Objection Handling: and why it’s so much harder for PreSales

Do you know how to handle your top 5 Buyer objections? Are you practised, prepared, rehearsed and know when and when not to answer an objection?

PreSales professionals handle objections all the time. It’s a very healthy sign; it means the Buyer is engaged and thinking about the challenges associated with your solution. Most salespeople get some form of objection handling training, usually at the beginning of their career. It’s rare, however, for that training to stretch to PreSales/SEs and even then, it turns out, PreSales need a different kind of objection handling tool.

For us in PreSales, objections carry a much greater burden than they do for salespeople. We, PreSales, are presented to Buyers as the technical or business expert; if an objection can be answered by showing the technology or by referencing knowledge of a case study or previous implementation, we’re expected to know it and even be able to show it.

We’ll walk through the structured, proven Winning Skills – PreSales objection handling tool called PIIITCH™ (Pause, Interest, Intent, Implications, Tell and Check). We’ll give examples and explain how and why it works and what it tells us about the need for practice, preparation and teamwork.

We’ll intersperse the conversation with comments and observations about the anatomy of this discovery call, exploring key elements of discovery:

In this video, Don Carmichael emphasizes the importance of objection handling for presales professionals, discussing the PIIITCH methodology, the difference between questions and objections, plus the need for empathy, understanding, and preparation in order to handle objections effectively. He provides practical advice on managing emotions, establishing comfort and rapport with clients, and creating high-quality resources to anticipate and address objections. Additionally, he offers tips on tackling objections in the moment, discussing pricing, and handling minor software glitches during a demo, while emphasizing the need for honesty and communication with clients throughout the sales process.

