5 valuable lessons we learned from Warren Buffet about overcoming objections

Overcoming objections is par for the course when you choose a sales career. While never easy to hear, prospects can have multiple reasons for being unsure about purchasing your product or service:

  • “Your product/service costs too much.”
  • “I’m under contract with “[Competitor].”
  • “We’re too busy. Contact us again next quarter.”
  • “Our company needs X, Y, and Z features.”

But objections don’t necessarily mean a sale isn’t possible.

Take it from Warren Buffett — with a net worth of $86 billion, he is one of the most successful businessmen/investors in the world. The current CEO of holding empire Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett has been overcoming objections throughout his lifetime and still comes out on top.

Many of Buffett’s lessons relate to investing. However, his wisdom can also be applied in the sales world. Below we analyze five of Buffett’s top quotes and parse out five corresponding lessons for overcoming objections.

Lesson 1: Not every prospect should become a customer.

Warren Buffett quote sales deal

These words of advice by Buffett were given to Suzy Welch, a bestselling management author and CNBC contributor. As she puts it, “That man is a walking truth bomb.” Buffett has made hundreds of deals during his time in business and could’ve made even more. Deals with what he described as “bad people,” or ones without integrity, he decided not to pursue.

Takeaway: You’re going to run into some prospects who aren’t the right fit for your company. Maybe they don’t have a real need for your product/service. Or maybe they’re not in your target market. Whatever the case, it’s not worth trying to overcome their objections if you don’t believe the prospect will stick with your company over the long term. Be intentional with who you do business with. Aim for quality over quantity.

Application: If you’re receiving multiple objections from a prospect, assess their fit before combating their objections. The problem might be your qualification process. Unqualified leads aren’t worth pursuing; spend your time on qualified leads. Revisit your buyer personas and lead scoring with marketing to make sure you’re aligned on what qualifies a lead.

Lesson 2: Keep your explanations simple.

Warren Buffett quote

Buffett made this statement in a 2014 letter to shareholders. When investing, Buffett recommends choosing companies that fall within your “circle of competence.” For example, Buffett doesn’t understand technology stocks that well. Instead, he invests in bank stocks as he understands banks. It’s easier to analyze future business performance if you know how the company works.

Takeaway: A common sales objection is “Your product/service is too complicated.” You might have an amazing product/service, but if you can’t explain how to use it, prospects won’t buy. The onus is on you to make it understandable.

Application: The right wording is key when overcoming this sales objection. If you’re a B2B technology company with an extremely technical product, compare with a B2C product on the market. For example, Indio is an insurance software platform that serves commercial agencies. To make their software easy to understand, the company likens their product to “TurboTax, but for insurance agencies.”

Discuss with other sales reps the language you’re using with prospects. Are you confusing prospects by presenting too many features? Are your prospect conversations littered with jargon? Break down your product/service into layman’s terms. Compare your product/service with something similar in another industry. Also, ask the prospect what they’re confused about. If needed, talk with someone on your product team about how you can best explain certain features.

Lesson 3: Justify the price with value.

Warren Buffett quote overcoming objections

This quote was written by Buffett in a 2008 letter to Berkshire Hathaway’s shareholders (Buffett attributes the quote to Benjamin Graham, the first proponent of value investing). When investing, don’t look as much at the price. Instead, look at the intrinsic (e.g., true) value of a company based on their historical financial statements. Relate the value to growth and answer the question: Will the future growth of the company justify the current price?

Takeaway: Price is a common sales objection. Your job is to use value as your selling point, understanding that the value of your product won’t be the same for every customer.

Application: When met with this objection, focus on communicating your value proposition. Why is your product/service superior to your competitor’s? Justify the price by breaking down the cost of individual features. What are prospects getting for the price? What are the benefits of your product/service and how do they relate with what the prospect values/needs? Focus on what each prospect will find most valuable. For example, a software’s bookkeeping feature might be worth significantly more to the founder of a startup than a CFO of a Fortune 500 company. Offer a discount if you’re able, but be clear on what the prospect is getting for the price.

Lesson 4: Don’t push a sale on someone who isn’t ready.

Warren Buffett quote

A person’s — and a business’s — reputation precedes them. Buffett has done an excellent job building his as a top businessman. He recognizes that a good reputation helps build trust and generate business. On the flip side, it’s very easy to damage your reputation and destroy months’ or even years’ worth of hard work.

Takeaway: You might be on a tight deadline to meet your sales quota for the quarter. However, avoid harming prospect trust by being pushy. You risk ruining the relationship you’ve built. As Buffett says elsewhere, “The most important thing to do if you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.” Multiple calls and emails asking to close a deal are more likely to drive a potential buyer away than they are to convince them to purchase.

Application: Identify the main objections holding up the sales process. Is it price? A competitor? Confusion over a feature? Practice the 80/20 rule: Spend 80% of your time listening and 20% talking. Select and send resources such as case studies that speak to the problem they’re struggling with.

Lesson 5: Be patient with prospects.

Warren Buffett quote overcoming objections

In other words, no matter how much you might want to speed up a process, some things can’t be done quickly. It took years for Buffett to build up his own wealth. You can (and should) put in the work, but at some point, you have to wait for your efforts to pay off.

Takeaway: The same principle applies to sales. You may have nurtured a prospect for weeks or even months, emailing resources and meeting with them on a regular basis to discuss concerns. But if the prospect is still hesitant about signing the dotted line (e.g., “Call me back in six months”), don’t give up. The timing might not be right.

Application: First, ask the prospect what’s going on with their business at the moment. Is the problem something you can help with now? Maybe the prospect doesn’t have the budget for your product/service— can you offer a discount? If not, and the prospect is firm about waiting, check in with the prospect every month. Pass along resources that you think could help their business. Stay top of mind. Treat these objections as a long-term waiting game.

Overcoming objections: What would Buffett do?

The “Oracle of Omaha” Warren Buffett didn’t become the success he is today by giving in to objections. Neither should you. Pushback from prospects can be difficult to swallow, but it’s also the perfect opportunity to demonstrate what your product/service can really do and how it meets their needs.

Apply the lessons from Warren Buffett for overcoming objections. Need more support? Try Zendesk Sell, an intuitive CRM that can help you keep track of and analyze contact information, deals, forecasts, and more!

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