Extend the conversation by requesting more information.
Offer a few suggestions "while you've got them."
Investigate whether they have any "use it or lose it" budget.
If all else fails, try to schedule a follow-up meeting right then.
Calling prospects in the last few weeks of Q4 means you’ll hear a season-specific objection: “Can you call me back after the holidays?”
There are three potential reasons you’ll hear this line.
First, your prospect might be interested in learning more but has a legitimate reason to postpone your conversation. Maybe he’s already used up his budget, his team or department is still finalizing next year’s strategy, or he needs to review his current vendor before deciding whether to stay or switch.
Along similar lines, holiday conflicts may be getting in the way. He’s focused on tying up loose ends before he goes on vacation, or a coworker he’d need approval from is gone.
Lastly, the buyer may be blowing you off. He’s hoping you’ll forget about him. If you reach out again in January, he’ll give you another excuse.
It doesn’t matter what the reason is -- don’t say you’ll call back in January and hang up. You’ll end the call without providing any value or learning new information.
These 13 alternative responses will help you figure out why the buyer is delaying and potentially overcome his reluctance to talk.
If They Object During the First Connect
If a prospect asks you to call back without knowing anything about who you are, what you do, and how you can help, she's probably hoping you’ll hang up and never call back. Show her you’re worth his time and pique her interest with an insightful question or suggestion.
1) “Do you have five minutes now to discuss your [goals for X, current approach toward Y, strategy for Z]? If I don’t think we can help, you won’t have to worry about me chasing you in January. If we can help and the timing would be better then, I’ll call back.”
This response shows you’re trying to determine mutual fit. Knowing you’re not trying to sell her right then and there will put the buyer at ease, making her likelier to agree to spend a little longer on the phone. Earn more credibility with a few relevant questions grounded in research and you might wrap up the conversation by scheduling another meeting.
2) “If your company is like mine, it won’t be this quiet until next December. This might be a great opportunity to talk about your needs.”
Most prospects aren’t enthusiastic about starting a new project in December -- they want to finish their existing work and get out of the office. To change the buyer's mind, point out it’s actually an ideal time to speak with you: Most companies have wrapped up major projects, so he can focus on the conversation without the usual interruptions and distractions.
In addition, remind him that it’s better to start planning now and begin the new year with some irons already in the fire rather than scrambling in January -- initiative his boss will appreciate as well.
3) “I understand. How has [recent trigger event] impacted your workload?”
Asking about a compelling event immediately gives you credibility and shows the buyer you’ve done your research. She’ll feel obligated to respond -- and once she’s given you some context, follow up with something along the lines of:
“Many of my clients experience similar [issues, bottlenecks]. I have some ideas for dealing with them. Would you like to hear those?”
4) “I’m going to develop a few suggestions for [prospect’s company] around [likely challenge] before our next conversation. Would you mind answering a few questions to ensure I’m coming up with relevant recommendations?”
Once you’ve engaged the buyer in a meaningful dialogue, you may find he's no longer eager to hang up. But even if you only gather a few key details before your prospect says he needs to go, you’ll be better prepared for the next conversation.
5) “I can certainly call you back in January, but I won’t be able to fully enjoy the holiday knowing [prospect’s company] hasn’t made any progress on [pain point]. To ease my mind, can I offer you a few suggestions on solving [pain point]?”
A tongue-in-cheek answer will catch the buyer off-guard in a good way, making her more receptive to your offer. And once you’ve proven your expertise, your prospect will likely be eager to hear more.
Make sure you don’t launch into your sales pitch: You’ll lose all the goodwill you just generated.
6) “Are you free on [specific date and time]?”
If the buyer presents a valid reason for waiting until January, don’t keep pushing. Lock down a firm date for your follow-up call instead -- and consider assigning some homework. If the prospect completes a mutually beneficial task before your next meeting (like outlining his current process or reading a blog post), he’ll be more invested in the deal. You won’t have trouble picking things back up in the new year.
