Objection Reframes

By Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy Officer

January 21, 2015

It’s one of the more famous lines from one of the most popular sitcoms ever.

Here’s the scene: George Costanza, the “lovable loser” of Seinfeld, is at a high-level meeting as part of his job with the New York Yankees. Some refreshments have been served for the occasion, a large platter of cocktail shrimp among them. Famished, and not one to go lightly into office fare, George proceeds to scarf down several shrimp in short order.

Noticing the rapid intake, a coworker quips, “Hey George, the ocean called. They’re running out of shrimp.”

George’s response? “Well the jerk store called. They’re running out of you.”

As comebacks go, this one’s pretty terrible. And like most bad comebacks, it offers little consolation: The same coworker ends up scoring on him again. And the scene closes, as so many in Seinfeld do, with George Costanza looking every part the office buffoon.

It may not be as humiliating as this example, but your prospects are inevitably going to raise objections to your solution during sales conversations. Often these objections are of the stubborn variety, because they’re rooted in the emotions of the “old brain” rather than the reasoning of the new. If you want the conversation to move forward in your favor, you’re going to need to counter these emotional objections with something that addresses your prospect’s fears and changes their perception.

One of the best ways to do that is through “objection reframing.” The idea is to take an apparently negative emotional objection voiced by a prospect, and address it by reframing the discussion in a way that converts negative emotional fears into positive emotional energy.

It’s a bit counterintuitive because your tendency is to address an emotional objection with a rational reply. But that won’t work when you’re facing objections based on a web of fears and bad past associations. An emotional objection has to be countered with an emotional response—a story that reframes their fear and ultimately dispels it.

The following ad from Volkswagen is a perfect example a company reframing a fairly common objection: “You’re too expensive.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtV-dYSQ9nE

You can see that an objection reframe functions a bit like a witty comeback. It’s an act of one-upmanship. In this ad, Volkswagen openly admits its product might cost a bit more than those of its competitors. But so what? By the end of it, you’re thinking there’s a great reason for that. Similarly, by drawing a parallel between its competitors and the shoddy parachute, Volkswagen manages to reframe the concept of “inexpensiveness” by associating it with inferior quality. In other words, there’s a reason their competition costs less, and it’s not to their credit.

The same technique translates into sales conversations. This is where salespeople get to flex their creative muscles. Analogies, metaphors, personal stories—anything with emotional resonance can make for a powerful reframing device.

For the price objection, you might ask yourself when in the past you’ve paid more for something that you ended up thanking yourself for later. Then, the next time a prospect raises the objection, you’re not responding with the reason-based answers they’re expecting. You’re telling them how springing for the four-wheel drive vehicle instead of the rear-wheel one was the reason your family got home safely in a blizzard. Or how splurging for those seats behind the dugout was how your daughter got her favorite player’s autograph.

You get the idea. When it comes to reframing objections, the possibilities are limitless. The key is to look outside your industry for a story that’s evocative, memorable and charged with emotion. Because the “jerk store” comeback just isn’t going to hack it.