How to Use the Verbal Cushion in Resolving Sales Objections
Updated: May 30
When you're in the field, your sales activity requires the use of various communication elements, like the verbal cushion. To be effective in sales, you need to know how to communicate with your prospect. However, you also need to be adept at using the various communication elements at your disposal.
For example, being able to ask thoughtful, probing questions will enhance your sales process and earn your prospect’s trust. Ask those questions at the wrong time, however, and you become a bumbling sales rep.
That’s why in sales, we take steps to reduce friction and eliminate arguing with the prospect, especially when they bring up any sales objections. Remember, a sales objection is something your prospect sees as an impediment to moving forward with the sale. As highlighted in our playbook, “Seven Steps to Resolving Objections”, if they have no desire to move the sale forward, then they would have no objections.
Sales objections, therefore, are opportunities to advance the sale, provided you can address the issues and resolve the objections.
That’s why the first steps in resolving sales objections are critical. This isn’t the time for conflict or expressing your opinions. If you want to avoid conflicts at the first stage in resolving objections, use a communication element called the verbal cushion.
What is a Verbal Cushion?
Now, I’m sure when you hear cushion, a seat cushion is probably the image that comes to mind. In fact, that’s a good analogy for what we want to develop. A verbal cushion is a word or phrase that acts as a buffer in a conversation. It’s a neutral phrase that keeps you from getting into an argument with your prospect.
Remember, if your prospect is voicing their perception of a particular challenge, getting dragged into an argument won't help you move the sale forward. Also, becoming defensive won’t help win their hearts and minds. And going on the attack won't help either.
If your prospect makes a claim about you, your company, your product or your service, you want them to define, defend, and explain their statement. But that won’t happen if you react defensively or make a statement that steers the conversation off into a verbal ditch. Instead, you want to redirect their energy back to a place where it can be useful. So, after acknowledging their statement, redirect the conversation back to your prospect. Have them explain their claim without directly challenging them or arousing resentment.
The Verbal Cushion in Action
In our past coaching sessions, with our clients and our internal team, we used a variety of vanilla phrases that acknowledged the prospect’s claim without being confrontational. For example, “your price is too high” was one of the most common objections our inside sales team heard. And often the new sales rep would try justifying the price and argue with the prospect.
That phrase, “your price is too high” is actually information poor. The sales rep needs more information. So instead of reacting by justifying the price, our sales reps were taught to pause and respond with a neutral verbal cushion that acknowledge they heard the prospect:
“I can appreciate that. Investments are important."
And from there, the inside sales rep could then redirect the focus back on the prospect to define, explain, and defend their claim with a question:
“When you say price, how do you mean?”
Below are additional examples of neutral verbal cushions:
I know how you feel…
I hear what you’re saying…
I can appreciate that…
I understand your position…
These kinds of phrases allow you to respond to the prospect’s claim. They keep the conversation neutral. And they give you the opportunity to delve deeper into the root causes of your prospect’s concern.
Remember, the foundation of sales is the ability to communicate effectively to achieve an outcome. Communication elements like the verbal cushion are indispensable in your sales process. Use coaching sessions like this to learn how to use them well.
To learn more about resolving sales objections, download a copy of the playbook, “Seven Steps to Resolving Sales Objections” here. Start coaching yourself and your team to shorter sales cycles and more deals today!