Stop Trying to Extract a “Yes” From Your Prospect

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Stop Trying to Extract a “Yes” From Your Prospect– Instead, Resolve the “How” and “When”


As salespeople, we are often coached on how to get a prospect to commit.  Hearing a “yes” often brings about a huge amount of relief and a sense of crossing the finishing line. It’s become a victory, and a reason for the salesperson to celebrate.

But the reality is that “yes” is often the start of the buying process.  We should be more focused on a conversation that addresses the “How” and “When” that comes after the commitment.

Most businesses have a complex procurement environment.  Even if there is no standalone purchasing team, there are typically several stakeholders who influence and contribute to the buying decision.  It is this matrix decision environment that means one simple “Yes” is not enough. Especially when you are solving a problem for someone with your product, you need to get to “How” and “When.”

When a prospect says “yes,” without being able to articulate the particulars of delivery and timeframe, you likely only have an in-principle agreement to proceed. It’s merely a step forward in the qualification process.

We’ve all experienced what we thought was a closed deal only to find that it stalls after the initial agreement. All of a sudden there are hurdles or issues to be addressed.

When that happens, it is a clear signal that some of the stakeholders are not on the same page or have outstanding issues or concerns. It means that we haven’t resolved the practical application of our solution in the clients’ environment.

Rather than push for a “Yes” salespeople need to resolve how their solution is implemented. The practicalities can include things like how projects teams are formed, how approvals are gained, how the success of the project is going to measured— these are all issues that will need to be answered to get the clients’ problem solved.  The how questions are best resolved with the salesperson in the room rather than left to the prospect to work it all out.

“When” is the other key point.  There needs to a commitment from both parties as to when things will be done.  If you cannot define a timeline with your client, consider it a red flag about their commitment to solving the problem. Clarity around the delivery dates means there is clarity around when a closed sale and invoicing can be accurately forecast.

The side effect of working through the process of “how” and “when” is that it leads to a natural conversation of “who.”  Salespeople are sometimes coached to ask “who is the decision maker” and  “who signs the purchase order” but these questions frequently come across as pushy and dismissive of the prospect.  Instead, if you work through the how and when in a logical manner, the who will naturally be revealed.


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