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The turning point in resolving client objections is paraphrasing the objection as a need— the need which the client feels wasn’t successfully addressed by our recommendation.  Once that need is uncovered and agreed upon, we’re in a position to move toward a solution, without having to argue about the original objection.  (For a conceptual overview, please refer to last week’s blog, “Understanding Issue Resolution,” directly below.)  Now, let’s examine the technique of “reframingan objection.

Never forget that we’re not ready to reframe until we’ve questioned the client to identify, accurately and in detail, the need that our presentation somehow missed.  (In theory, if our previous needs-analysis and subsequent recommendation had been perfect, the client wouldn’t have raised an objection in the first place.  Unfortunately, reality rarely goes that well.)  For more on questioning techniques, please review, Questioning Skills- Part 3.” 

When we’ve nailed that unfulfilled need, it’s time to offer a reframe: where we “turn an objection into an objective”— a goal to be reached, a task to be accomplished— rather than debating a perceived obstacle.  Again, “Here’s why it won’t fly” becomes “Here’s what we need to do to make it fly.”

The exact phraseology of the reframe isn’t critical, but it is important to always include two elements in any reframing statement:

  • Always use an “I message”— explicitly taking responsibility for the fact that we’re paraphrasing the client’s objection when we reframe it as the underlying need.  This makes it easy for the client to disagree with or change our reframe to his/her own liking.  (If necessary, we can try another reframe.)
  • Always end the reframe by asking for confirmation that the client accepts it.  If the client genuinely agrees, we didn’t just “put words in her/his mouth.”  (Note that reframing is therefore a transparent, client-centered, non-manipulative process.)  Further, our next step will be addressing that need— so we have to get it right!

Here is a generic reframe format, in which “……..” represents the client’s unfulfilled need:  “If I understand you correctly, you need to ……..   Is that correct?” 

Now, let’s flesh out a typical reframing situation.  The original client objection is, “It’ll be too much hassle.”  Our follow-up questioning reveals the client’s worry that our proposal will add excessive workload on his/her staff.  Our reframe might be, “If I understand you correctly, you need to feel confident that your staff can comfortably handle our proposed process.  Is that correct?

How we next address the confirmed need will depend on whether or not our current recommendation does or doesn’t actually fulfill it.  Often, addressing the need is surprisingly easy, now that we know precisely what we have to accomplish.

Like most new selling skills, reframing takes practice to become comfortable and feel natural.  It’s effectiveness in issue resolution makes it more than worth the consultative salesperson’s effort.

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