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Never Take No from Someone Who Can’t Say Yes

By JoAn Majors

When it comes to making a proposal or pitch to deliver your product or service to a prospect, remember that the question is not just the answer; the question is the cure. Whether you are presenting legal services to a corporation, a plastic packaging system to a food manufacturer, paper products to an office supply company or a treatment plan to a patient, keep in mind that the one asking the question actually controls the conversation. So find out early if the person you are speaking to can actually make the decision to purchase the product or service you seek to provide.

Many people simply cannot make a definite choice on their own. Decision-making is not something they can do solo; they must go to someone else—a partner, manager or someone higher up in the company—in order to make up their own minds. Rather than dismissing such prospects as immature or irresponsible or a colossal waste of your time, understand that your judgment is getting in the way of providing them with what they need. Instead, treat these customers with a greater degree of care since they are no doubt already uncertain, possibly insecure, maybe in a little over their heads. It’s very likely that discussing proposals that cost a lot of money or time are not their favorite conversations. In this increasingly complex world, many business as well as families, couples and even individuals practice a division of labor, especially where purchasing goods and services is concerned and particularly when money is tight and times are tough.

Let’s imagine such a scenario. Albert, your prospect, has been listening to the options you have outlined and now says one of three things:

1)   “I need to think about it.”

2)   “I’ll have to talk to my manager about that.”

3)   “That’s awfully expensive (or time consuming). I can’t make that kind of decision independently.” 

In the first case, Albert has elected to share very little information. Instead of meeting his defensiveness with your own defensive thought, “So what does he need to think about?,” understand that he is actually telling you a great deal, namely that he’s too uncomfortable to share the actual objection or that there may be a third party involved. That’s a tip-off to you that a greater degree of trust is necessary before any disclosure about the real issue can take place. In the second case, Albert is revealing his dilemma and not just brushing you off, so don’t brush off his remark. Although you and have spent plenty of time getting to know him and his business and presenting your information in his style, it’s now time to find out more about his manager. In the third case, an actual objection is stated---it’s expensive (or time consuming)---and Albert tells you he needs help with the decision. Knowing the objection AND that another person is involved in the decision makes it a great deal easier to proceed.

In all three cases, your concern is how to encourage the person not present to consider your proposal. Your job is to give Albert---your walking, talking marketing tool---the opportunity to send a beneficial and acceptable message to the person who in fact may make the final decision. So what do you say?

“In addition to you, is there anyone else who might influence the decision?” Or: “Besides you, is there anyone who might also be interested in the proposal we’re discussing?”

Please take note: neither question demeans Albert, exploits his indecision or forces his hand in any way. Your neutrality assumes a simple reality that someone else might be involved. It’s a natural outcome of the conversation expressed with curiosity. What might the prospect most likely say?

“Yes, my stockholders (or lawyer, accountant, financial advisor).”

“What might his or her concerns about this proposal be?”  Or: “What is it that your manager (or stockholders, etc.) might want to know about this product or service?”

Sometimes it’s price or payment plan or return on investment; sometimes it’s function or longevity. You can never know until you find out more, and you can only find out more by asking with care, concern, respect and non-judgment.

It is quite a time saver if you can ask this in the beginning of the phone interview or initial visit, particularly if the product or service is relatively new or its value is still not common knowledge. Realize that the more information you can find out about your prospect’s concerns and objections, the more material you have at your disposal. The art of persuasion is nothing more than building a roadmap that establishes value and integrity to the product or service and results in what we call “destination known.”

This simple communication skill can change those folks who drive us nuts because they just cannot decide. Many individuals simply can never say yes to anything. Should that stop them from benefiting from your excellence and getting what they actually came to you for? Structure your presentation or pitch so that you make it easy for the indecisive ones to do what you want them to do and hard for them to do what you don’t want them to do.

Making it easy for them to get what they need means involving the decision-maker in a respectful and encouraging way. When it comes to getting a prospect’s concerns out in the open and knowing the decision-makers, don’t be afraid to ask!

Read other articles and learn more about JoAn Majors.

[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis. Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and requirements.]

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