You’ve done everything according to the rule book: qualified the prospect, probed and asked questions to uncover needs, made an exemplary presentation, and responded to all objections. Yet you can’t get the prospect to commit. Even though you get nodding agreement to everything you say, the sale keeps getting postponed and there’s still no signature on the dotted line. What can you do?
According to one expert, if a prospect or customer is hesitant to commit, then either the salesperson hasn’t offered enough value or there is a hidden objection that needs to be uncovered. “It’s important that the salespeople dig to find out the real reason or what the hold-up really is. That takes persistence and asking open-ended questions,” says the expert.
“It may be that there is another person in the picture in terms of making a buying decision – or the customer just doesn’t think that what you’re selling offers enough value. The hesitancy could stem from a host of things – some of which may not even involve you or your product.”
When confronted with a hesitant customer, he believes salespeople may need to do some introspection. “Is the prospect hesitant to commit because of something the salesperson did or didn’t do?” he asks. “Maybe the salesperson hasn’t provided enough information. Maybe the value proposition isn’t clear. Maybe the economic benefit or payment terms aren’t clear. It could be a lot of things that the salesperson is doing that are hindering the sale from going forward.”
Salespeople have a tendency to speed things up, and he says they may simply need to slow down a little bit and proceed at the speed that’s comfortable for the prospect.
“It may be that the customer has no hidden objection and simply wants to take more time before committing to the offer. Then it’s difficult to create a sense of urgency,” he says. “In that case, the salesperson needs to be patient, have understanding, and help nudge the customer along.”
Another sales consultant thinks salespeople need to create a sense of urgency to move the sales process along – to keep the flow in mind when trying to get a prospect off the dime and ready to make that buying decision.
“A good presentation can turn a want into a need. Because, once a person wants something, they need it – and the job is to get them to make a commitment now,” she says. “One way to do that is to use reverse engineering, which means starting with the commitment and building backwards.
“For example, say a prospect wants an October delivery date. Factor in the steps that need to be done before the order can be shipped. Let the prospect know exactly when he has to commit to hit his goals,” says the consultant. “It takes time to place the order, go through credit, manufacture the products, and deliver them. In order to make all of this happen, the order needs to be signed off by a certain date…period.
“There are four things all customers need to have answered before they will ever make a commitment,” she says:
“All of these questions are important and the salesperson should have answers – especially for the fourth one that deals with urgency,” she says. “If a salesperson doesn’t provide a compelling reason for a customer to buy at a certain time, it lets the customer completely off the hook and the sale can stall.”
She also believes that part of the reason buyers hesitate to make a commitment is that salespeople don’t have a sales strategy in place to continuously move the buyer forward – and they just don’t know how to handle objections or close prospects.
“Salespeople need to have a strong, well-planned presentation and know how they want that specific sale to progress,” she says. “Customers need to be led. Once a customer starts making decisions in the sales process, the salesperson has lost control; now, the customer is calling the shots.
“Remember, every great general who won battles had already won them before he arrived on the battlefield,” she adds. “Salespeople need to develop their own list of common objections and pre-plan responses. How can you overcome an objection if you don’t have preplanned responses and a selling strategy?
“It’s estimated that, depending on the industry, between 60 percent and 85 percent of all transactions aren’t really closed by salespeople,” she explains. “Salespeople think they’re closing, but they aren’t. For example, if a salesperson gives a presentation and then turns to the prospect and asks what they think, they’ve lost ownership of the sale to the customer and now they are order takers instead of order makers,” she notes.
“Furthermore, they are imprinting on the buyer that maybe there is something else they should think about,” she says.
She strongly urges salespeople to be prepared for the closing scenario. “All professional salespeople have seven to nine strong closes they have rehearsed and know frontwards and backwards,” she says. “Closing itself is a logical conclusion to a sales presentation. If you’ve qualified the prospect, uncovered needs and wants, made a good presentation, handled objections, and answered questions, the act of closing is a natural conclusion. But the closing questions still need to be asked.”
How patient should a salesperson be when dealing with a hesitant prospect? “The economists would say that it’s time to give up when the expected value of the sale drops below the cost of the effort,” says the sales expert. “It’s like tennis. There are players who, if they’re down five games in the first set, decide to forget about it and concentrate on the next set. Then there are players who are going to play every point to the max.
“Personally, I don’t believe salespeople should ever give up,” he says.