This question also comes in handy when you suspect your prospect is putting you off. If he becomes flustered or avoids committing to another conversation, transition to another one of the suggested connect call responses (like #1 or #3).
If They Object After the Discovery Call
At this stage of the sales conversation, you’ve learned about the buyer’s challenges and situation -- but she's still in the dark about how your product can help. To secure a next meeting, remind her why taking action is important.
1) “If we wait until next quarter to solve [issue], you’ll [lose X amount per day, fall behind in Y, decrease your yearly revenue by Z percent]. Will that have a significant impact on your business?”
Put your prospect’s potential losses at the top of his mind. She’ll instantly be more motivated to stay on the line.
2) “If you wait until next quarter to do X, you’ll miss [opportunity]. Would capitalizing on [opportunity] significantly affect your [company, team, career]?”
If your prospect typically talks about seizing opportunities rather than fixing problems, use the same approach as question #1, but with a positive twist. He’s probably more motivated by progress and visions of a better future than FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) tactics.
3) “[Prospect name], are you still hoping to accomplish X by [date]? Meeting that deadline will be impossible if we wait until January.”
Have you established a date by which the buyer needs to act? Alert her to the dangers of delaying. She'll see his goal slipping out of sight -- unless he takes action now.
If They Object After the Demo or Presentation
Most objections that arise during this stage concern features or pricing. If the buyer is asking you to call back next month, one of four things has happened:
He's just gotten new information that significantly changes his situation.
He's decided the product isn’t a good fit but wants to avoid telling you ‘no.’
He's unintentionally held back crucial details.
He's still considering other vendors or digesting what he learned during your presentation (which usually means you didn’t incite enough urgency).
To figure out whether you should give up on a deal or keep trying, probe into the reason for the delay or test his interest with new information.
1) “Yes, I can call back. So I have the necessary context, how will your situation be different in January?”
This question helps you figure out whether the buyer has a genuine reason for postponing your conversation. If she says she’s interested in buying but doesn’t have any budget left, ask her to commit now and offer to back-date the contract.
If her circumstances will look significantly different in January, use that information to suggest next steps. As an example, a new executive is coming in and your contact isn’t sure how she’ll shake things up. You might reply, “I recently worked with a customer in the same position -- we developed a proposal she gave to the new leader in their first week. Not only did she make a great first impression, her department got twice as much funding as the year before. Is that something you’d be interested in doing?”
If your prospect doesn’t have a convincing justification, think about moving on. You want to spend January mapping out your sales plan for the rest of the year, not pestering lukewarm leads.
2) “Why did you wait to raise this objection?”
At this point, you’ve both invested significant time and resources into advancing the deal to this stage. You’re justified in calling him out for the unexpected delay.
However, not all prospects will respond well to such a direct style. If the buyer tends to avoid conflict, asking this question may permanently damage the relationship.
Here are two softer versions:
“Could you help me understand why you’re questioning the timing of the deal [now, so late in the process]? This information may change my recommendations.”
“Last time we spoke, you said [you’d do X, you’d have an answer, relevant event would happen] by [date]. Is that no longer the case?”
3) “I don’t want to spend more of your time -- or mine -- if you’re not interested. Do you see [product] as a potential fit for [prospect’s company], or do I have permission to close your file?”
Being straightforward encourages your prospect to be honest as well. Whether she's decided on a different course or simply needed a little push, you’ll get the answer you need to determine your next step.
4) “As a heads up, we’re offering [discount/promotion] -- but only until the end of the year.”
If you’re following up with a good-fit prospect or someone who’s gone dark, a time-sensitive promotion can help incite some much-needed urgency.
Steer clear of this tactic if you’re reaching out to a buyer for the first time. You’re lacking crucial information about his needs and timeline, not to mention his awareness of the problem in the first place. Prematurely offering discounts can also weaken your negotiating position from the get-go, lessen your product’s perceived value, and make you seem too eager to close.
5) "Typically, when someone asks me to call back next quarter after we've reviewed the product together, it means they've actually decided not to buy. Would you say that's the case here?"