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Sales Strategy
Is Your Prospect Hesitating? Are You Surprised?
Feb 15, 2010 | Colleen Francis lock

Did you ever notice that the most excited prospect, the one who loves your product the most and can find nothing wrong with it, is also the prospect who has no power to say yes? Hesitation and questions about your product can come only from real decision-makers. Why? Because hesitation caution, questions and objections are a natural response from any serious buyer about to engage on a substantial investment.

Despite the fact that hesitation is a natural part of the buyer's decision-making process, most salespeople don't recognize why it happens, and in turn react poorly when it does. We need to ask ourselves: if all serious decision makers have questions before making a major purchase, should we be surprised when a prospect hesitates? More importantly, if hesitation and questions are a natural response from serious buyers, what is the best way to address them? The common approach for dealing with questions and objections is fatal to the sales process: PANIC.

How can we control our surprise and stop the panic?

First, let's look at the best way to reduce the overall amount of prospect hesitation you are experiencing. Quite simply, the most effective way to reduce hesitation at the end of the selling cycle is to call high early (to executives), and to be proactive in addressing concerns. Bring questions or objections up first. As a preventative measure, if you run into a certain objection a lot, bring it up first. For example, if you know that your price is never the lowest, you might suggest this to your prospect early in the sales cycle:

"Bob I appreciate all the information you have provided regarding your project, and based on what you have said, I think our products may be able to help you. However, I want to tell you up front that although we are not the most expensive option, we are not ever the cheapest. Knowing this, does it make sense for us to continue with this process?"

If your prospect is going to hesitate and raise questions about your product eventually, you are better to be proactive, bring them up early and tackle the concerns head on so you can move through the sale with ease.

Now, let's assume you have done all the right things and you still have hesitation or objections at the end of the sales cycle - don't worry. It happens to even the top 10 per cent of salespeople some of the time. What should you do?

It's important to understand the real meaning of objections. Prospect hesitation should come as no surprise if you think about it this way: Anyone, yourself included, who is about to make a large investment thinks twice about that decision before they commit. When a prospect is seriously considering your product, it is natural for them to be nervous and re-evaluate the criteria to make sure that they are not making the wrong decision. With software sales, real prospects, ones with decision-making power, almost always become critical at final decision-making stages They are examining their own internal justifications and knocking the idea around vigorously to be sure it is not defective. But remember, prospects do this because they are seriously thinking about engaging! A large investment is at stake, and saying yes is risky.

Viewing objections as negative and ignoring them until the end of the selling process causes sales people to panic, and revert to aggressive non-consultative selling skills. We stop asking questions, stop caring about the customer's concerns, and our confidence disappears. We talk too much, defend our position and practically beg for the order - maybe we start discounting? The deal begins to evaporate as an aggressive defence is launched, fighting for our point of view, rather than working towards an understanding of our prospect's real issues.

Next time, try to avoid adversarial tactics and panic. Remember that your prospect's hesitation is just a defence mechanism designed to protect them against the risk of making a wrong decision. Your job is to help them discover that engaging with you is the right decision.

Improve your hesitation-handling attitude

  • Pre-empt the prospect's objection. Bring it up first and deal with it together early on
  • Help the prospect discover their own answer for the question. Be curious, ask questions and find a way to lead the prospect to their own answer
  • Remember that hesitation is a natural part of the buying process. It's a sign that your prospect is seriously interested in buying, not a sign that they are trying to end the deal

Examine your behaviour

Why are you panicking? Are you doing something to provoke this behaviour in your prospects? Maybe you can prevent or reduce hesitation from occurring:

  • Keep your sales funnel full of prospects so that losing one will not be a big deal
  • Record common hesitations and questions and look for trends and patterns
  • For reoccurring questions, prepare an effective response in advance. Practice these responses with someone outside your sales and marketing department. Try other customers, engineers or consultants
  • Use your new responses and track the results you are getting

Appreciate your prospect's hesitation and try the following new techniques:

  • Don't panic, and stay in control. To be in control requires that you are prepared. Practice and prepare optimal responses to most common questions about your product, services and company
  • Ask questions, to truly understand your prospect's reality. Don't make statements, especially defensive ones
  • Acknowledge when a prospect's position is correct. For example, "Bob you are right, we are not the lowest price product available on the market"
  • State that you understand their position, even if you don't necessarily agree."Bob I can understand that you are not happy with the price, have you seen something lower in the market?"
  • Try making statements that are just a tad more negative than your prospect's. . "Does this mean its over between us Bob?" or "I guess price is the only deciding factor?" . Going negative will help build the momentum for your prospect to swing back to the positive
  • Question, question and question again until you're sure you understand
  • Ask your prospect for suggestions on how the business could move forward
  • Reintroduce them to their original GAP analysis - balance their problems against your offered solution
  • Be creative - Ask you prospect up front, "if I can't find a solution to this objection, does that mean that it is over between us?"


Selling is about helping your prospects solve a problem, not about trying to force them to see your point of view. Objections mean your prospect is asking for help, and you are in a position to help. Be prepared, ask questions, listen, don't panic and engage.

About the Author:

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions ( Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.

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