You have invested a significant amount of time, money, and energy into an opportunity. Then the buyer says they want to “think it over.” What should you do?
Maybe it’s easier to begin with what you shouldn’t do. All too often, salespeople simply agree to postpone the decision and check in later.
If we’re feeling particularly brave, we may even suggest a date and time for the next contact. This approach typically leads to a cycle of delays, miscommunication, and potentially some evasion by the prospect. Neither party benefits.
Determining exactly where you stand is far more effective. Use any of these five questions to identify your prospect’s reservations and propose a mutually beneficial agreement.
1. Identify the three most likely obstacles and ask the prospect to choose one
“That’s totally understandable. Most of our customers need time to think it through. Could it be that you’re worried about the cost, implementation, or not being too sure about what you’ve heard from us?"
Stop talking after you say this. Wait for the prospect to identify which of the three obstacles they are concerned about or identify another reason that’s keeping them from moving forward.
2. Ask for permission to speak candidly
“Hmm. If I believed that you were making the wrong decision, how might I tell you that without you getting upset?”
The other person always asks you to go ahead and speak your mind. Focus on the biggest emotional pain in this person’s world you have identified that you can solve, and explore the financial implications of leaving that problem unaddressed.
3. Get a reality check
“Most of the time I when hear, ‘Let me think about it,’ what people really mean is ‘No thanks.’ Can you tell me is that what’s happening here today?”
Many salespeople are afraid to pose this question because they believe they are somehow “planting a negative thought” in the prospect’s mind. David Sandler, the founder of Sandler Training, used to say, “You can’t lose what you don’t have.” If you need a reality check, ask for one.
Ironically, posing this question usually gives you the information you need to rescue the sale. You’ll learn if there is a chance of working together. If there is not, it is better to know now before you waste any more time.
4. Request the next step
“Okay, well that makes sense. I think I’d be saying the same to you about now. What should we do next so that I properly understand when and if I should follow up, or just close the file and move on?”
The beauty of this approach is that you are agreeing with the prospect -- and using that agreement to clarify exactly what will happen next. You’re trying to secure a mutual understanding about what you’re each agreeing to do, and when.
Maybe you get the opportunity to schedule a phone conversation for next week, at which point the prospect commits to giving you a final decision. That’s better than having no idea what’s happening.
5. Set a timeframe
“Makes sense. Tell me, if I don’t hear back from you by [date], what should I do?”
This question is probably the simplest and most direct option on this list, and thus the one you may want to try first. It’s easy to remember, easy to ask, and encourages the prospect to share what’s going on. Try it. You may be surprised at how much good information you uncover and at the new avenues of opportunity that emerge.
6. Ask what will change
"Interesting. Can I ask what specifically you'll be thinking over? How can I help you think through those points right now?"
Many times, when a prospect wants to "think it over," it's to consider the information they already have or dwell on areas where they're unsure about your product. It's not constructive for them to do this on their own. Help them "think it over" on the phone and facilitate clearer decision making.
7. Check on key stakeholders
"I understand. As you and your team are considering your final decision, is there anyone who's on the fence I should speak with? Are there talking points I can arm you with in these conversations?"
In the final stage of the decision making process, your prospect will likely convene with other key stakeholders to make a final vendor choice.
This is your last opportunity to give prospects the talking points they need to be your champion in this meeting. Ask if there's anyone else you should speak with, and be willing to offer any last-minute support your prospect requires.
8. Tell them you'll follow up
"Great. I'll follow up with you on Monday. How does that sound?"
Your prospect may "think it over" until the opportunity has passed. To avoid this, set a firm timeline for yourself while setting expectations for your prospect. They know you'll expect them to have a decision by the time you touch base. So, give them a realistic timeline (five-to-seven business days) that allots enough time for them to meet with other stakeholders.
If they haven't made a decision by that time, set fresh expectations and move your timeline up to create a sense of urgency.