You’re trying to dislodge a prospect’s current vendor. You’re on a roll. The buyer is nodding in agreement. But when you ask for the sale, the prospect leans back and says, “Gee, it sounds good. But I gotta sleep on it.”

Of course, in complex sales, nobody expects buyers to make an on-the-spot decision. At some point, buyers are going to go away and think about it. That’s a nerve-wracking period for most salespeople. To increase the odds of getting a yes, many use that time to shower the prospect with information about their product or service.

And THAT could be a mistake. Research suggests that calling attention to your product while the buyer is “mulling it over” could actually make it LESS likely you’ll get the sale, according to researchers at Cornell and a Dutch university.

In a series of experiments, the researchers asked students to choose between two articles for a reading assignment. The first was a classic piece that the students had seen before. The other article was brand new. When the students were told to choose immediately, 72% picked the classic article — the one they
were used to.

But among those students given the option to delay — basically, to “sleep on it” — only 42% picked the familiar option. That’s a 30-point difference.

A similar experiment by the same researchers — this time, involving political incumbents — bore out those results. When asked to choose immediately, 82% of respondents said they’d vote for the incumbent. But when people were given a chance to mull over the decision, the incumbent got only 56% of the votes. That’s a change of 26 percentage points – a landslide in politics.

When the researchers interviewed the subjects about their decision-making process, they found that their doubts grew as they mulled over their decision. But what’s really startling was WHERE the subjects PLACED their doubts.

The doubt didn’t land on the NEW choice. They landed on the FAMILIAR option: that well-thumbed article or the incumbent politician.

Stay out of the spotlight
So when buyers are mulling it over, you don’t want buyers focused on your solution. You want them focused on what brought them to the table in the first place: why they’re not 100 percent happy with the solution they have now. Their question is less likely to be “Why don’t I feel comfortable about this new product?” and more likely to be “Why don’t I feel more comfortable with the product I’ve had all this time?”

You can encourage that thought process with a little prompting. When the buyer says she “needs to think about it,” you might say something like: “Of course — this is a big decision. All I would ask is that you give some thought to whether your current system can meet your needs going forward.”

That’s it. Simply plant the suggestion and let it take root. Then let time work in your favor. And if you want to follow up, reinforce these doubts with gentle questions in the same direction — for example: “So what are your thoughts about your current system?”

Of course, there WILL be times when you want to keep your visibility high. If you’re getting strong buying signals and the buyer just needs a little encouragement to say yes, by all means offer that encouragement. If the buyer doesn’t truly understand your product or your value proposition, give them the information they need to make a good decision. And if you’re selling against a competitor – NOT just against the status quo – you’ll probably want to take a more active approach.

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