Some negotiations are easy to overcome.
When a client objects that your price is too high, doesn’t understand the price breakdown, or claims you made a mistake, you can deal with the objection simply. You simply diffuse it and move on. It’s barely a blip on your radar.
But there’s a more difficult type of objection that poses the threat of bringing the entire negotiation to a stop. When these come up, there’s a real likelihood that all the work, proposals, and your many attempts to really understand the client may have been for nothing.
These are second-level objections.
Second-level objections surface when our attempt to diffuse a single-level objection fails.
For instance, if a client says, “Oh! This is a lot of money,” you respond with your typically diffusing response by saying, “Yes, of course it is. Is that unexpected?”
But they throw you a curveball, “No, you don’t understand. We don’t have that budget. We can’t do this.”
A second-level objection is an objection that, if not addressed, will prevent you from moving forward.
It brings the current deal to a halt. You can’t diffuse it with an affirmation. You can’t agree and let it fade away. You’re going to have to face-up to it and embrace it.
If you don’t, the deal is dead.
However, there’s a way to handle even these objections that creates a path forward. When second-level objections come up, here’s how to move ahead.
1. Listen For the Objection
As salespeople, our primary job is to listen. We need to listen carefully so second-level objections never slip past us.
Recognize them when they happen. These moments require a full stop. It’s a time out, “set the pencil down” situation. Don’t gloss over it.
When you hear a second-level objection from your client, lean forward and say, “Perhaps I did not fully understand what you need. Let’s do something different.”
2. Regroup to Better Meet Their Needs (and Budget)
When you recognize a second-level objection, use the opportunity to regroup.
These objections don’t have to mean the end of the deal.
In the discussion of budget, say, “Perhaps I misunderstood what you wanted. Let’s take a different approach. First, we’ll start with the budget you want. I’ll take the information I already have about what you want to accomplish.
“Then, we can talk about the trade-offs you might have to make to fit your budget. Maybe this is a fit-and-finish job. Maybe we’ll have to leave a feature out. But, if we start from your budget, we will get to the answer you need. Plus, you know we’ll be within budget. Would that be acceptable?”
If they agree, you can move through the process without losing much ground. As soon as you establish your budget, you’re back to the discussion of scope and you can start negotiating again. That’s a clear and productive reset.
3. Communicate Good Intentions
Not all second-level objections allow for a reset. Some are simply a clear end.
The client is, in fact, saying, “I don’t think we can work together.” When this happens, you still have the opportunity to keep the door open to working together in the future. Even though your current deal may not work, you may be the right fit for a future job.
In these situations, try to assume and convey good intentions. Understand the good intentions of the client ending the negotiation. Seek to understand their perspective and give them the benefit of the doubt. Then, communicate your intentions of goodwill. Express your willingness to try again and re-invest time at a future date.
How To Face Objections Like a Pro
No objection, single-level or second-level, is the end of the world. You’re typically only going to face one per negotiation. If you face two, you can still work through them.
Listen very closely to the client’s words. A single-level objection needs a simple response, but a second-level objection requires a hard stop. Reset and get to the bottom of the situation before you move on. If you need to pause the meeting and schedule the next one, this is the right time to do it. Ask for the opportunity to better address their needs.
Chances are, when they see your willingness to work hard to meet their needs, they’ll want you to, either now or in the future.