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How often have you experienced an awkward silence during a sales call because the prospect asked a question you weren’t exactly sure how to respond to? If you’ve been in this position, don’t worry -- this happens on sales calls more than you think.

The common reaction for most sales reps is to get back to the parts of the service or product they are most knowledgeable about and move the conversation forward. But what about the question the prospect asked? If you just forget about it and keep talking about the benefits of your product, they'll decide to buy eventually -- right?

Probably not.

So if ignoring the question and hoping it goes away doesn’t work, what does? What should you do when the prospect poses a question you don’t quite know how to answer?

Say three short words:

“I don’t understand.”

While some reps might be afraid to say these words and reveal a chink in their “trusted advisor” armor, let me make the case for why this is the best option when you’re truly stumped.

“I don’t understand” allows you to clarify.

Understanding exactly what your prospect is saying allows you to avoid deal-disrupting miscommunications down the road. With this opening, the prospect can explain the question further so you can gather as much information as possible before responding.

"I don't understand" provides an opportunity to follow up.

In the event you get stumped with a prospect, saying you don’t know but will pursue the information with someone who does creates a perfect opportunity to follow up after the call is over. You can add value to your follow up by providing the requested information, while impressing the prospect with your diligence and commitment.

"I don't understand" allows you to gain new knowledge.

From now on you’ll know how to properly inform prospects seeking similar information. A knowledgeable sales rep is a trustworthy sales rep, and any opportunity you have to gain information is one you want to take advantage of.

"I don't understand" helps you become more likable.

Recent studies suggest that being honest makes you more likable. Instead of feeling like you don’t know what you’re talking about, a prospect will likely be impressed with a sales rep who admits that they don’t understand something. This proves your honesty and your willingness to be up front.

"I don't understand" enables you to ask better questions.

Instead of just moving on to the next part of the call, use “I don’t understand” to gather more information about your prospect and gain insight on how to refine your questions. Asking the right questions can help prospects paint a clear picture of their business, their plan, and their pain. With additional information, you can adjust your strategy to fit exactly what the buyer is looking for.

“I don’t understand” prompts them to use their own words.

Instead of trying to rephrase the prospect’s question for them, prompting them with “I don’t understand” gives the prospect the freedom to explain their situation and pain point in their own words. The rep can now get insight into how this prospect views their pain points, which is incredibly valuable when trying to tailor a solution and sell value.

Saying “I don’t understand” on a sales call isn’t the end of the world. Sales reps can strategically use this phrase to uncover a prospect’s meaning and give a genuine response. Remember, the prospect isn’t going to have all the answers. It’s okay if you don’t either. Put the focus on the relationship and providing value, and you’ll be okay.

Understand?

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Originally published Dec 17, 2015 8:30:00 AM, updated February 01 2017

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Trust in Sales