail.  Examples include:

  • Could you tell me more about your concern?
  • It sounds like this has happened often/before. Can you give me when and what happened?
  • Could you explain your question?

They may reply with the same objection. If so, reverse it. For example, say a merchant’s objection is, “I am not interested” and their response to your first question is, “You people come in all the time with all these promises. I just don’t believe what you’re saying or promising will actually happen.”

It’s important to understand that their first objection may lead to another objection that is still a symptom. In this example, they weren’t interested because they perceived others in our profession didn’t keep their promises. And knowing this doesn’t necessarily allow you to diagnose the true objection. You must probe further.

Reverse it in this fashion: “I can understand your concern, and I am aware of many in my profession who make promises they can’t keep. But we aren’t all that way. I know I’m not. In fact, I don’t even know if I have a solution that works for you. Could you tell me some of the promises that haven’t been kept? What are the issues you have that they didn’t solve?”

Get to the True Objection

As you can probably tell, the true key to handling sales objections is to relentlessly ask questions until you get the true objection. Then address that objection head on.

Back to my original example with the skeptical merchant. The merchant might have been burned by promises in the past such as reducing cost or providing next day funding. When they realized that they had been taken advantage of, the merchant likely decided to guard themselves from future payments professionals with a fool-me-once kind of attitude.

Yes, this may take a little more time than desired, but the results are worth it. Invest the time, and you ultimately save yourself time in the long run. You may also have a happier merchant.

Oh, and I solved my grandson’s true objection rather simply. I asked the waiter for a little shredded yellow cheese. I sprinkled it on the top, and the color issue was solved.

About Author

Jeff Fortney

Jeff Fortney

VP, ISO Channel Management

Jeff Fortney has 25 years of experience in payments, with a focus on helping ISOs and agents grow their portfolio. His experience encompasses all forms of payments. He has served on various industry committees and boards and is also an author in various trade publications. He and his wife of 40 years live in Plano, TX.

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