Let us play the hypothetical game, and imagine you are wrapping up a sales presentation and based on your expertly honed and finely tuned instincts, you can tell the sale is not going to happen today. You sense something is missing, or that another decision maker needs to be involved, and you know that pushing for a decision in the moment is likely to ultimately cost you the sale. 

Now what? Do you just accept the “let us think about it” you know is coming, or do you try to use pressure to close the prospect while you have them in front of you?

In truth, neither of those options is a good idea.  You do need a strategy to proceed forward.

You have several objectives at a moment like this (again, assuming you have correctly identified that this prospect is not going to do business today).

1 – Keep the prospect engaged (time kills all deals)
2 – Keep the trust you have earned by not attempting to force close it today.
3 – Identify the level of real interest in the prospect, and identify any specific hesitations or concerns they may still have.

Easiest way to do that is to take control of the conversation and set the next step. If you allow that awkward silence to hit at the end and are put in a position where the prospect is forced to step up and take control by default, you are going to walk out with the feeling of failure, and probably looking desperate to get the business. So take control, and even if the next step isn’t them signing, set a specific next step.

Lock in on the pause in the conversation, and say something like this, 

“so, at this point, Mr Prospect, here is what I suggest. I can follow up with some numbers on both the options we discussed today, which I will email this evening? Can I call you Tuesday afternoon around 3pm and follow up to address any other questions that may come up and we can decide at that time if we want to move forward or not?”

Making it a “suggestion” eliminates any perception of pressuring the prospect, and mentioning a yes/no decision moment eliminates the open ended consideration period.

This approach does a couple of things. First of all, it releases the pressure of the moment, and in doing so, locks in the consultative nature of the call. Secondly, it sets a specific next step. In doing that, you will flush out the Prospect’s real interest level, and also, by asking, can flush out any hidden objections. There is always the possibility that this will flush out an objection at that moment, and possibly re-engage the prospect in the present.

When the prospect agrees to your suggested plan, you follow up with, “Great. I want to send you everything you need, aside from the numbers, is there anything else you’ll need to be able to make a decision on this?” 

The key to this idea, is that whether or not the next step is buying or not, the very least it can be is…your idea. Your plan.  Maintain control of the conversational path and keep things moving forward, towards a yes or a no.

The specific sales conversation is almost always going to be a higher priority for you, than it is for them. You have to own setting the next step, because left in the control of your prospect, there is a good chance they will get distracted by other priorities and stay in the maybe zone. The maybe zone is torture to your sales psyche.

A sales professional manages the conversation, sets an agenda, and suggests a next step (and again, the next step might be to disqualify them, disqualify yourself, or both). Try to never walk away from a current client engagement without a specific next step being set.