8 Steps to Defuse Objections Before They Blow Up Your Program

An unanswered objection can derail your project quickly.

While in Hawaii my wife and I wanted to visit Pearl Harbor on a fairly expensive tour. At the concierge desk we were intercepted with an offer to have the excursion paid for if we would commit two hours to hear a timeshare pitch. We gladly took their money: I was ready to test my resolve against some of the most high pressure sales tactics you can experience.

The sales pitch included testimonials from smiley people and cautioned about the threat to our health if we didn’t take regular vacations. We were asked to applaud those willing to take a first step. Horribly manipulative stuff.

Sitting down with our assigned sales rep, we listened to their offers and politely declined. Justin informed us that we were done and just had to go through a debrief of our experience before leaving. We relaxed. That was premature since the debriefing agent was actually the closer.

“So, on a scale of 1 to 10, how attracted were you to any of our offerings today?” she asked.

“Zero,” replied my wife. We explained how my travel schedule was unpredictable and lacked flexibility when it came to choice of accommodations as I wrapped vacations around business trips. It was a valid objection to their timeshare offering.

“Let me tell you about this amazing offer that we don’t usually make available, but for you…”

Didn’t she hear what we said? I attempted to derail her script several times by saying things like, “It’s like you’re not even listening to us.” She plowed on.

You cannot shift someone’s point of view without acknowledging where they are coming from. Taking time to understand more about both our what actually appealed to us on our trips would have helped her work around our objections, but she was locked into her script.

You know immediately when someone is reading from a playbook (every telemarketer!). It feels impersonal and insincere. Comments are streamrolled by their verbal firepower, pushing you towards a ‘yes’. I typically hang up.

To build influence quickly we must spend less time talking and more time listening. When I dominate the conversation, there is no way I can build a connection that will allow us to come together from two different points of view.

No matter what you are selling, when you need people to buy-in, here is how to defuse objections using a balanced exchange.

1. Listen

  • If they are long-winded, try prompting: “In fairness to others who want a chance to speak, tell me what you would like to see happen.” “I want to have time to respond to you adequately; Please tell me the bottom line.”

2. Validate

  • Validate negative outcomes: “You’re right. This project will likely result in some job loss.”
  • Acknowledge emotion: “I get it. I’ve been in a similar situation and know how it feels.” “I’m sorry about…”
  • Empathize with pain experienced or anticipated: “Yes, this is going to be difficult for the next six months.”
  • If the objection is illogical, ask them to walk you through their thinking. Validate the correct facts and insert additional information where needed: “You probably already realized this, but the challenge with what you are suggesting is…” “What you and many other are likely unaware of is…”

3. Respond

  • “Here is what we are doing about it…”
  • “This is what I am personally taking on to ease the pain…”

4. Allow for further input

  • “Is there another way we can make this even better while still hitting the target?”
  • Do not do this if there are no other options or you are unwilling to adjust direction

5. Ask “What else?”

  • These exchanges are valuable for providing insight. Give them time to voice other concerns.

6. Thank them

  • Good manners builds credibility and trust.

7. Take action

  • Demonstrate you are sincere about what you committed to
  • Implement suggestions wherever possible to build buy-in

8. Follow-up

If it may not be obvious that you’ve taken action, tell them what you’ve done
Every change sparks objections. They are not obstacles. They are opportunities to build stronger bridges.

Thoughtfully yours,


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Jeff Skipper
Jeff Skipper is an expert in accelerating change. Clients such as Shell, Goldman Sachs and The Salvation Army have engaged him to achieve dramatic results during strategic transformation by wrapping complex change in motivating mission. He has been quoted in Fast Company, Forbes and HP’s enterprise.nxt. Jeff holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and is a Certified Change Management Professional.