Part 5

Death by 1,000 Knife Cuts

5 min readNov 16, 2023
Most salespeople hate objections. We love them.

In this story: How to spot and handle *real* objections without giving away value.

Written by Maria Edelson, Founder & CEO of Edelson

Many salespeople tell me that they simply hate objections, and they do everything they can to avoid them. More often than not, I get these kinds of questions:

  • “How do I avoid objections?”
  • “Should I anticipate all the objections and build in the answers?”
  • “Should I try to wait and handle all the objections at the end?”
  • “Is it good if I don’t get any objections?”

Salespeople plan, prepare, and anticipate… and their whole goal is to close the presentation without any objections.

But do we really think that’s a good idea? NO. Customers will always push back. So let’s talk about objections.

What is an objection?

Now, there’s a difference between a request for information and an objection. Best-in-class salespeople can quickly tell the difference and respond accordingly. Very few salespeople stop and think about this simple differentiator, but it’s important.

Often, the customer just has a question that requires a fact-based reply.

“What about the price?”

Salespeople hear an objection: “They think the price is too high.” Did you hear it too? Maybe the customer just wanted to know what the price is.

Or the customer asks:

“Have you talked to Operations?”

Salespeople hear an objection: “They think Operations won’t go for this.” Did you hear it too? Maybe the customer just wanted to know if you’ve talked to Operations yet.

“How much free time do I get?”

Salespeople hear an objection: “They’re asking for more free time.” Maybe they just want to know how much is included in your offer, because it wasn’t clear to them.

It’s important to be able to assess if the customer is asking a question or posing an objection, because if it’s a question, you just answer it with the simple fact.

  • “The price is __________.”
  • “Yes, I spoke to Operations” or “No haven’t spoken to Operations yet.”
  • “There are five free days included.”

Notice I simply answered the question. I did not give away any VALUE. I did not say, “I can do a little better on price; we can do a discount!” I did not say, “What will it take to get Operations to align?” I did not say, “It includes five free days but we can add in two more.”

Just answer the question with the information requested and move on. Because when you do get a real objection, you’re going to need your value to address it. So don’t waste your value on information questions.

Now, let’s talk about real objections. If you determine it is a real objection, then we have some principles for handling those, from the Edelson training course.

  1. Don’t wait until the end of the road when you’re out of gas. Handle objections early, when you still have new information you can use to address them and new value you can showcase.
  2. Don’t allow ‘death by 1,000 cuts.’ Don’t let the buyer throw you one objection at a time for you to handle and address.

Don’t wait ’til you’re out of gas

Lots of salespeople insist on delivering their entire presentation all at once.

Then, at the end of the presentation, the buyer begins voicing objections.

But since the presentation is already over, the seller has already shared every feature and benefit, and given away all the value that their idea or solution has to offer.

What do they have left to offer? How are they going to handle the customer’s objections?

The seller is now in a hard position. They need to:

  • Go deeper on discounts
  • Lower the price, or
  • Find more value to offer to overcome the objection

None of these are desirable — but you CAN reliably avoid this outcome! You can do that by saving some of the “gas” for after the objections have been voiced.

In other words, get the objections out earlier while you still have ‘gas in your tank’ to address and handle the objections — without resorting to easier, costlier solutions!

Death by 1,000 cuts

Now you know you need to save some gas to get to the end of the road. The other important thing to understand is that there’s never only one objection. Usually, the buyer has a list of objections that they will dole out one at a time. Then, they expect the seller to offer some value in return for each of their objections. This can quickly become “death by 1,000 knife cuts.”

It sounds like this:

Customer: “Your price is too high.”

Salesperson: “No problem, we can do a 10% discount.”

Customer: “Thanks, but I also need retail support.”

Salesperson: “Sure, we can do all the retail work for you without changing the price.”

Customer: “Wow, great, thank you so much. One last thing, my CFO is looking for extended payment terms.”

Salesperson: “Sure, I can see about an extra 5 days.”

Have you been keeping track? The salesperson gave away a 10% discount, then gave away some retail support that wasn’t initially part of the deal, and then gave away an extra 5 days of time without cash in the bank. But they felt like they had to do this to make the sale.

Does any of this sound familiar? It may. Because so many salespeople avoid objections, they aren’t prepared for them or trained how to handle and address them.

Feedback is a gift. Let us know what you think about this story in the comments below.

This is part 5 of Sales Bites, a 12-part series of stories from 35 years of sales experience with P&G and from training 13,000 sales executives globally. Follow or Subscribe below so you don’t miss the next story.

Next, we’ll introduce our objection handling model in Part 6: How Profit Margins Die.




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