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3 Coaching Tips to Help Reps Overcome Sales Objections

If you were a movie producer, would you ever say this to your actors?

“Don’t bother coming to rehearsals. Just be poised and confident in front of the camera. Oh, and be ready to improvise in case the other actors see an opportunity to take the scene in a different direction.”

Probably not.

Yet when it comes to preparing sales reps for customer objections, that’s exactly what many managers tacitly say: “I know we didn’t practice responses, so just be confident and get ready to think on your feet. You’ve got this.”

Shooting from the Hip

Salespeople dread dealing with tough customer objections. And the reason is simple: They have no idea what to say because nobody had them practice the right responses. As a result, many reps “shoot from the hip” during these customer interactions.

Too often, this kind of improvisation fails to assuage the customer’s concerns. At best, the salesperson fails to be perceived as an expert. At worst, the rep inadvertently misrepresents the product.

The solution is for sales managers to have reps practice objection handling using a program that incorporates these 3 tips:

Give reps guidance on what to say. A good coaching program starts with a database of actual objections. Whenever a rep gets an objection, add it to the database. Do customers often perceive the product to be too expensive? Do certain customers think they don’t need it? Do they think your company is too small or too young?

Every week, collect an objection from every rep and enter it into a spreadsheet or your CRM. In column one, list the objection and objection type. In column two, enter the response given by the rep. In column three, enter what you (the sales manager) would have said or a proven response (once developed) for overcoming the objection. Use a sales learning and readiness platform to solicit examples of top performers and subject matter experts delivering the proven response on video, and make the videos accessible via mobile for reps to reference before walking into calls.

This way, you’ll create a living, breathing tool for handling specific objections.

Ensure that reps practice their skills. While gathering reps’ responses to customer objections, be sure to ask exactly what they said, especially when the response was successful. Use sales learning and readiness tools to record their responses—word for word and gesture for gesture. What you don’t want is a post-game summary of the response, or a vague description of what the rep said (or meant to say).

For example, “I tried to leverage our relationship” is not a response that can be presented as a teachable skill. Reps can only practice skills by seeing what ‘good’ actually looks and sounds like. They can’t practice “leveraging a relationship” unless they see and hear how a successful peer actually did that.

Weave positive feedback into practice sessions. A proven way to build reps’ confidence—and to make practice more enjoyable—is to weave positive peer-to-peer feedback into role-play exercises, whether conducted live or recorded on video.

After conducting a role-play exercise with (say) two participants, one player will use a feedback form or scorecard (prepared by the coach) to assess the other’s performance. For example, the form might ask the participant to describe two things the other participant did well during the exercise. The goal is to help build confidence, free of fear and anxiety.

Although there’s a place for constructive criticism in sales coaching, positive peer-to-peer feedback helps reps feel better about their efforts, encouraging them to continue practicing on their own. This is especially true when the positive feedback comes from top performers.

For more on how sales learning and readiness tools drive more effective objection handling, click here.