You’ve been selling to Ben for a while now. He always takes your calls. Likes what you have to say. Says he’d like to do business with you. Yes, he got your proposal. No, he hasn’t had a chance to look at it yet. He was tied up with all that end-of-the-year stuff. Then he was out for the holidays. Now he’s digging out. And he needs to talk to his boss, who’s also buried. “Terribly sorry this is dragging on,” he apologizes. “I’ll try to get to it this week. Why don’t you call me next Wednesday?”

Lots of sales consultants will suggest you’re wasting your time with Ben. He’s showing the classic signs of a stalled sale. He keeps putting you off. He’s done nothing to advance the sale since the last time you talked. He’s too polite to tell you the truth.

Yet, I’d bet that in the real world, most practicing salespeople would go ahead and call Ben on Wednesday. Why assume Ben is blowing you off? After all, you know what the end of the year is like. You could be walking away from a big sale. And you’ve already put in so much work!

This stuff is trickier than it seems. Especially in complex sales, the difference between a stalled sale and one that’s moving forward can be hard to see. People really are busy. They do need to think over decisions that could have a huge impact on their business. They do need to get input from lots of people. And all that takes time.

So what should you do?

Well, what you shouldn’t do is try to guess whether Ben is the real deal or not. There’s too much at stake.

There’s only one person who really knows whether Ben is serious or not: Ben. So you’re just going to have to ask him. In a way that won’t make Ben feel pressured, or suggest that he’s been less than truthful. It’s a delicate, but necessary, conversation.

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