Handling Planted Objections

There are millions of sales principles, tactics, trainings. Sellers know how to articulate value propositions, execute discovery, qualify opportunities, and close the deal. A basic, and often unanswered question is: how can I respond to objections that my competitor planted in my prospect and is affecting perception? Here's a simple workflow to help with that.

Anatomy of a Planted Objection

When we fail to set the agenda with our customers and prospects, crazy ideas can get into their heads. If they meet with our competitor first, they will start aligning their needs to the value proposition of that

other vendor. As the competitor brings more and more arguments, they will seed more and more objections in our customers. Those are called Planted Objections. A Planted Objection is when the customer has a conviction of superiority of our competitor, based on perception.

As stronger planted objections are seeded by others, the customer will perceive the other vendor as superior to us in certain dimensions. This generates a gap in perceived value, and make it an uphill battle for us. This is why is so critical to be there first one in front of the customer, and set the agenda.

Let's visualize it this way:

How to handle planted objections

Let's understand the mechanics for how to turn the table in our favor. The way to answer to the questions and deal with the actual objection is not relevant to understand the process. What I'll describe here is what the ultimate goal is.

Step 1: Level the play field; remove the gap. The first step should be to get the customer see both vendors at the same level. In other words, remove the value gap that exists, in order to get “back in the game”. You can achieve this in two ways.

One option is to defend your position by reducing the competitor's position. You might also think of this as “bring up realities” or “remove the FUD”. For example, if the customer cares a lot about total cost of ownership, the competitor might try to position itself as the least expensive option. A way to bring them back to your level would be to let the customer see how they charge lots of hidden fees, or how they can be more expensive in the long run.

The other option is to elevate your own position to the same level as the competitor. This is a less aggressive approach, yet sometimes harder to achieve. In the previous example, this would be articulating how you get additional benefits in different dimensions (i.e. or prestige or any other dimension) that the customer might be overlooking, to justify the higher price tag of your offer.

Step 2: Turn the tables; elevate your perceived value

The second and last step is to turn the tables, and change the perception in your favor. You can only achieve this, after the first step has been completed. Many times sellers go straight into selling their unique features, but the customer is not listening because of the planted objection. Only once the planted objection is removed, you can get the customer's attention and be able to show the superior value you bring. Otherwise it's just another Dog and Pony Show.

This is the time to show the additional value that you can bring. It could be your innovations, secret sauce, lower total cost of ownership, stronger market position, higher intrinsic value, investment protection, or even cool factor. Time to get that competitor on a defensive mode.

Here's a good overview on how to articulate a value proposition (Note: I do not have any connections with the author; it's just a good read).

Happy Selling!


[Originally published on November 18, 2016](https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/handling-planted-objections-leo-boulton/)