Blake Snow

writer-for-hire, content guy, bestselling author

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Smart selling: 7 habits of highly reluctant buyers and how to overcome them

New Line Cinema

New Line Cinema

Selling is a challenge. It requires unwavering confidence, polite persistence, and a deep understanding of buyer demand. It also requires an ability to withstand constant rejection, unfortunate timing, and even bad luck.

Whether you sell to businesses or consumers, overcoming buyer objections in another challenge. Some may be unique to your trade, but most are quite common, regardless of industry. What are they and how can they be surmounted?

To find out, I ransacked dozens of reports, expert analyses, and top Google results. After the dust had settled, I encountered close to 100 specific objections. But most (if not all) of those are merely variations of seven fundamental objections, which I’ve distilled and categorized below.

Before getting down to the nitty gritty, a word of caution: sellers must first understand theirs and their prospects’ available “walk-away” options before addressing any concerns. If you don’t respect those, you’ll fail to appreciate the nuances of your market and have a harder time overcoming legitimate buyer objections.

Furthermore, “objections are a gift,” says Kyle Porter, CEO of SalesLoft. “It’s the customer telling you something that will help you sell to them.” In that sense, buyer concerns are rarely outright rejections—they’re merely requests for more information. Hence, good communication is key to overcoming them.

With that out of the way, here are the seven most common buyer objections and advice for overcoming them: 

1. Too costly. Sticker shock is the most prevalent buyer rejection you’ll encounter in sales. Most have heard the phrase, “You cost too much,” or “We don’t have the budget.” Occasionally, the buyer may have found a more aggressively priced alternative. But usually this objection all goes back to perceived value. If the prospect doesn’t value what you’re selling, chances are you’ve failed to explain your offering’s benefits and/or differentiate it from the competition. To do this, you’ll need to compare the total value and cost of all market options while highlighting your product’s targeted value, which hopefully aligns with your prospect’s. Sometimes, companies want to buy but are financially prohibited from doing so. In those cases, a payment plan might be an option. Extended terms or volume buys are others, meaning you’ll take less up front in exchange for more volume or loyalty.

2. Inertia and complacency. Change is risky, if not downright scary when thousands or millions of dollars are on the line. But change also requires a lot of work. Which is why prospects are often reluctant to accept new ways of doing business or partnering with new names that do things in unfamiliar ways. “I’m okay with the way things work right now,” prospects often reply. To overcome this objection, you’ll need sympathy and an honest answer to the following: “What’s in it for them if they change?” Remember, customers choose different products, services, and suppliers either because they’re unhappy with the status quo, or they need what a new product, service, or supplier can offer them. If they’re not unhappy with the status quo, try demonstrating why your product is worth the extra effort. Do they risk being left behind if they fail to act? What past examples of positive change might encourage them to make the jump? Answering those will help you make a more compelling argument.

3. Lack of trust or credibility. There’s a great line from Pixar’s Ratatouille, in which an overly critical character comes to the realization that “New (talent) needs friends,” since the world is often “unkind to new creations.” When it comes to selling, what new names, brands, and products really need is an attention-grabbing incentive—one the buyer would find difficult to decline. That could be a free consultation, market insight, or detailed report. It could also be a “free for a limited time” offering, a la Xerox’s fabled and effective strategy of leaving copiers in workspaces for a time before coming to collect either the copier or payment. If that doesn’t work to assuage a customer’s trust issues, offer a guarantee and an easy way to back out in the event you over promise and under deliver. Both of those mechanisms demonstrate a willingness to do what it takes to ensure the client’s satisfaction. Lastly, remember to acknowledge what you don’t know or what your product and service aren’t good at. Doing so is one of the fastest ways of gaining someone’s trust, since slicksters and smooth talkers are rightfully known for being undeserving of it.

4. Personal politics. If there’s one objection to prove that sales aren’t fair, this is it. Sometimes you’ll lose business because it was promised to an existing connection or because an incoming decision-maker is more familiar with another salesperson or supplier, even if your product or service works just well or better. In those cases, there’s not much you can do to usurp an established relationship, but you can put yourself in a position to be next in line. For instance, you might propose outs if the decided-upon supplier fails to meet expectations. You could also propose a joint venture agreement or offer to come in during a later phase or area where the political vendor isn’t as skilled. Again, this is one of the toughest objections to overcome. But showing your commitment and want for the buyer’s business can go a long way in planting future seeds of business that can sprout once the incumbent leaves office.

5. Not enough authority. You know the drill. “I need to run this by my wife, business partner, or advisor before deciding.” This objection usually happens for one of two reasons: You pitched the wrong person or audience to begin with, or the buyer really does require dual signatures before approving a sale. If the former, ask to speak to the decision maker or try asking them directly. If the latter, stay in the loop and make yourself available to answer any questions when your contact meets with the second authority to make a decision. Lastly, show respect for joint powers. They can be frustrating when it comes to closing deals, but patience is required when respecting the buyer’s right for more due diligence. It’s also a powerful attribute that can earn you eventual business.

6. Bad timing, not a priority yet. It’s been said in life that “timing is everything.” The same is true of sales. Sometimes you reach the right person at the wrong time. In that case, find out a better time to call and respect it. Other times, the prospect is bad with managing priorities or indecisive and might never strongly consider your offer. In that case, you probably failed to create a sense of urgency, at least enough to gain a prospect’s full attention. To do that, start by listing the immediate benefits of working with you along with the expected rate of return. Make the decision to hire or buy from you a no-brainer. This is easier said than done, but “limited time only” offers can help. So can a detailed report showing how their competitors are acting now, suggesting that would be wise to follow suit. More than anything, make it clear that waiting will mean missing out on a great opportunity.

7. Don’t need what you’re selling. If a prospect says this, you probably pitched the wrong person or your sales presentation unconvincingly demonstrated value. If the latter, reconsider your value proposition. If the former, find the right person to pitch. Of course, sometimes your product or service really is a bad fit for the prospect. In that case, move on to better candidates. And please: do take “no” for an answer sometimes, especially if the prospect’s non-verbal language says the same. After all, time is money. You don’t want to waste it on the wrong prospects.

Regardless of interest level, every prospect is going to have concerns before closing a sale. Sometimes remaining silent then asking open-ended questions will help them to disclose those objections. Other times prospects may mask their true objection behind less embarrassing ones.

When that happens, offer the following: “If I could satisfy you on this point, will you buy today?” If they say “yes,” but their body languages says “no,” acknowledge what you noticed and follow up with, “You don’t look so sure. What else can I address?”

Again, communication is key to overcoming buyer objections. So remember: good communicators aren’t afraid of silence, they aren’t afraid to ask uncomfortable questions, and they aren’t afraid to prime someone who’s reluctant to talk. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Here’s to your success.

About the author: For more than a decade, Blake Snow has contributed to half of top 20 U.S. media, dozens of other nationally recognized publications, and multiple Fortune 500 companies as a popular storyteller, content strategist, brand journalist, and bodacious writer-for-hire. He lives in Provo with his family. This story first appeared on