The Sales Answer Man: Question of the Month
Q: How do you nurture a lead along when the prospect is not ready to buy? What tips do you recommend? — Bill Brelsford, President, Rebar Business Builders
Bill, I really appreciate your using the word “nurture” in your question. One of our Sandler Rules is this: The three most important words in professional selling are nurture, nurture, nurture!
Most salespeople feel pressure to push, prod, convince and cajole their prospects into doing something. When they do this, they transfer their pressure to the prospect. The prospect attempts to transfer it back through objections, criticism, not returning phone calls, and so on.
The first order of business in answering your question is to determine if your prospect plans to buy at all. There are four possible outcomes to every sales call. They are: “Yes,” “No,” “Think it over,” and “Clear future.
Of the above, the only one that is not good for you or the prospect is the “think it over.” Let’s talk about all four independently.
Yes and no
“Yes” is defined as a signed agreement; money has transferred hands and the check has cleared.
“No” means you are both clear that you are not going to be doing business together. Of course, “no” doesn’t mean forever, but it does mean for now. 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.
‘Think it over’ and a clear future
A “think it over” prospect is one who is neutral at best and can’t seem to “pull the trigger” (answer yes or no) for whatever reason. More often, a “think it over” is a “no” wrapped in sheep’s clothing. Because the sales professional is uncomfortable with giving a hard no, the prospect will also be indirect in saying no. This wastes everyone’s time.
A clear future is something that both parties agree needs to happen before you can work with each other. Once this takes place, it’s game on.
For example: Let’s pretend you sell a piece of equipment that sorts paper products once they are cut. In the process of talking to the prospect, you discover the machine that cuts the product is causing part of the sorting problem. You may both agree that it doesn’t make sense to implement your new sorting machine until they fix or replace the cutting machine. This is a clear future.
Based on your question of nurturing the sales process along, the “clear future” prospects are where we will spend the most time. This assumes we are getting yes or no – and we are not accepting “think it overs”.
In the example above, you and the prospect both agree the cutting machine needs to be fixed before purchasing your new sorting machine. At this point, you can guide the prospect through what can be done in the meantime. That way, once the cutting machine is fixed, the new sorting machine will replace the old one.
Now you and the prospect are working on things together in harmony, rather than independently and, in many cases, against each other.
This monumental new year of 2020 is a great excuse to seek clarity on all your sales calls. By being intentional about this all year, you will be in the habit of doing this in the year 2021 and beyond.
When you seek clarity on a sales call, you have a different posture. You can be assertive and not accept “wishy-washy” language from your prospects anymore.
About the Author
Dan Stalp is a Thinking Bigger Foundational Partner
Dan 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 office to see them on their computer instead of on their phone and sick of having a superior product and losing out on price.
You can reach Dan at:
Phone: (913) 451-1760