If you were to ask B2B sales professionals to name the most popular qualification framework, most would immediately reply, “BANT” which stands for budget, authority, need, & timeline. BANT, originally created by IBM, remains popular despite the efforts of countless consultants to brand permutations of synonyms for the 4-words (ex: ANUM = authority, need, urgency, money). However, quite curiously, you would likely hear silence if you asked the same question about the most popular objection handling framework.
My Google search for ‘sales objection handling framework’ surfaced the following: LAER, LIAR, AQPC, LQCRE, LAARC, and ARC. Without even knowing what these acronyms stand for, you can already see a BANT/ANUM-like profusion based on variations of the same letters.
Of these frameworks, the earliest to appear was LAER which Jack Carew (seems to have) coined in his 1990 book entitled, “You’ll Never Get No for an Answer.” [Note that many misattribute LAER to Hubspot since they wrote about the framework without citing its provenance.]
With one small addition and with credit to Mr. Carew, here is the LAERC framework: (pronounced lay-erk)
When encountering an objection, the first step is to listen. Listening means not only comprehending the text and subtext but also utilizing silence as a tool to encourage the prospect to elaborate.
- Prospect: “Your solution is too expensive.”
- AE: “…”
Acknowledge has many synonyms, including empathize, relate, or cushion. I prefer to stick with Carew’s original word choice since it best conveys the neutral intent of this second objection handling step which is to communicate that you heard the objection (or question) without immediately agreeing with or combatting it.
- AE: “I understand you feel our solution might be too expensive.” (Note: Though entirely optional, I added “might” as a softener.)
As with Acknowledge, you’ll find in other frameworks variations of Explore such as identify, question, probe, or clarify. Here again, Jack Carew was right from the beginning. Explore connotes a mutual, conversational process of discovery intended to get to the root of the objection.
LQCRE from Dale Carnegie, puts Explore before Acknowledge. However, I feel strongly that Explore should be the 3rd step to avoid even a hint of coming off as defensive which is likely to happen when immediately following an objection with a question.
- AE: “Why, specifically, do you feel our solution is too expensive?”
- Prospect: “When we purchased other, admittedly different, SaaS products in the past, we paid about a quarter the price of what you quoted.”
Respond, variously renamed ‘position’ or ‘address,’ is the focus of most of what has been written about objection handling. Here, I’ve provided a number of ways to respond based on popular techniques:
- Reversing = unexpectedly agreeing with the prospect’s objections and positioning it as precisely the reason they should buy.
AE: Yes, we are ‘too expensive’ and that is exactly why you should work with us. We include the insight, analytics, and white-glove service you need to beat your competitors who are afraid of our price.”
- Negative reverse selling = Unexpectedly agreeing with their objection so that the prospect resolves their own objection
AE: Does that mean you have decided not to explore this any further? … OR … “Perhaps it is too expensive. What would you need to see or hear from me to feel it was worth paying more?)
- Playing dumb
AE: When you say “too expensive,” what does that mean?
While Jack Carew had it almost perfect with LAER, later objection handling experts added Confirm, or equivalently, check, evaluate, test, or close. In this crucial 5th step, the salesperson must ensure the prospect not only understood but also accepts and agrees with the response.
- AE: “I know you were concerned about the cost of our solution. Before we move on, do you feel the additional value we discussed might justify the price?”
For acronym-based frameworks to stick, they need to be meaningful and memorable. LAERC, or even just LAER, passes the meaningful test since it uses the ‘right’ words in the correct sequence without repeating letters. However, LAERC, as well as LAER, LIAR, AQPC, LQCRE, LAARC, unfortunately, does not roll off the tongue as well as BANT (or ANUM) does. Consequently, you should expect to work a bit harder to cement this valuable objection handling framework in your mind.