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Turn Sales Objections into Opportunities with Strategic Storytelling
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18 min read

Turn Sales Objections into Opportunities with Strategic Storytelling

by Matthew Pollard
by Matthew Pollard | 
17 min read
 | May 31, 2024
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While objections in sales can feel confronting and deflating, they’re a natural part of the sales process, and you can actually use them in your favor.

Don’t think of them as rejections or lack of interest. Instead, consider objections as opportunities for deeper engagement and understanding. Objections simply highlight the areas where the prospect needs more clarity, validation, or value demonstration – information that’s incredibly valuable to you during a sales discussion. 

In fact, according to a Clari analysis of more than 224,000 sales calls, each time an objection was raised with sales reps, the win rate actually increased by almost 30%! 

This makes sense when you consider that, as Invesp discovered, 60% of customers say no four times before saying yes.

So, objections often mean that your prospect is very interested; you just need to give them a little more to get them over the finish line. 

In my decades of successful selling across industries, budgets, and borders, I can tell you in no uncertain terms that the single best way to address objections is through strategic storytelling.

Don’t believe that a simple story can reliably overcome virtually any kind of objection and bring in millions? Read on!

The Power of Storytelling in Sales

When you use storytelling to overcome sales objections (as well as throughout the sales conversation) you instantly transform the way prospects perceive your message. 

Instead of countering objections with with data and statistics, which puts the logical mind on defense, stories engage on an emotional level, bypassing the logical mind completely. Prospects’ emotional brains kick in, sit back, and enjoy.

In addition, stories are scientifically proven to:

  • Enhance prospects’ memory retention
  • Simplify complex information, making it more accessible
  • Increase engagement and attention
  • Build rapport, empathy and understanding to foster stronger relationships
  • Reduce resistance and skepticism 

Not bad for just a few minutes of your sales pitch, right? 

Now, let’s get into a little more detail about what this means for handling objections. 

Why Storytelling is Perfect for Overcoming Sales Objections

Storytelling is a powerful tool for transforming objections because it doesn’t rely on presenting cold, hard facts that prospects might dispute.

Keep in mind that stories are not the same as case studies, which are also generally filled with dry, boring facts.

When I say “story,” I mean a relatable, true narrative about a client or customer who faced similar concerns.

This approach subtly demonstrates the value of your solution in a way that feels natural and engaging, while simultaneously offering instant social proof. Think of it like customer testimonials on steroids.

And because a story engages on an emotional rather than logical level, it doesn’t call for a response or rebuttal. It simply exists, illustrating the inarguable, real-world benefits of your solution. 

Think about it – what is the prospect going to say? That the story didn’t happen?

People can argue with facts and logic all day long. But they can’t really argue with someone’s true experience. That’s why storytelling is the single best strategy for overcoming every type of sales objection.

How to Turn Common Objections into Opportunities with Storytelling

As an introvert who relies on process over personality, I follow my own time-tested, systemized strategy for all sales calls, which I virtually never deviate from. So when an objection arises, I no longer fall into the trap that many other sales professionals might – freezing up, or alternatively, blasting the prospect with a firehose of information in hopes you’ll overpower their objection.

Freeze up, and the prospect instantly senses your discomfort. This shifts the energy immediately and lessens your chances of success. Start hitting them with rapid-fire facts and features, and you’ll overwhelm them with information, confuse the issue, and set up their logical brains for even more objections.

Instead, the next time a prospect introduces an objection into the sales conversation, just follow the simple steps below to overcome it.

1. Listen Actively

Have you ever been in an argument or important discussion with someone, and you know they’re just waiting for you to stop talking so they can start? You’ve probably gotten the sense that they aren’t even hearing you, just hanging on until your mouth stops moving so they can jump in.

Think about how fast you can kill a sale if your prospect feels that from you! You simply can’t overlook the importance of active listening to help you build trust, demonstrate empathy, and truly understand where they’re coming from.

Leveraging your active listening skills accomplishes two important things simultaneously. First, your potential customer understands that you care about their problem and aren’t just waiting to repeat your value proposition.

Second, it gives you valuable information about their pain points, what their goals are, and how your product or service can help.

As you practice active listening, try to determine the underlying source of their objection, which leads directly into the next step.

2. Deliver Your Objection-Handling Cushion

Let’s say you’re listening attentively, nodding in empathy, and picking up on some underlying concerns, but you’re still not sure what to say in the face of the objection. 

To buy yourself a little more time, employ this phrase: “I perfectly understand, and I wouldn’t want to waste any of your time; however…”

That gives you a few additional seconds to gather yourself, mentally go through your story playbook, and select a story that closely aligns with the prospect’s specific concern. 

For example, if a prospect is worried about the reliability of your solution, you could say, “I perfectly understand, and I wouldn’t want to waste any of your time; however, I recently worked with a client who had the exact same concern, but was thrilled with how dependable our platform has been, resulting in zero downtime over the past year. Can I share a few more details about their experience?”

3. Tell Your Client Story

Now that you’ve set the stage by listening actively and delivering your objection-handling cushion, it’s time to share your full client story. It should be concise, evoke appropriate emotion, and it must be true. As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. As such, never make up a client story.

If you’re new to storytelling and don’t yet have any customer stories, check out my proven storytelling formula to get started today.

The Top 5 Most Common Sales Objections and the Stories that Overcome Them

Common objections typically fall into five main categories of customer concerns. Below, you’ll find a quick explanation of each one, along with the kind of story you might tell to reframe the prospect’s perspective. 

These are just general guidelines to get you thinking; your stories may diverge from the suggestions below, and that’s completely fine. Reflect on your past clients and customers to discover which of them would be good candidates to address common objections and help overcome them.

  1. Price: Concerns about budget constraints or perceived value discrepancies. Navigate objections like these by telling the story of an existing customer similar to the prospect who initially didn’t see the need for your product or service but, after experiencing problems (e.g., inefficiency, lost sales), realized its value and achieved significant improvements.
  2. Trust: Objections related to the credibility of your product, company, or you as a sales professional. For objections related to trust, share a customer satisfaction story of a client who was initially hesitant to trust a new vendor. They decided to start with a small, low-risk project to test the waters. After experiencing your dedication, transparency, high quality of work, and results, they expanded the relationship and are now one of your most loyal and satisfied clients.
  3. Urgency:With timing-related objections, the prospect doesn’t see an immediate need to make a decision. You can overcome timing objections with a story of a client who initially felt there was no rush to implement your solution. However, after experiencing unforeseen challenges (e.g., market changes, unexpected downtime), they realized the urgency and implemented your solution just in time to avoid significant setbacks.
  4. Need: The prospect believes they don’t require your product, often due to a lack of understanding of how it can solve their problems. To overcome a need objection, tell a story of a company similar to the prospect who initially didn’t see the need for your product but, after experiencing problems (e.g., inefficiency, lost sales), realized its value and achieved significant improvements.
  5. Change Aversion: The decision maker feels resistant to another solution, feeling comfortable with the status quo. Offer a story of a client who was comfortable with their existing solution but faced growing inefficiencies and missed opportunities. After overcoming initial resistance, they transitioned to your solution and quickly saw improvements in productivity and satisfied customers.

Handling Sales Objections with Story: A Real-World Example

My clients Bethany and Shan Jenkins own a luxury custom home building company that, when we met, had an annual turnover of $6 million. Not bad, but they knew there was significant room for growth.

The problem they were having was that they were struggling to articulate their true value and differentiation as a design-build firm. 

One of the objections the sales team would get regularly is, “We already have a builder, we’re just vetting designers now.” Or, “We’re currently working with our architect, and we’ll consider you when it’s time to build.” When they tried to explain what a design-build firm actually does, and why it’s a much more cost effective and efficient way to build a home, they were met with blank stares and disinterest. Understandably, no one really wanted to listen to a bunch of justifications about why the Jenkins’ prices were seemingly higher than a standard builder.

This is exactly what happened to one of their salespeople, Ross, when a prospect challenged him on why his proposal was quite a bit more than another he was considering.

Before he started overcoming price objections with story, Ross would do what you might expect: Hit the prospect with a firehose of information, facts, and figures that he hoped would distinguish their design-build service from the competition’s straight build quote.

But, as you again might expect, it didn’t work. The prospect’s logical mind immediately turned on, he felt assailed by details and jargon that went over his head, and he ultimately went with the competition. In the prospect’s mind, it would still be cheaper to hire a separate designer as opposed to the all-in-one service that Ross was quoting.

These days, of course, Ross simply tells a story when addressing this common price objection. When a prospect objects that they already have a relationship with a designer, and are just looking for a builder, this is what Ross says in response:

I perfectly understand, and I wouldn’t want to waste any of your time. If you’ve already committed to a designer you’re happy with, that’s great. However, has anyone ever explained the difference between the design-then-build route versus the design-build path, and why it matters so much? No? Let me give you an example.

We once had a prospect, Megan, come to us with her designer’s plans, explain what she wanted, and asked for a quote. The discussion was going very well, and in wrapping it up, we suggested, “Let us take a look at your plans and get back to you soon with a fixed price.”

Megan anxiously replied, “Can you just give me a ballpark estimate right now?” Usually, we would say no, it takes time to accurately calculate the costs. But Megan continued to be quite insistent about getting a number right away. So, we finally provided a very rough, off-the-cuff estimate. Megan immediately burst into tears.

She told us that she had been clear with her designer what her total budget was. Nonetheless, she had been to four different builders whose prices were double what she’d planned for. She’d worked with this designer back and forth for two years to plan her dream home…and now a fifth builder had told her it was totally out of reach.

Megan was going to have to give up on building her house or settle for something much simpler, always knowing it wasn’t what she really wanted. She was crushed and disappointed seeing her dream go out the window after what she thought was such careful planning and preparation (not to mention the thousands and thousands of dollars wasted during the design process).

