Nobody wants to hear “no” in response to a request for business. Of course, you won’t get every piece of business you seek, and knowing that negative feedback is part of the process may help you to prepare. However, you may find that rather than being told directly that you’re not getting the business, you’ll get a deferral, an objection, or dead silence.
Deferral or silence may feel preferable to an objection since an objection constitutes negative feedback and may feel like the end of the road. But here’s the truth: an objection means that you still have a chance of getting the work.
Why? Simple: an objection is another step in conversation. Sometimes it’s the final step in closing the door on a business opportunity, but sometimes it’s possible to meet and negate the objection. An objection means that the prospective client is sufficiently engaged to let you know what the block is between you and the work. Silence and deferral, if more than transitory, generally indicate that the work is going elsewhere and the prospective client doesn’t see the value in having an uncomfortable discussion about why.
An objection might be something like “your projected fees are much higher than we were expecting” or “I just don’t think you have the experience we need for this.” When you receive an objective, your goal isn’t necessarily to overcome it but to understand it fully and to respond as well as you can. In essence, an objection (or a surface-level objection that you probe and clarify until you’ve reached the crux of the objection) is a window into your prospective client’s thinking process.
To gain insight into how to respond when you receive an objection, read 4 Steps to Overcoming Sales Objections, a quick tutorial in the stages of conversation that should follow an objection. It’s a short, high-level description of the steps to follow, with the opportunity to download a white paper that goes further into How to Handle Sales Objections.
You’ll also find more on handling objections in the upcoming Third Edition of The Reluctant Rainmaker: A Guide for Lawyers Who Hate Selling. Can’t wait? I have two Consulting Condensed spots available for July. We’ll meet for two hours to discuss up to three aspects of your business development strategy, and you’ll walk away with targeted input and action items you can implement right away. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a short conversation to see if Consulting Condensed is right for you.
When you’re confident that you know how to address objections you receive, you’ll be much more prepared for the fundamental tasks of discussing a prospective representation and asking for the business. If you aren’t confident in that, you have some work to do.