How to Start up Stalled Customers

By Carolee Boyles

Sales stall for a variety of reasons, but with a few simple techniques you can get the ball rolling again. Michael Brizz, president of the Center for Professional Achievement in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, shares some of his proven strategies for moving a sale from stalled to closed.

“Customers most frequently stall at the commitment stage – whenever a buying decision needs to be made,” says Brizz. “What I usually find most effective is to just ask them what their questions are. If you’ve done a good job of fact-finding and addressing the clients’ needs and objectives, most people will be pretty up front with you. If you’ve had a decent rapport and a dialogue, you can ask directly.”

Brizz suggests you simply ask: Is price a consideration for you? Be prepared to respond with humor – at your expense, not the customer’s – if the answer is yes. Often a lighthearted answer to a price objection will get the client past a potentially embarrassing moment and onto the next step, which is to find out what he or she is able to spend.

“Now you need to probe a little bit more,” Brizz says. “Ask something like: What is the price you were expecting?”

At the same time, be prepared with a couple of backup questions. “For example, you might ask: What are the primary reasons for you to go forward?” Brizz says. If the customer wants to move forward and is simply hung up on the price, offer him or her some options. Ask: Would delayed billing or extended terms help you?

However, if the product clearly is more than the customer can afford, Brizz says, help him or her look for alternatives that may better fit his or her budget.

“The key to the whole process is not to jump on the customer,” Brizz says. “You’ve got to learn to listen. And don’t be ready with your response within three microseconds of the person’s last syllable. You need to position yourself as someone who is participating in the decision process, and show him that you’re trying to understand his position and help him make a decision. It’s important that you take time and have patience. Demonstrate respect for his concerns, and give him time and space. Providing you’ve had a reasonable dialogue going, and established a reasonable level of rapport, you can work on sorting out the real issues.”

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