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Is That Agreeable Prospect Actually Going to Sign With You?

The Situation

Jenna sells wholesale office supplies to businesses. She has called on prospect Andy several times in recent months. He seems to like her company’s products.

She hopes that Andy will commit to a contract today:


You want coffee? It’s about the only thing your company doesn’t provide (laughs).


I’m fine. Andy, since you are familiar with my company’s inventory, I hope we can review the pricing and contract terms I sent to you.


Oh. Well, of course, we can get to it. You know we’ve had several offers from other companies. You probably can’t please everyone when —


—  I’d like to show what we could do for you. What do you think of this program?


Looks terrific!


Good. And did you notice the volume discount on copy paper?


Yes, it’s great!


Jenna feels everything is going well — too well? Finally, Andy asks a question:


I noticed that this contract is for three years. I guess those are always the terms?


Well, that’s our standard contract. The length is what allows us to offer these deep discounts.


Sure. Makes sense. My boss generally doesn’t go for longer contracts. But office supplies are different. It should be fine.


Andy remains optimistic about the contract and says he’ll get back to her, hopefully with good news. 

Later, in an e-mail, Andy apologizes to Jenna, saying that his company has decided to re-sign with their current provider. Jenna is frustrated and perplexed. What advice about Q4 influencing skills might she have applied to achieve a better result?

Question Easy Agreement

Q3 customer behavior is overly friendly and eager to please. Of course, it could be that all the stars are aligned and that you’re selling exactly what the customer wants. It’s better, however, to slow down the process to check that comments like “sounds great” or “looks terrific” are supported by commitment.


Jenna didn’t do that. Andy enjoys the selling process, and didn’t want to spoil this pleasant meeting with negativity. So, he remained superficial in his responses, even if he might have doubts that his boss would actually approve this deal.


How, then, can a salesperson develop commitment without seeming insulting? You can’t exactly say, “Come on, Andy, let’s cut to it — are you ready to reach an agreement?”


Get Specific and Focus

When you’re facing customers who seem too quick to agree, make sure that they are really receptive to a meaningful discussion. While still being friendly, Jenna should have pressed Andy to go over the details of the contract together. Q3 is often light on specifics —  it avoids getting into the weeds or negotiating. Gently but firmly, she should have tested if he was really ready to engage.


If he wasn’t, Jenna might have suggested how they could move forward to a decision. It’s important to stay specific with Q3. Try to set limits and keep the goal in mind. It’s usually a risky move to suggest including the prospect’s boss in the discussion, because it may look like you are going over his head. But in this case, putting the decision in the hands of the real decision-maker could take the pressure off someone like Andy.


Probe for Details

The second tactic with Q3: Probe for more details. Andy asked in a Q3 benign way about the length of the contract. This should have signaled Jenna to get more info: “Andy, how many years does your boss prefer?” “Are my terms a deal-breaker for him?”


Be patient with Q3, and you can get that name on the dotted line.