Consider this scenario: You’re trying to pry a prospect away from their tried-and-true solution. You make what you think is a compelling case.
In an ideal world, your prospect would be so bowled over by the clearly superior value you offer that they give you their business on the spot. But this is the real world, not an ideal world, and the customer says something like: “You’ve given me a lot to think about here. I need some time to sleep on it.”
You agree, of course. But then what?
Do you let the buyer slumber in peace? Or do you use this time to keep your value proposition top of mind – sending notes and e-mails, checking in, “remembering” one more point that you didn’t cover in your presentation, passing along testimonials from satisfied customers?
Some compelling – and surprising — research suggests that the best thing you can do is to leave the buyer alone.
In a series of experiments, researchers at a Dutch university and Cornell 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 students who were given the option to put off the decision – in other words, to “sleep on it” — only 42% picked the familiar option. That’s a 30-point difference.
Another 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, and a heck of an advantage in sales.
Even more interesting is why the status quo choice loses its luster when people delay their decision. When the researchers interviewed the subjects about their decision-making process, they found that the subjects grew more doubtful as they mulled over their decision. But the doubt didn’t land on the new choice. It landed on the familiar option.
The implication for sales: If you’re selling against the status quo, time is on your side. After you’ve made your best case, you might want to just sit back and let the buyer chew on it. Or if you feel you must follow up, you might do better to get them focused on the shortcomings of the status quo option, rather than on your product or service. You don’t want to trash your competitor, of course, but you could remind buyers of the reasons they were thinking about making a switch.
So next time a prospect tells you they want to “sleep on it,” you might sleep a little better yourself.
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