After having connected with a prospect, qualified their explicit needs, and given a dynamite presentation, the last words you want to hear are: “Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you.” Here’s how one salesperson successfully handled this put-off.
Tina (not her real name) was part of a team of inside salespeople at a major computer manufacturer, selling systems to individual consumers and small businesses. Three months before, I had conducted a new hire sales training program for Tina and her peers. As a group, they had come out of the starting gate running, averaging a 14% closing ratio in their first week, which rose to 19% during the next three months. That ratio would have been even higher, but Tina’s personal closing ratio was languishing at 7%, so she was pulling the group average down.
Tina’s manager told me: “I need you to coach Tina. She’s at the bottom of the heap in terms of sales. She just can’t seem to close. Could you spend some time with her and see if you can figure out how to boost her closing ratio? If we can’t get her sales up, I will probably have to let her go. ”
I sat down with Tina and asked her why she thought she wasn’t able to close more sales than she was.
“I don’t know,” she replied. “I’m following the process, and doing what you told us to in the training. I know the products, and I get on really well with the customers, but I just can’t seem to get them to order.”
“How far along in the sales process do you get before they turn you down?” I asked.
“Well – that’s just it – I go through the whole process, and when I ask for the order, most of them say: ‘Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you.’ And then they just don’t call back.”
“What do you say to them at that point?”
“I give them my direct extension and ask them to call back if they want to place the order. If I’ve quoted them, I give them the quote number so they don’t have to go through the whole configuration process again.”
“And what do they say?”
“They thank me and hang up.”
“And do they call back?”
“Not many of them – I’ve only had a couple call me back.”
“Do you call them back?”
“Sometimes, but we don’t get a lot of time for outbound calls – we’re so busy with the inbound queue.”
I thought about Tina’s answers for a moment, and then said:
“Okay. Let me talk to your manager about the inbound call volume and see if we can do anything about getting you more time to make proactive outbound calls. That’s one thing that will boost your closing ratio. Now, let’s think about how else we could increase your sales. Do you remember in the training when we talked about a question you could ask of a customer who says: “Let me think about it, and I’ll get back to you.”?
“And do you remember what the question was?”
“Mmmm- wasn’t it one of those ‘Obviously….’ questions?”
“That’s right. The actual question was: Obviously something specific is causing you to hesitate – do you mind if I ask what it is?”
“Yes – I remember that.”
“Have you tried asking it?”
“Obviously there must be a good reason why you haven’t tried it – do you mind if I ask what it is?”
“Oh – I couldn’t say that!”
“It’s just not me – I wouldn’t feel right saying that.”
“It’s only words, and they might just get you more business. What’s the worst that can happen if you ask that question?”
“Well, I guess they could just not answer or they could hang up.”
“And you don’t get the sale. But what if they told you what was causing their hesitation, and you could do something about it and help them decide there and then?
“I guess I’d probably close more sales.”
“You might. Do you think it’s worth a try?”
“I guess so,” was her hesitant reply.
We role played the question a couple of times and when she felt she was ready, Tina logged on and took a call from the inbound queue. It was from a mother who wanted to buy a computer for her son.
The call went swimmingly well – Tina qualified the mother, configured a system, priced it, and asked the standard closing question of the time: “Will you be using a credit card for this order today?”
The mother replied with the dreaded: “Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you in a couple of days.”
I had been anticipating this, so I had taken out a large piece of paper, and on it I had written: “Obviously something specific is causing you to hesitate, do you mind if I ask what it is?” in big, red, capital letters. I held the paper up and mouthed at Tina: “Say this.”
Tina asked the customer to hold for a moment, then turned to me and said:
“No – I can’t say that – it’s not me.”
“Yes you can,” I implored. “You can do it, it’s just some words. What’s the worst that can happen?”
Tina winced and said: “Okay, I’ll try it.”
She brought the customer back on the line, thanked her for holding, and haltingly read the question.
After a couple of moments of contemplation, the customer said: “You know what, Tina – you’ve been so nice, and the price looks good – I guess I don’t have any reason to hesitate – let’s go ahead with this.”
Tina was so surprised she almost fell out of her chair. She finished the details of the order, thanked the lady for her business, and ended the call. She turned to me in delight, high-fived me, and exclaimed:
“It worked, it worked! Wow – let’s take another call…..”
The very next call was from a doctor wanting two systems for his office. After qualifying, configuring and pricing the systems, Tina asked for the business, and the doctor said he wanted to think about it for a couple of days. This time she confidently came straight out with the question with no fear or trepidation. Amazingly, the same thing happened – the doctor thought about it for a few seconds, then said he didn’t see any reason to hesitate, and he gave Tina the order!
Happily, that month Tina doubled her closing ratio and kept her job.
There are several morals in this tale:
- Don’t get suckered into thinking that just because the customer says they will call back that they actually will.
- Don’t let your imagination work against you to prevent you from trying new techniques. If you are going to imagine an outcome, imagine a positive outcome, rather than a negative one.
- Do try new ideas and techniques – the worst that can happen is you probably won’t be any worse off than before you tried them, and the best that can happen is you get the order!
- This is a great technique for helping customers get over their hesitation.
Try it – it works!
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