By Emily Yepes
Most of us have been on the receiving end of a sales call and thought, “This salesperson seems nice enough, but I really don’t want to buy what they’re selling.”
Instead of saying “no,” what do we do? We extricate ourselves from a potentially awkward situation with that salesperson by uttering the magic words: “I just need a little time to think it over.” It works. We’re free!
The “think it over” response is pervasive in both B2C and B2B sales. Prospects utilize the put-off everywhere, from turning down friends and family selling networking marketing goods to sophisticated B2B solutions.
As professional salespeople, it should come as no surprise that “think it over” means the same thing when prospects say it to us as it does when we say it after being pitched something we don’t want. (It means “no.”) Yet salespeople often keep “think it over” prospects in their pipelines.
Anyone who has been in sales at some point in their career should be able to relate to this scenario.
A salesperson, Kate, was proposing a fairly large project to a prospect, Dan.
Near the end of Kate’s presentation, Dan said things like, “Gee, it looks interesting.” And: “We have a lot of interest in what you’re offering.” And: “You’ve done a great job today.” All of those remarks gave Kate a good feeling, a feeling that this sale was about to close.
Then Dan said: “Kate, let us get back to you next week. This looks really good, but we do need to think it over.” He was very pleasant as he said that.
When Kate made it back to the office, she told her boss that the presentation had gone very well, and that she expected a “yes” answer in a week or so when Dan got back to her, as he had promised to do.
But then Dan didn’t get back to her. Kate kept him on the active list for weeks, though, and kept projecting income from that deal. She spent a fair amount of time leaving voice mail and email messages for Dan. She even spent time setting up and emailing a revised proposal — based on zero feedback from Dan. That proposal generated no response.
Did Kate ever really have a sale? Our own experience should give us the answer. After all, we’ve probably used “I need to think it over” often enough ourselves to know that the odds were not in Kate’s favor.
Whenever we hear this “think it over” response, we need to remind ourselves that, nine times out of 10, the answer is going to be “no.” But the prospect doesn’t want to say that word “no” out loud. It’s too awkward. Prospects want to be polite, so they give us a gentle letdown and inadvertently send us to camp out on Hope Island.
As professional salespeople, we need to be OK with that awkwardness. If it’s going to be a “no,” we are much better off figuring that out early. Even though, on an emotional level, we may not actually enjoy hearing those words, from a rational standpoint, it’s vitally important that we identify what is really happening in the relationship.
So when you hear “I need some time to think it over,” consider a different approach than the one Kate took. Maybe try planting your feet, standing your ground and being willing to say to the prospect what Kate should have said: “With all due respect, Dan, that decision not to make a decision really is making a decision. That’s a ‘no’ in my world. And it’s OK to tell me that.” She would have gotten a much clearer sense of where he actually stood, and she wouldn’t have spent precious time, effort and energy pursuing a sale that was never going to happen.
Emily Yepes is a sales coach and instructor at Strategic Partner Inc., a South Carolina based franchisee of Sandler Training.