The Reluctant Prospect

There is a certain kind of buyer… we all know him/her…  who just cannot pull the trigger when it comes to closing. He keeps delaying, or analyzing or just scheduling meeting after meeting. This is very tough on us as salespeople because sometimes it feels like we are close, only to be delayed again, so we never really know if we have a real prospect or not, but we keep trying.

In these cases, you may be dealing with a prospect who is paralyzed by fear… generally the fear of making a mistake. These people feel great emotional pain when they get something wrong, and they try to avoid that pain at all costs. So they defer decisions, not just with you but in many areas of their lives, and they actually prefer the stress of carrying a lot of ambiguity over taking what they perceive as a chance.

These are very difficult buyers to close, but there are some techniques you can use to try to get to a decision. The most effective is often dealing with them on their same emotional level by presenting a case that not deciding presents more risk and pain than deciding.  For example, if interest rates look like they are going up for a possible mortgage, the buyer needs to understand the pain he will feel by deferring the decision, losing his lower-priced offering. Usually, this needs to be discussed calmly… not with alarm… but probably several different ways so it will really sink in (interest rates rise, monthly payments rise, total money that could be lost over the term).  We need to be careful with deadlines, which can scare and turn these ultra-sensitive buyers off.  It’s more about respecting their fears and turning their attention from just fearing our decision to comparing it with the possible consequences of making no decision. The key is really getting into a conversation with enough imagery and detail that it touches the buyer emotionally, because that is where the fear lives.

One salesperson I know had a great analogy. He said that dealing with buyers like this are like offering sugar to a very skittish horse. No sudden moves, no loud noises… just hold that lump of sugar out there, quietly talk to the horse and let him meander over to you. At the end of the day, it is about trust and the buyer’s perception that he is not going to get hurt.

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