  • 00:00:00 Don Carmichael discusses the methodology of objection handling, specifically for presales people. He introduces the concept of “PIIITCH” – pause, interest, intent, implications, tell, and close – and explains each step of the process. He highlights the importance of empathy, listening skills, and understanding the deeper meaning behind objections in order to provide the best possible response. Additionally, he mentions the difference between questions and objections and how objections are viewed in the context of buyer enablement. Overall, the section provides an overview of the methodology of PIIITCH and its application in objection handling for presales professionals.
  • 00:05:00 Don Carmichael explains the importance of objection handling techniques in the tech industry, which are widely taught to sales teams, but are often not taught to presales sales engineers. Objections are a healthy thing as they indicate that buyers are exploring challenges and risks, however, they can also indicate a failure to educate or prepare the buyer. Presales engineers should anticipate objections and create content that will help address them. The difference between a question and an objection is that objections express disapproval or opposition, making it important for sales teams to have techniques to handle them effectively.
  • 00:10:00 Don Carmichael discusses the importance of objection handling in the sales process. He defines an objection as a blocker in the sales or buying process that needs to be overcome, unlike a straightforward question. Objections can be harder for presales people as they are expected to be the technical or domain experts and are supposed to know the answer to everything. Carmichael emphasizes the need to invest a huge amount of effort in anticipating objections and crafting the best responses, along with creating supporting materials such as videos, case studies, handouts, and an FAQ database. As a sales engineer, presales people are equipped with the technical chops, business domain, and value chops, and communication skills to create these materials. However, there is no “one size fits all” objection list, and pre-salespeople need to prepare for objections specific to their product or service.
  • 00:15:00 Carmichael discusses objection handling and how it has changed over the years. While in the past, presales would talk with clients about anything except for money and contracts, the rise of technology companies in a product-led growth space has changed this dynamic. Presales people are now expected to handle pricing discussions as well. The speaker identifies four common objections that presales people may encounter, including objections related to pain, change management, competition, and customer review sites. Carmichael suggests that pausing after a client speaks can be helpful, as it can lead to a new objection or more information. Managing one’s flight, fright, and freeze response is also important when dealing with objections, as it can be a stressful situation.
  • 00:20:00 Don Carmichael discusses how to manage emotions and handle objections effectively. He advises taking time to calm down and not taking objections personally. He recommends pausing for a few seconds before responding, depending on the culture and geography. Carmichael also talks about the importance of showing interest, empathy, and active listening, and not fighting back against objections. Additionally, he introduces two techniques, mirroring and echoing, which can help establish comfort, trust, and rapport with clients, but warns that they require a lot of training and coaching to use effectively.
  • 00:25:00 Don Carmichael discusses the importance of objection handling for salespeople. He stresses the importance of showing empathy and being genuinely curious about the client’s perspective. Moreover, he reveals how salespeople can guide the conversation to what’s sitting beneath the client’s objection while also thinking about the buyer’s position in the company. This helps in understanding the value propositions of different people and what they want as a response. He also talks about the implications of the solution being offered, like deciding whether to demo it or not, and how this could impact the conversation. Critical thinking plays a vital role in this scenario, and salespeople need to think fast and maintain the buyer’s interest in the conversation.
  • 00:30:00 Don Carmichael emphasizes the importance of objection handling in any sales conversation. He stresses the need to have a “next steps” conversation that creates sales velocity. He warns against running overtime and losing interest from other participants. He advises having pre-prepared case studies, videos, or reference calls ready to counter objections. He also suggests empathetically negotiating and offering resources such as videos instead of showing them right away. Carmichael stresses the importance of the Tell stage and offers the feel, felt, found technique as a way to convey information and to check that the question was answered. Finally, he cautions that if the question is still not addressed after the second attempt, then it’s time to set up a one-to-one call to avoid taking up too much time.
  • 00:35:00 Don Carmichael presents a scenario where a demo is interrupted by an objection from Sami about the complexity of the tool being shown. The salesperson responds by understanding Sami’s concern and outlining the intuitive user interface and training resources available for the tool. The salesperson also recognizes Sami’s position as an executive, indicating that there may be other underlying concerns. The importance of avoiding objections in the first place is also discussed, as it is a failure to get objections if they have been heard before. The focus is on being more efficient and effective in presales and scaling the process.
  • 00:40:00 Don Carmichael emphasizes the importance of anticipating objections before they even occur and building high-quality resources to address them. He advises creating authentic content and videos that come from an expert who understands how customers use the technology and the experiences they have. Carmichael stresses the role of a buyer’s champion who will sell on your behalf to reach influencers who you may not get the chance to speak with. He emphasizes the importance of being prepared as it is always about preparation. He then gives a reminder of what PIIITCH stands for, saying that it is ideal to answer objections right away but also to mark some of them for follow-up.
  • 00:45:00 Don Carmichael emphasizes the importance of tackling objections in the moment rather than parking them for later. However, there are situations where a salesperson cannot answer the question fully, so they should not risk commercial velocity by showing a complex solution that takes too long to explain. Sensitivity to the audience is key, and it’s important to be familiar with the top objections and have rehearsed answers for them. For pricing objections, salespeople should avoid discussing pricing until the value has been established and should be aware of what they are comparing the price to. Companies should decide ahead of time if they offer discounts or not and have resources to prove the value of the product.
  • 00:50:00 Don Carmichael discusses the importance of discussing pricing right at the beginning, particularly in a product-led growth world, so that clients already have an idea of how much the service will cost. He advises isolating antagonistic clients and handling them separately, finding out something about them beforehand, and respecting what they’ve said. Carmichael also talks about the Challenger mindset and how challengers teach, tailor, and take control at the beginning of the sales cycle but evolve into solution selling, with objection handling coming in later in the sales cycle. Finally, he suggests ignoring software glitches during a demo and moving on quickly.
  • 00:55:00 Don Carmichael emphasizes the importance of ignoring minor software glitches during a demo, as they often go unnoticed by the audience. He suggests having a plan B and plan C ready in case of a problem, such as having screenshots or a screen-scraped demo, and to only address serious issues if they occur. Additionally, if a demo becomes more of an implementation project, he recommends stopping the demo and transitioning to an honest conversation about the challenges of implementation, as this is a sign that the audience is convinced and trusts the presenter. He emphasizes the importance of being honest with clients about potential issues and problems that may arise. Overall, Carmichael provides practical advice for handling demos and implementation projects effectively.

About the Presenter

Don Carmichael

Don Carmichael is a PreSales coach, trainer and keynote speaker and the Founder and Chief PreSales Evangelist at Winning Skills Ltd. After a 30-year PreSales career including heading EMEA PreSales enablement at both SAP and Oracle, Don founded Winning Skills to elevate the PreSales skill set and help take the profession and craft forward as Buyer Enablers. Don has taught PreSales skills at Adobe, Deloitte, SurveyMonkey, Sage, Freshworks, Concur and many, many others. Don is co-host of the ‘Two PreSales in a Pod’ podcast series, has his own hashtag on LinkedIn #PreSalesbyDonCarmichael, and regularly contributes to web events.

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