Last year, under this same title, my friend David Ackert wrote a post addressing this bane of all salespeople. He pointed out, as all experienced salespeople know, that “think about it” is usually “either a polite ‘no’ or it’s a sign that Procrastination has ensnared another victim.” He offered some practical advice about how to reveal hidden objections, address them, and try to close.
If you push me, you'll lose me
One commenter took exception, quite forcefully, and warned sellers trying to close her that they were endangering trust, and the sale:
“I am actually not shy about saying no when I mean no. When I say ‘maybe’ or ‘let me think about it,’ what you hear is what you get. The bigger or more important the purchase, the more I restrain myself from making an impulsive decision. I might want to shop around some more, or I might want to do other kinds of research, or even just give myself a couple of days to cool off. Maybe I have thoughts or concerns that aren’t fully formulated yet and need some time to gel before I can clearly articulate them.
At this point, there still a very real possibility that I will choose you and feel secure in my decision. But if you want to turn my ‘maybe’ into a definite ‘not in a million years,’ just keep pushing me to decide on the spot! It will make me wonder whether you don’t approve of thinking before making a decision; whether you’re afraid of what I might find out if I do more research; and most of all whether I can expect any respect at all from you once you’ve got my money, if you’re already pressuring me this hard to do something I don’t want to do (i.e. make a snap decision).”
This scenario should never occur. It’s the product of a pitch, i.e., when you present an offer and try to convince the prospect to buy. You’re asking them to decide, when they may not be ready to. The emphasis is on “now.” What if they don’t have to decide at all, ever?
People only make the decisions they must make
People only make the decisions they must make. Unless your offer solves a recognized problem that causes an unacceptable level of acknowledged professional or personal pain, your prospect has the luxury of doing nothing, and deciding nothing. “Now” is irrelevant.
The irony is that the salesperson’s offer-centric focus has manufactured the prospect’s uncertainty out of whole cloth.
The prospect’s vague uncertainty or discomfort may have nothing at all to do with objections they’re reluctant to share with you. It may be based on a gut-level sense that they simply don’t have an affirmative reason to do what you urge. They don’t know why they aren’t ready, but they know that something’s not right, so they wisely defer a decision until they feel a greater sense of clarity.
Don't begin with your offer
I’m long on record against pitching and, therefore, closing. There’s a better way.
Avoid beginning with your offer. I don’t mean just in the conversation with a prospect. I mean entirely, beginning with your attitude and overall approach to selling.
Your solution/offer is only relevant if
- the problem it solves is acknowledged to be present within this company, this prospect’s department, and this person’s purview
- the prospect recognizes and acknowledges the entire array of consequences that derive from the problem
- the prospect explicitly concludes that those consequences are unacceptable, and concludes that the company and she must take action, and
- the optimal category of action includes your solution
We’re talking four progressive steps and interim conclusions before your specific solution becomes relevant. Can you think of any process that won't fail if you begin with Step 5?
By contrast, visualize a conversation where you’ve accomplished the four predicate steps -- in collaboration with your prospect. At this point, your prospect is ready to take action in some form relevant to your offer. She wants to hear how you can help eliminate or shrink the very real consequences that are now front and center in her mind, creating their own sense of urgency.
“What would prevent us from solving this together?”
As I posted last week, after you explain your solution and show how it produces the desired outcome, and get your prospect’s agreement that that’s so, it’s a simple matter to ask, “What would prevent us from solving this together?”
You’ll expose real obstacles that your now-motivated prospect is willing to work with you to overcome, and the only pressure she’ll feel won’t be from you, but from the reality of the situation that you’ve helped her clarify and understand more thoroughly.
Give your prospects and yourself a break from the arbitrary pressure of closing.
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