The Showcase Workshop Blog

The Difference Between an Objection and an Excuse

Objection vs. excuse.

One is a healthy part of a successful sales conversation, and the other is a passive-aggressive request for you to go away.

One of my all time favourite Seth Godin posts he put it this way:

“When someone is being offered a new opportunity or product, it's not unusual for there to be objections.

These are issues, the missing feature or unwanted element that's keeping us from saying, ‘yes.’

On the other hand, an excuse is merely a wild goose chase, something that people say to make the salesperson go away, to minimize the seriousness of the opportunity, to hide.”

Knowing the difference between an objection and an excuse will save you many wasted hours chasing sales you’ll never win.

Objection: An Opportunity to Serve

A legitimate objection is an opportunity for you to try to solve the buyer’s problem.

An objection is insight into the customer’s circumstances and the barriers preventing them from making a purchase. Many times, an objection is something you can overcome or solve to make the sale.

When a customer protests making a purchase, the first thing you need to do is find out if it’s a problem they’re asking for you to solve, or if they’re closing the door on you. The former is an objection while the latter is an excuse.

To figure it out, just ask questions like:

  • If I can solve this issue, would you be prepared to make a purchase?
  • Aside from this issue, is there anything else holding you back from buying?

If the protest is about something on your end, such as product availability or installation fees, that is a legitimate objection. That’s something you can work with and potentially overcome.

However, there are two objections to be aware of that you might not be able to solve. In these two cases, it might be best to fail fast and move on to more promising prospects.

  1. Financial objection: The customer cannot afford the solution, even at the lowest price you can offer.
  2. Need- or desire-based objection: The customer simply has no need or desire for your solution. Regardless of how much you think that they should have the need or desire.

For everything else, you can likely find a solution and move forward toward a sale.

Excuse: A Dressed-up No

An excuse is a protest with the purpose of trying to get out of the sales conversation with a bit of grace. Likely the excuse-making customer is just trying not to hurt your feelings.

An easy way to tell is if the protest is on the customer’s side.

If they say something like, "I need to discuss it with my team," after you've had a number of conversations with them, or "there is no room in the budget for that right now, but give us a call in the next financial year" – these are excuses.

In these cases they're asking you to please let them go gracefully.

If you get the impression that there still may be hope for the conversation, however, don’t be afraid to probe a little more … carefully. Ask them if they have any questions you can answer right now, or try to get them to commit to another time to talk.

If that probing results in further conversation, count it as a win. If it doesn’t, know you did your best and walk away.

Objections and Excuses Happen No Matter How Good You Are

The best salesperson in the world still receives objections and excuses on a daily basis.

Sometimes it doesn't matter how perfect your pitch is, or how well your product or service fits your customer's needs. If they're telling you that it's them, not you, just hand them a card and let them know you're available if they change their mind.

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Wellington, New Zealand
Millie is president and co-founder of Showcase Workshop. She helps sales and marketing professionals capture customer interest and make more sales. She rides a Pashley and makes a mean potato salad.