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. But how do you tell them apart, and can you win the sale anyway?

Seth Godin puts it this way in one of my all-time favorite posts:

“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 prospect’s problem.

Think of an objection as an 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 whether they’re asking you to solve a problem, or if they’re closing the door on you. The former is an objection, while the latter is an excuse.

To figure out whether they’re making an objection or an excuse, ask them 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 customer is worried about something on your end, such as product availability or installation fees, that’s a legitimate objection. That’s something you can work with and potentially overcome.

However, there are two objections that you might not be able to solve.

  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.

In these two cases, it might be best to fail fast and move on to more promising prospects.

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

Excuse: A Dressed-up "No"

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

Excuses often sound like:

  • "I need to discuss it with my team" — even after you've had a number of conversations with them.
  • "There is no room in the budget for that right now, but give us a call in the next financial year."

In these cases, the prospect is asking you to please let them go gracefully.

If you get the impression that there may be hope for the conversation, don’t be afraid to probe a bit more… but do it carefully. Ask your prospect 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, hand them a card and let them know you're available if they change their mind.

Of course, with Showcase Workshop, you can create stunning, interactive presentations that cover everything prospective customers may want to know about your product or service.

With all that information at your fingertips, you can respond to their objections and excuses in real time; and, if they’re still not convinced, you can send them a copy of your sales materials straight from your tablet, smartphone, or desktop.

To really nail your follow-up call, use our powerful analytics to see when your prospect viewed your shared content, exactly which slides and documents they looked at, and even how long they looked at them! It’s like a crystal ball for the questions they might ask.

Intrigued? Grab your free 14-day trial today!

Note: We originally published this article on 19 January 2017, but loved it so much we decided to bring it back in 2020.

Header image by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash.