Throughout my years of helping clients deal with objections in sales, of different types and for different reasons, I’ve come up with the RFAD model, which divides objection handling into four main categories:
Let’s take a look at each one of these in particular.
Reshaping is the act of trying to uncover a deeper meaning behind the original objection, disarming it. For example, too high a price might be a sign of lack of trust. Complaining about your assertive positioning may be a symptom of fearing not being taken care of.
The goal is to shape the objection into its deeper meaning, that you can more easily disarm.
“I don’t feel comfortable with this high price”
“Sure. I bet that you’ve paid a high price in the past and didn’t get your money’s worth, right?”
“So, I think at the end of the day, the problem is not about price, it’s about making sure that you get your money’s worth for this, right?”
“That sounds right”
“Well, you’ve seen our expertise, testimonials, and other elements. Any reason you think you won’t get your money’s worth?”
We can split reshaping into two different techniques: reshaping meaning and reshaping the past. You can use one of the two or both when dealing with an objection:
- Reshaping meaning is all about changing one idea into another. When somebody complains about you not having experience, they might be actually worried about you delivering on the deadline or getting results. When somebody complains about price, they’re probably worried about not getting their money’s worth. In this case, you just redirect the objection to its deeper meaning and address the deeper meaning;
- Reshaping the past is about understanding their past negative perceptions, where they’re putting you in, and changing them. As we saw in the example, being preoccupied with a high price might be a sign of being worried about being let down. Maybe it’s because the person was let down before, so you explore that and illustrate how it is to not be let down, and get results. You address the objection by addressing its past;
Flipping is a very simple technique: you simply flip the objection on the other person. There are multiple ways to do this, some more aggressive than others. For example:
“Can you lower your price?”
“Does the current price sound unreasonable or ridiculous to you in any way?”
There are three major ways to flip objections:
- Against the person;
- Against the negative;
- Against consensus;
Flipping against the person is the most aggressive and direct mode. It’s about putting the burden of proof on the other side. For example:
“Can you give me a guarantee on this?”
“Can you guarantee to me that you will convey requirements on time and be specific about your goals? If you can, then the project will work”
Flipping against the negative is the most natural and possibly the most effective one. It asks a question, starting from the negative, about what is wrong about your product/service – in most cases there won’t be anything. This defuses the person. And in the rare they think it really is unreasonable or ridiculous, they will tell you openly.
“Can you give me a guarantee on this?”
“Is it unreasonable to not have a guarantee on this project? Does not having a guarantee mean this project will be of lower quality?”
The third type is flipping against the consensus. When you know they’re asking something of you that nobody else does, you simply ask them what does everybody else do, and they will be forced to recognize most don’t do it.
“Can you offer me a guarantee?”
“Well, do most of your service providers provide you with a guarantee?”
You can stack all of these together for added effect:
“Can you lower your price?”
“Do most of your service providers usually lower their price?”
“Actually some of them do. Not most, but some of them do when it’s needed, and we kind of need it right now”
“Do you think it’s unreasonable or ridiculous of me to ask this price?”
“No, not at all, it’s just we were kind of hoping for a smaller price”
“Of course, I see. Let me ask you this: do you usually lower your prices when selling to others?”
“Well, we do it sometimes, not always”
Acceleration is used for objections where the other person is trying to get you to prove yourself. And instead of chasing, you accelerate them in the same direction.
“Maybe I should go with another vendor”
“Maybe you should. It’s an option. Can you tell me about why you are on this call today?”
There are usually two types of accelerations: to somebody’s why and to a contradiction.
Accelerating to somebody’s why is present in the example just above. When somebody is trying to get you to chase, you actually agree with them and actually ask them to prove why they are with you in the first place. They’re usually coming to you for a reason: either because they identify with you, you’re more professional, or some other reason. This forces them to voice it and prove themselves.
“Maybe I should go with a real estate agent that has a lower commission”
“Maybe you should. There are countless agents that charge a lower commission. Their service might be worse, of course, but you have countless choices. Why are you choosing to be on this call with me today?”
Accelerating to a contradiction agrees with the person and accelerates them, but expands that other areas of their life that will cause a contradiction. So if someone is refusing to pay a high price, you agree, and say that there are many other areas of life where they probably don’t pay a high price either. Except they probably do. And you use that against them.
“This price is too high. Unfortunately I can’t afford it”
“I completely agree. High prices are not for everybody. In fact, I believe that never pay the high price option? Never pay a premium?”
“Well, I sometimes do”
“That’s interesting. Can you tell me a bit more under which circumstances you pay the premium? For your car? Your house? Good clothing? Restaurants?”
This will lead the person to point out their contradiction and give you an opening to present your offer again with more authority to them, naturally and without being pushy.
Deflection is a technique for when an objection is unreasonable or extreme, or the person is trying to anchor you. You just ask a question to redirect their mind (a how/what question) that serves to deflect the objection and refocus on the task at hand.
One great example comes from Chris Voss/The Black Swan Group’s Tactical Empathy, who has the go-to question “How am I supposed to do that?”
“Can you lower your price by 30%?”
“How am I supposed to do that?”
Any question focused on making the deal happen starting with how/what will help greatly. “How can we make this happen?”. “How can we close this deal?”. “How can do business?”.
Conclusion: A Flexible and Efficient Model for Dealing with Objections in Sales
The RFAD model splits objection handling into these four core techniques, which can be used in a versatile way in many different situations. The four cover the spectrum of all possible available objections. This model is part of my larger Kingmaker Influence framework and benefits from the application of other techniques (diagnosing the other side’s personality, having a diagnostician frame, building empathy and constricting the other side’s options are great additions to objection handling).