Of course, I’m not saying this will happen to you, and I really hope it doesn’t. However, regardless of whether you choose us or another design-build option, I strongly suggest you explore the possibility.

And once they do, who do you think they’ll settle on as the only logical choice to work with?

This story, and two others used throughout the team’s sales process, catapulted the company from $6 million annually (after almost two decades in business) to over $18 million just one year later.

See It In Action: Storytelling Techniques to Tackle Objections Head-On

By now, you probably have a pretty good idea of a story or two that you can share during your sales meetings. Great start!

To take your sales stories to the next level, watch the video below for some pointers on how to transform them into masterpieces that resonate with your ideal prospects on all levels.

This video clip is taken from my storytelling speaking presentation to a chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization, where I asked an attendee to come on stage and share a great client story. 

I then take him, and the audience, through the process of making it fire on all cylinders.

Tips for Implementing Strategic Storytelling to Overcome Objections

There are a few key ideas to keep in mind as you begin creating and perfecting the client stories you’ll tell when faced with objections:

Engage on a Personal Level

As you now know, storytelling isn’t about facts, features, and data. Your goal is to make an emotional connection, so that the prospect identifies with the customer in your story and wants the same amazing result for themselves.

This means that you need to use the customer’s name, as opposed to “the client.” You also want to be sure bring appropriate emotion into the story, without crossing the line into manipulation (which prospects will immediately see through).

Simply tell the truth: What stresses was the client under? How did it make them feel? How relieved were they to achieve a solution? How did their professional and personal life change for the better? 

Include a Clear Moral

The moral of your story is the high-level learning you’re delivering to the listener — why they need your help, and why you’re the perfect person to provide it. It’s a critical component of the prospect’s overall decision-making process.

Don’t leave it up to the prospect to come to their own conclusion. Tailor the moral to suit the objection and supply it directly to the listener; take no chances. 

The moral of Megan’s story is “Regardless of whether you choose us or another design-build option, I strongly suggest you explore the possibility.”

Practice, Practice, Practice

Rehearse your story until you can tell it perfectly, at the drop of a hat. It might take some time, but you’ll see a huge return on investment.

Some people worry that memorizing their stories will make them sound scripted and robotic. Not at all.

Does Leonardo DiCaprio sound scripted and robotic in Gangs of New York? Do you sound scripted and robotic when you recount the story of how you met your partner, which you’ve probably delivered hundreds of times? Of course not.

Memorizing simply means you can relax and let the story flow. 

Evaluating and Improving Your Storytelling 

Alright, you’ve created your first story or two, you’ve refined and practiced them, and you’re ready to start using them to deal with objections effectively.

You’ll have a pretty good intuitive sense of whether prospects are relating to your stories, and it will be quite clear they’re working if your close rates go up swiftly and dramatically.

At the same time, it’s a good idea to evaluate your approach based on tangible feedback and data. Here are the best ways to do that:

Metrics to Measure

  • Conversion Rates: Monitor how many prospects become customers after hearing your story.
  • Buyer Engagement: Measure how engaged prospects are during and after your storytelling. This is a little more subjective, but something you can keep your eye on during the meeting.
  • Objection Resolution: Track the number of objections successfully addressed through your stories.

If you really want to get detailed about it, you can track just about anything you want. You can identify common objections, which stories work best for each objection, when they come up in the buying process, how many stories you tell during a sales call, and so on. Go ahead and get creative!

Self-Evaluation Techniques

  • Call Recording Analysis: Review recordings of your sales calls to identify strengths and areas for improvement in your storytelling delivery.
  • Peer Feedback: Seek feedback from colleagues who can provide objective insights and suggestions for enhancing your storytelling techniques.

Learning to tell your stories in an engaging, compelling way may take some effort, but it’s well worth the results. You’ll be overcoming objections and closing more deals almost immediately.

Conclusion

Customer objections are inevitable, and that’s ok. Buyers are entitled to feel completely comfortable before shelling out large sums of company money, not to mention having their name and professional reputation attached to the purchase. 

The question is, how are you going to address specific objections for the best chance of success?

As scholar and author Jonathan Gottschall notes, “A story is a trick for sneaking a message into the fortified citadel of the human mind.”

While I’m certainly not suggesting you play any sneaky tricks on your prospects, this quote nicely captures the challenges posed by convincing the logical mind – and how a well-told, relatable story easily overcomes them.

This is true for the straightforward objections prospects overtly share with you, but also for hidden objections and even potential objections. You may even dispense with objections before they arise.

Start incorporating storytelling into your sales process, especially to help overcome objections. Practice your stories, refine them, turn objections into opportunities, and close those deals!

About Matthew Pollard

About Matthew Pollard
Called the real deal by Forbes, Matthew is a small business advocate, introvert champion, Rapid Growth® Coach, and keynote speaker. Responsible for five multimillion-dollar success stories before the age of 30, today Matthew is an internationally recognized sales and networking expert, author of the bestselling Introvert’s Edge series, and host of two top-ranked podcasts. His work has transformed over 3500 struggling businesses to date.

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