Webster’s Dictionary defines an “objection” as a reason or argument presented in opposition, or a feeling or expression of disapproval. Therefore, when a client “objects” to something we are saying, it doesn’t create the nice, friendly relationship we want. Too often, we think of a client statement as a roadblock to moving forward.

And so we are all taught early in our careers how to “deal” with the “objection.” Think back for a moment to your beginnings – remember what you were told? We must overcomeobjections, of course. Let’s look at the definition of that word: to get the better of.

Once again, here’s a definition that is not conducive to building a long-term client relationship. Yet we are taught that “overcoming” the “objection” is the primary way we can “close” the sale.

But what if all we were taught turned out to be the reverse of what was true?

Think of the last time you decided to make a large purchase, like a car. Did you have an “objection” to the price? Was it too high for what you felt came with it? That sounds like you were concerned with the value you would receive for what you would pay. To paraphrase Warren Buffet, the price is always too high in the absence of value. You were legitimately concerned with the price of that car, weren’t you?

How about when you last bought a terrific pair of shoes? In the buying process, perhaps you found flaws in the workmanship, didn’t like the color, or thought it didn’t fit your foot correctly; then you ultimately objected to the price. In reality, these were legitimate concerns about how long the shoe would last, whether its color would match the clothing it was supposed to be worn with, whether you’d end up limping after a full day’s wear and whether, given all those concerns, you were being ripped off.

Traditional sales training says that “objections” must be “overcome”- — that we must convince the client to convert to our side, and if objections are presented, they are a sign that the client is not willing to buy. What if the opposite were true?

If we change our mindset and view “objections” as legitimate concerns which we would have if we were in the client’s position, we no longer have to get them on our side. Instead, we have to join them in their view and figure out how to answer their concerns instead of “overcome their objection.”

When we become aware that concerns are a legitimate part of the evaluation process, we realize that the reason the client has concerns is that she is imagining herself owning our product (that’s a lot better than our imagining that she’s is not willing to buy!). Therefore, she has concerns, ones we would share if we were in her shoes and had her knowledge and experience instead of our own. This is a 180-degree shift in thinking, and as a result, it’s a much more effective way to connect with the client and make a sale.

I have often asked groups of salespeople to challenge me – to turn their most commonly heard objection into a legitimate concern that they themselves would raise if they were the buyer. Here are some examples of how to turn objections into legitimate concerns and then how to address them instead of overcoming them:

o The fees for your product are too high. I know what you mean – when something has a price that’s higher than a competitor, it had better add some significant value. I’m sure you don’t like to overpay … and neither do I.

That’s why after evaluating it, other people who buy our product are pleased with the value received in return for the price. If everything we showed you was “net”, after the fees, that is, were taken out, would you be willing to look at it?

o I’m just too afraid to invest so much into the market right now. Yes, I know, there is a lot of fear and uncertainty out there. That’s why we ask that people not invest everything into the market right now.

People nervous to get back into the market have found that they feel better about it by doing one of two things. First, set a limit as to what you’ll be comfortable putting in – in other words, not the whole thing. Second, invest over a period of time – not all at once. That way, you’re not worried about today’s news affecting today’s price for your entire investment, and you can figure out how it feels to be an investor over time. Does that help make things a bit less scary?

o I’m not familiar with type of product and it’ll be a while before I start using it. You know, I’m the same way. When I find something that has merit, but it’s new to me and I haven’t tried it before, it’s tough to jump right in and use it. But other clients who have used this product have found that it really helped them to achieve their goals, which is why I’m suggesting it for you.

Let’s take a look at the track records of both the product and the company that offers it. I think you’ll feel more comfortable once you realize that both have been around for a long time, with results that can be quantified. Is that something you think you’d like to explore?

o I don’t have the time to see you now. That’s fine – I was asking if I could see you next month, actually. I’m pretty busy myself right now too. Why don’t we get our calendars out and find a convenient date now?

In each of these examples, the pattern was the same:

  1. Show empathy when you repeat their objection as a concern which you share. Really understand it.
  2. Refer to other clients who have felt the same way – and explain how their concerns were answered.
  3. Ask a question to get their agreement. The question encompasses their concern and its answer.

This easy “answer the concern” technique – which effectively eliminates all possible objections – can be easily learned by financial advisers for use in their practice. And of course, it can be used by us in all aspects of our lives. Once we’ve made a habit out of hearing “objections” as “legitimate concerns” that we too would share, we’re that much closer to helping the client – and ultimately, to a sale.