It happens to every salesperson sooner or later: A prospect will want your product or service, but still isn’t willing to commit. The good news is that the prospect has some desire for your product or service. The bad news is something is stopping the prospect from buying now.
What a stall signals
A stall signals conflict. The conflict is the agony of indecision between the desire to have the benefit of your product versus feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. When the desire to have your product or service is great enough, prospects will buy.
Stalls normally mean your prospects don’t have enough reason to buy now. You obviously need to do something, but what? If your salespeople accept these stalls, you may lose most of your prospects. Rarely do they “think it over,” then make a buying decision. Studies show that more than half of stalling prospects look around for another supplier.
There are three stalls in sales negotiations:
- An impasse, when there is disagreement on a major issue and it threatens negotiations
- A stalemate, when a salesperson and the buyer are still talking, but seem unable to make any progress toward a solution, and
- A deadlock, when the lack of progress has frustrated both sides so much that neither sees any point in talking to each other anymore.
Resolving an impasse, stalemate and deadlock
To handle an impasse, try setting aside the impasse issue and discussing minor issues first. This establishes some momentum in the negotiations, which will make the big issues easier to resolve. Power sales negotiators understand the other side will become much more flexible after you’ve reached agreements on the small issues.
Resolving a stalemate is necessary when both sides are motivated to find a solution but neither can see a way to move forward. The response to a stalemate should be to change the dynamics of the negotiation by altering one of the elements, such as altering the venue (continuing over lunch or dinner) or changing the finances (by extending credit, reducing the deposit amount or restructuring payments).
Keep an open mind about the possibility of a deadlock. You can only develop your full power as a sales negotiator if you’re prepared to walk away.
Getting back on track
Here are suggestions to get derailed negotiations back on track:
- Act quickly to resolve problems before the conflict comes to a head
- Ask the prospect why there seems to be a problem
- Calm down, stay cooperate, and
- Try to see things from the prospect’s point of view.
When prospects hesitate
“Hesitation is natural. Hesitation can be helpful. Hesitation may uncover needs that may help you negotiate better.”
The truth is, most salespeople have heard these words time and time again. And yet, they still get that sinking feeling as soon as a prospect says, “We’d like to think it over.”
Why shouldn’t they? They feel like their grip on the sale is slipping, so they scramble to tighten their grasp. Much too often, that tightening causes the sale to slip through their fingers.
So how do you hedge the hesitation while moving the sale forward? It’s a delicate balance, but there are several ways to do it.
See the buyer, be the buyer
Consider any major buying decision you’ve ever made: a car, a house, maybe even a boat. You asked questions. You needed time to consider the offer. This was a natural part of the buying process.
It’s no different for your prospects. They’re making a buying decision on behalf of their company. And if it turns out to be a poor one, they’ll have to answer for it. So the first step in dealing with prospects who stall is to acknowledge they have reasons to do so. Take solace. They’re interested. And they want to know more.
Here are some strategies for effectively dealing with buyer hesitation during a negotiation:
- Try to anticipate objections your prospect may raise. That way you can be prepared to deal with them early on and impress the prospect in the process.
- When objections arise, use probing questions to help the prospect discover the answer for themselves. For example, “If you knew the product you were purchasing could cut labor costs by 10% over the next two years, would that be worth the investment?”
Seeing constant hesitation from buyers may provide an opportunity to tweak something in your sales presentation. Here are effective ways to minimize the threat of hesitation and more the negotiation forward:
- Track the objections you hear and at what point in the presentation they occur. You may find prospects are reacting to something you’re saying (or not saying).
- Prepare a list of common objections and responses in advance. Practice the responses, so when objections arise the conversation will continue to flow naturally.
- Stay in control by asking questions. Ask your prospect for suggestions on how you can move the sale forward.
- Acknowledge the prospect’s objections and put them at ease by telling him or her it’s something you hear a lot.
- State that you understand the prospect’s position, even if you don’t agree with it.
- Center your thinking on solutions to their problems, as opposed to stewing over your presentation being thrown off course.
Remember what’s important
The most important thing to remember when dealing with prospects who stall is that you’re working for them. You need to put yourself in their shoes and try to understand what they want and what you need to do in order to satisfy those needs.
You’ve asked questions and taken good notes. Now you can go back to them to get to the heart of what’s missing, and — more importantly — what you can do to fix it. The bottom line is something’s impeding your progress. In most cases, you’ll need to do some legwork to make the obstacle disappear.
Offering a concession
If you’re offering a concession to end a stalled negotiation, it’s absolutely essential that the concession fits the stall. In other words, make sure your solution solves the problem.
- Why is the negotiation stalling?
- What concessions am I allowed to offer, if any?
- Will my concession solve the problem and close the sale?
Now you’re ready to stop the hesitation and move forward with the sale. Some salespeople feel that buyer hesitation means the sale is slipping away. Good negotiators realize that hesitation may uncover needs that help move negotiations to a successful close.