Sales Answer Man Question of the Month (May 2021)

Q: How do you nurture a lead along when the prospect is not ready to buy yet? What tips do you recommend?

A: I really appreciate your using the word “nurture” in your question. One of the three most important words in professional selling is nurture, nurture, nurture!

Most salespeople feel pressure to push, prod, convince and cajole their prospects into doing something. In essence, they transfer the pressure to the prospect. The prospect attempts to transfer it back through objections, apathy and ghosting.

The first order of business in answering your question is to determine if the prospect plans to buy at all. There are four possible outcomes of every sales call. They are:

  • Yes
  • No
  • Think it over
  • Clear future

Of the above, only one is not good for you or the prospect. It is the dreaded “think it over.” Let’s unpack all four independently.

“Yes” means we are signing the agreement, money is transferring hands and the check clears.

“No” means you are both clear you are not doing business together. Of course, “no” doesn’t mean forever, but it does mean for a period of time. This allows you and the prospect to redirect your time toward something more meaningful.

We do a lot of work with sales professionals to help them become more comfortable with the word “no.” No is rarely personal, and it’s clear. Again – this is a good thing.

One way to have equal business stature is for the salesperson to internalize and even verbalize that “no” is your second favorite answer! If the prospect is comfortable with “no” and you are not, then you can see there is not equal business stature.

A “think it over” is someone who is neutral at best and can’t seem to pull the trigger (yes or no) for whatever reason. Most often the “think it over” is a no wrapped in sheep’s clothing. When a sales professional is uncomfortable with no, the ultimate outcome lingers on.

A “clear future” is different than a think-it-over response because neither of you have enough information to determine if you are good resource for the prospect and his or her project.

For example, let’s pretend you sell a piece of equipment that sorts paper products once they are cut. In the process of visiting the prospect, you discover the machine that cuts the product is causing part of the sorting problem. You both agree it doesn’t make sense to implement your new sorting machine until the cutting machine is fixed or replaced. This is a clear future.

Based on your question of nurturing the sales process along, the “clear future” prospects are where we want to — and will — spend the most time. That assumes we are getting yes or no, and we are not accepting “think it overs.”

If the clear-future prospect and you agree that, once the cutting machine is replaced, he or she will buy your new sorting machine, this is the time to nurture the prospect.

What can we be doing in the meantime? Now you and your prospect are working on things together in harmony, rather than independently or against each other.

Dan Stalp is president of Sandler Training, a sales and professional development firm. He works with CEOs, presidents, business owners who sell, and peak performers who are tired of walking by their salespeople’s offices to see them on their computers instead of on their phones — and sick of having a superior product and losing out on price. dstalp@sandler.com • (913) 451-1760 • DanStalp.com