My first Tae Kwon Do instructor gave our classImage a piece of advice that serves equally well for martial arts, objection handling, and many other endeavors.

“If you don’t want to be hit, then don’t be in the place where the attack is”

From the Tae Kwon Do perspective, this advice is almost as good as rule number 1 (don’t block with your face), but in objection handling, the application can be even more subtle and more effective.

There are basically three ways that you can avoid being where the attack is, and all three make good metaphors for objection handling.  I will explore each of the three in different blog posts, but to set expectations, the three ways are as follows:

  • Block
  • Dodge
  • Prevent the attack

In this post, we will explore preventing the attack.

Since this is a martial arts themed blog, let’s open with a martial arts example: If you ever saw Bruce Lee perform martial arts, then you know that he always made his nearly impossible looking movements look very easy. If you know anything about Bruce Lee, then you know that he made it look easy because he worked very hard when no-one was looking.

In this same way, sales prevention of an objection (attack) looks very easy, and in many ways it is. However, the trick is not the execution which it why it looks easy – if there is no objection, no attack, then there is no effort required to defend against it. The trick comes in eliminating the attack before it even happens.

A funny thing happens as the sales process rolls along. At some point, the salesperson proposes an offer: A suggestion for a product and/or service, a price and all of the details that go along with it. This may be a proposal, a quote, or anything else in which a concrete offer with a price is made.  Once this happens, everything changes.

Before the offer is made, salespeople and prospects are usually having what feels most like a conversation.  They are discussing needs, possible solutions, implications, etc.

Once a salesperson feels as though they have enough information, they make an offer. Maybe on the spot, maybe after some work back at the office, it doesn’t really matter.

Once the offer is on the table, then the conversation turns into something that feels more like a negotiation. I have spoken to many, many salespeople who validate this changed tone of the conversation. The salesperson has put a firm stake in the ground, and needs to defend it; the prospective buyer wants to push back on that stake as hard as possible, which is when the objections start to fly.

So how can we prevent this?

When a prospective buyer asks a question AFTER the offer is made, we call this an objection. In fact, every objection is either asked as a question or contains an implicit question, but it is a question none-the-less.

When a prospective buyer asks a question BEFORE the offer is made, it is simply a question that is asked as a part of the sales conversation.

The trick to preventing objections then is for our salesperson to be skilled enough to draw the relevant questions out before an offer is made, and address them while the dialogue between salesperson and prospective buyer is still a conversation.  Anticipating questions, probing deeply, and knowing the business well are all foundational elements of salesmanship required to do this.  Active listening, open ended questions, and most importantly – situational awareness are the skills needed in the meeting(s) to help reach this goal.

Martial artists who are more situationally aware are able to prevent attacks by blocking earlier, dodging if they can, or if they address the attack even before it is an attack, they can prevent it altogether (i.e. diffusing a fight in a bar with some well placed wisdom, such that no punch needs to be blocked or dodged because none is ever thrown).

Salespeople can do the same.  Seek out objections before they come, and before the offer is on the table, and the number of thorny objections you need to manage during your post-offer negotiations will be dramatically reduced.