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'I have to think about it'

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'I have to think about it'

"I have to think about it” is only six words, but it says a lot — or not.

We used to say at the sales counter, “Get the greenbacks, not the comebacks.” Of course, money in the cash drawer is always better than a promise.

No matter how good your sales presentation, your listening skills, your reputation, sooner or later every sales person will hear these dreaded words, “I have to think about it.” Because “I have to think about it” is vague, it can mean a variety of different things. It can mean “No”; it can mean “I’m not comfortable”; it can be a stall tactic. Whatever it is, it’s not clear, and to get the necessary clarity, it’s going to require more effort to discover the real reason behind the objection.

Your prospective customer is attempting to close the door on your presentation, and you must, in effect, put your foot in the door. It’s awkward at best, and traditional techniques for overcoming objections just don’t work.

Find the common ground

The primary reason this scenario is so awkward is because you know that your next words will determine if you’ll ever see that customer in your store again. Too much pressure and they are gone forever. The “just-right words” may salvage a sale either now or later.

Either way, you must find common ground! Remember, you’re not the only one feeling a little awkward, and it’s your job to control the conversation, to strengthen the trust required to make the sale now or at a later date. If at all possible, you never want to end awkwardly.

Common ground is found initially by asking for a few more moments of the prospect’s time. Then you must reiterate important points in the original dialog, attempting to establish or re-establish a deeper level of trust that will facilitate your prospective customer to reveal the true nature of his/her objection, remembering that some customers do just have to think about it.

Common ground is found by re-focusing on the prospect’s needs. This works because the needs have not changed, which is a point you and the prospect can both agree on. Agreement, of course, is important. Depending on the response you receive, you may want to ask more direct questions. “Is my price too high?” “Were you looking for a lower-priced product?” “You don’t have the time to get the service now?” Is there anything I can do to help you make up your mind?” These types of direct questions require direct answers that will give you the insights you need to either press on or back off.

Handling emotions

Remember that you are never in complete control of the sales process because a lot of what’s taking place in the exchange is emotional. Emotion plays a part in everyone’s decision process. I suggest that you may attempt to personalize the conversation with “you” words rather than “I” words. “If you have the work done now, you’ll drive away safer and you’ll find that blah-blah-blah,” or “If you schedule an appointment now for tomorrow, we can give you a ride to work and pick you up, if necessary,” or, “You’ll enjoy more peace of mind if you get this taken care of now.”

All of these comments, and a million others like them, help express concern for the prospect and your desire to help. One of my favorite sales techniques for showing or demonstrating empathy is the “feel-felt-and found” method. It goes something like this, “I know how you feel. I’ve felt the same way, but let me tell you what I’ve found.”

In the case of Mr./Mrs. I-have-to-think-about-it, it sounds like this, “I know how you feel. $750 is a lot of money for two tires and an alignment. I felt the same way a couple of months ago when I had to replace all four of my tires. What I found is the family van rides much nicer and my wife is much happier. I had to do it.”

Any way you choose, the key, as always, is trust. A sincere and concerned approach that is followed by more sincere concern will help when your prospect requires more time or more convincing. When addressing or re-addressing the prospect’s need to “think about it,” don’t be defensive, be more helpful, be more empathetic. Listen more carefully, and be attentive to body language.

Wayne Williams is president of ExSell Marketing Inc., a “counter intelligence” firm based in La Habra, Calif. He can be reached at

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