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How to Overcome Objections from Anyone (Including Your Customers!) in 5 steps

Amanda Sollman


Have you ever tried to convince someone – a spouse, a boss or a coworker, perhaps – that your idea was the best one and, no matter how hard you tried, you just couldn't get them to buy in? Or, have you ever tried to sell a current customer on a new product and despite all your best efforts, they told you it was too expensive or complicated or confusing?

Of course! We all have!

Dealing with objections from people in our life – both personal and professional – is just part of the deal. We want them to do something and they don't always want to go along with it. The question then becomes: How do I get them to go along with my idea or buy my product MORE OFTEN?

In this post, I'm going to walk you through how to overcome objections from anyone – spouse, friends, coworkers, boss, customers – using a five-step model we teach our clients. This is called the ACAVE Model – an acronym for Acknowledge, Clarify, Answer, Verify, Exit – and I'll break down each step below. At a high level, though, this model works for several reasons:

  1.  You empathize with the other person's concerns. Whether or not you think their objections are warranted, they're expressing real opinions and feelings. Using the ACAVE Model helps you genuinely acknowledge their experience.
  2. The focus is on results. In most cases, we all want to arrive at the best outcome (however you define "best" – economical, efficient, simple, etc.). With the ACAVE Model, we're not zoomed in on only getting the sale or convincing the other person we're right – we're focusing on coming to a mutual agreement on the best result for the situation.
  3. When used effectively, you achieve your goals! Our clients who have mastered the ACAVE Model find themselves earning more business and "selling" more ideas. The ideal result should include a solution that is beneficial for you, as well as the person you're working with.
  4. It clearly outlines next steps. The ACAVE Model is designed not only to come to a solution that everyone can agree to, but also to help you get clarity on, "Where do we go from here?" This is helpful for setting realistic expectations and clearly communicating with everyone involved.

Yeah, yeah...the ACAVE Model works – but WHAT IS IT?!

Let's dive in!

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Step 1: Acknowledge their concerns

When people object to our idea, product or service, it can often be because they don't feel like we're listening to their concerns. Especially in sales, where it's easy to get a reputation for being pushy, it can be helpful to back up and start from the beginning.

In Step 1, your goal is to demonstrate that you're listening to what they're saying and give credit to any worries or past experiences. You want to make sure the other person knows that you think their perspective is important.

What this might sound like

"Bob, I can understand why, based on your past experience, you might be hesitant about switching brands."

"Janet, I certainly understand that the investments you make play a key role in your profit, so you want to make sure you're making the right choice."

"I can see why being able to plan for your labor needs is important to you."

"It makes complete sense that you would want to protect your personal free time."

"I can see that you'd prefer to spend more time at home vs. running around to all of these activities for the kids."

Step 2: Clarify Their Concerns 

Now that you've acknowledged their feelings, it's important to get clear on the root cause of the objection. A few things to remember:

  • Someone could be objecting to your idea for a wide variety of reasons. An objection to price could stem from tight cashflow, having another offer from a competitor, or not seeing the value in your proposal – all distinctly different root causes.
  • What you think is the root cause may not be the actual root cause. You may think that they don't want to buy because of price, but actually they don't want to buy because they don't see the level of service they would want for that price – it's important to make sure your assumptions aren't keeping you from getting their buy-in.

In Step 2, your goal is to make sure you understand what is actually going on and what the driving factors are in their objection. The best part? If they tell you you're wrong, you open up an opportunity for them to provide more insight and information that you can use to craft a more effective solution.

A quick note: This step is also a great time for you to ask "discovery mode" questions – uncover their goals, what they want to change, potential solutions they might have – and you can use their responses in your solution.

What this Might Sound Like

"Just to make sure I understand completely, is your biggest fear that you'll switch brands but that you'll continue to have the same problems as in the past?"

"Would you mind walking me through why you're concerned about implementing this new protocol? I want to make sure I understand all the details, so that I can best help you."

"Is your biggest fear that signing the kids up for another sport will keep you from your hobbies, or is it something else?"

"No one wants to spend more money than they have to, but I'm sure you also don't want to leave profitability on the table. Could you share a little bit more about your past experience that would make you wary of this investment?"

"I'm sorry, I may not have understood what you said. Could you clarify that for me a little more?"

Step 3 – Answer The Problem

Now that you've acknowledged their feelings and you're clear on why they feel that way, you can start to craft a solution. This should be a back-and-forth dialogue that includes your idea, product or service as a way to solve their problem, but may also include some additional support or a change in process to address their concern.

In Step 3, your goal is to get to an outcome that both parties can agree on. Note: you may have to go back through Steps 1 (Acknowledge) and 2 (Clarify) again if the solution you propose isn't amenable yet. There may be underlying concerns that weren't verbalized initially that you can discover through the problem-solving process.

What this Might Sound LIke

"If I could provide some additional technical support to help you implement this new protocol, would you be more comfortable making the switch?"

"If I could arrange for delivery service after 5:00 pm, when you're home from your day job, would you be more open to working with us?"

"Would a grind-and-mix feed option be something you'd be interested in if I could make that happen?"

"What if I could set you up with a financing program that would fit better with your income schedule – would you consider buying a few bags of seed under that arrangement?"

"What if I did kid pick-up on Mondays and Tuesdays so you could go to yoga and you did kid pick-up on Wednesdays so I could go hunting – would you be open to that?"

step 4 – Verify

Once you've come to a solution that all parties can agree on, it's time to verify next steps. Depending on the depth of your discussion, there might have been multiple solutions proposed at some point in time. It's important that everyone is on the same page as to where you'll go from here.

In Step 4, you want to summarize the discussion and solutions and outline who is doing what after this conversation wraps up. If there is confusion or disagreement, back up and address any concerns.

What This Might Sound Like

"Thank you for your input. So, I believe we're in agreement that you're going to order 50 bags of seed and that I'll stop out monthly to check in on how things are looking and answer any questions. Does that sound good?"

"When I leave here, I'll head back to the store and put in your order. I'll give you a call in a couple days to make sure everything was mixed and delivered correctly, but you can always call me in the meantime if anything comes up. Are you okay with that plan?"

"I'll pick up the kids on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and you'll pick up the kids on Thursday and Friday. I'll also send you a text at lunch on Thursday and Friday to help you remember. Does that work for you?"

"I'll send you any questions I have by 3:00 pm on Thursday so you can address them before you go on vacation. After that, I'll either hold my questions or work with someone else in the office if anything pops up while you're gone, so I don't bug you – sound good?"

step 5 – Exit/Close

This one's kind of a "gimme" :) Once you've come to an agreement on your solution and next steps, exit the conversation by either closing the call (if you're ready to leave) or transitioning to the next topic. If the next topic includes an objection, then you start the whole process over again!

The ACAVE Model is so simple and, yet, so effective when practiced and perfected. Think about an area of your life where you're facing an objection and give it a try! If it doesn't work the first time, reframe the questions and try again. History has proven that this approach can get you more of the results you want – we hope you find it useful!

We teach the ACAVE Model, along with many other core concepts designed to help you start thriving personally and professionally, in our training+coaching programs. Learn more about those on our Training page!

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