When you’re in sales the word you most want to hear uttered by a prospect is YES, and (as much as you may be loath to admit it) the second best answer is a NO (not a MAYBE, like you might be thinking.)
We all want to have every customer to listen intently to our pitch and rip the pen from our hands because they can’t sign the contract fast enough, but those situation are fewer and farther between than we’d like to admit. Far more likely is that polite pat on the head and a smile that they use to send you back to the office as they say “Let me think about it and get back to you.”
With an answer like that you can go back to your sales manager and report that you presented an opportunity to the prospect and they really, really liked what you put together for them and merely a matter of time before they get the budget approved and sign on the dotted line. In the meantime you mark it for follow-up week after week because they just need one more thing approved.
The road to Hell (or at least the road to a missed car payment or cable bill) is paved with “Maybes” and “Let me think it overs.”
- YES allows you to move forward with the project and close a sale.
- NO allows you to move on and pitch the idea to another prospect.
- MAYBE makes you sit in limbo awaiting responses from additional decision-makers you’ve probably never met, and each day that goes by without a YES makes that answer seem less and less likely while increasing your anxiety and impotent anticipation.
Here are some tips on how to get an answer (a YES or a NO) and avoid the MAYBE, baby…
- Before you even bother to create a proposal ask HOW the final decision will be made (not WHO will make the final decision — HOW will the final decision be made.) This way you’ll know if the person to whom you’re speaking is the first step in the decision-making process and exactly what happens after they get your proposal. If there is a committee or a higher level manager making the final choice, you want to sell your contact on the need to have you in the room during the final presentation to answer any last minute questions. The number one reason you can’t walk away from a pitch with a final answer is that you’re not pitching to someone with the power/authority to provide you with that answer.
- Use testimonials from clients who wanted to delay making a decision and decided to purchase anyway (or testimonials from customers who delayed their decision and regretted it ever since.) “Man, I wish we’d made the decision to upgrade to the new system sooner — it cost us money in wasted time and productivity every day we delayed signing the contract.” The number two reason people delay a decision is fear of making a mistake. Assure the prospect of your warranties, guarantees, and service contracts. Make sure they know that you’re not going to leave them hanging out to dry if there’s a problem with the purchase.
- If you are giving your pitch to the correct individual, ask questions at regular intervals during your presentation to make certain everything is crystal clear to the client (how does that sound to you? does everything make sense? do you have any questions about our service plan? etc.) The number three reason for stalling on a final YES/NO is simply being confused about some component of the proposal.
- Set a deadline. Make certain the client realizes a benefit for making a decision by a certain date (or experiences a loss by delaying past the deadline.) Frequently the client will give you a deadline your product or system has to be in place. Work backward from the activation date and determine the timeframe needed to manufactire, ship, install, and train and establish a firm deadline for getting the approval to proceed.
- Let a prospect off the hook if you know they want to say NO, but lack the courage. Some people just don’t want to hurt your feelings by saying NO and feel they’re being kinder by assuring you that they are fully considering your offer (before inevitably saying NO anyway.) If you’re getting that vibe from your prospect, let them know that if the solution you’re currently offering them just doesn’t seem like a match, you’re happy to revisit the opportunity to work together again in the future when their needs and your offer are in better alignment.
Hey, no one wants to hear NO — but it’s so much better in the long run (for both you and the client) to agree on a decision one way or the other rather than doing the dance of indecision and Maybe Mambo.