sales tip

Keeping Customers Focused to Advance Your Sale

The Situation

Leslie is a consultant at a senior living placement agency. She has had several consultations with Daniel about the right senior facility for his elderly mother. Based on previous conversations, they’re meeting to go over the three finalists. Here’s part of the conversation:

Leslie: I know the kind of facility you want for your mother, Daniel, and I have the three best, which we can line up for visits.
Daniel: Great! You really know your stuff, if you can get all the benefits I mentioned for Mom and keep costs so low.
Leslie: Well … uh … I didn’t know cost was the overriding factor. Two of these were not the lowest.
Daniel: Hmm. I thought I mentioned we have to keep a lid on —
Leslie: — Okay, and the ones I chose are not the most expensive. You had said that a facility with lots of activities for residents was very important. That costs more.
Daniel: I know I mentioned activities, and I mentioned the meals too — but neither was as important as a reasonable cost.
Leslie: Daniel, I feel we’re not really on the same page anymore.
Daniel: No problem … we’re just going over details.

 A Plan Undone

It’s good that this conversation took place before Leslie scheduled any visits. However, it has unwound Leslie’s selling process and wasted time for both of them. It could create an impasse. In Q4 consultative selling, what very helpful probe could Leslie have employed earlier to make sure she and her client were on the same track?

“I Hear You Saying …”

Before any call to action, Leslie needed to use a Summary Statement. It concisely recaps the input you have gotten from the customer. In this case, Leslie should have paraphrased and condensed what she understood to be Daniel’s position in just a few sentences.

It seems basic, but too often salespeople don’t stop to summarize the conversation. They think it may interrupt the flow of a sale. The salesperson may be on a roll or feel a summary could result in the customer reconsidering. However, it is far better to reach a mutual understanding of what the customer wants before moving on.


In their previous meetings, Leslie could have summarized the relative importance of the factors that Daniel mentioned for choosing a care facility. For example: “Daniel, let’s be clear about what is most important to you before I recommend some candidates. As I understand it, most of all, you want ….”


Once Leslie has summarized, Daniel can agree, disagree, and/or clarify. The important outcome is that Leslie gets a sharp focus on where Daniel stands before moving on. And the summary would definitely help Daniel crystalize what he really thinks and solidify his commitment. That commitment, of course, will be very important for closing the sale.


Keep It Objective

When you stop to summarize, make sure you are being objective. Don’t color it with your own views. Leslie should not say something like, “Daniel, while you say keeping costs in line is most important, you seem to feel you can get all the extras without paying more.” That’s not a summary of what Daniel has said. That’s an opinion about his statements. That may come later. Now is the time to simply reach agreement on what a customer has said thus far. You’ll avoid a lot of confusion and a weakened selling effort.