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Are You Leaving It to Your Prospects to Close the Sale?

The Situation

Tom is a fairly new sales rep for a commercial sign company. He gets leads from a number of sources, but he also makes cold calls when he sees retail businesses with aging building signage.

Tom is personable, communicates well, and tries to match his products to prospects’ needs in a Q4 way. Yet, here’s how a recent sales call with Joanne, a retail owner, ended.

Tom: . . . So, we’ve covered the kind of signage that would increase your drive-by visibility, and how to get financing so you can have what you really need. How does that sound to you?
Joanne: It sounds good. I didn’t realize I can get a much larger sign and stay within my budget.
Tom: I’ve given you a figure. There’s lots of information on our website about specs, materials, energy efficiency, and so forth. You have everything you need to decide.
Joanne: Well . . . I need to think this over and get back to you. Give me a couple of days.

Too-Familiar Outcome

You know how this will go. When Tom contacts Joanne, she is even more vague — something about waiting until the fall to decide.

Tom has had this outcome too often. He has trouble closing or getting a firm commitment to go to the next level in a sale. He doesn’t know what to do. Since he wants to practice Q4 collaborative selling, he knows he’s not comfortable with high-pressure, pushy tactics.

If he is behaving in an involving, Q4 manner, why isn’t Tom getting better results?

Q4 Is Not Reluctant!

First, Tom is not practicing Q4 selling when he ends this sales call. Q4 is engaging and proactive. Tom does what many salespeople do when it’s time for a commitment — he turns Q2 passive. He thinks that the only alternative to in-your-face Q1 pressure is to avoid asking directly for Joanne’s business. He yields the sales call to the prospect (“You have everything you need to decide”).

But Q4 selling is above the line. Tom should ask for the business: “Shall I go ahead and put together an agreement?” If Joanne balks at committing, Tom should probe for understanding. He can then adjust to eliminate her objections. Q4 assertiveness attempts to show real benefits to the customer for taking action.


Probing for Commitment

If Joanne says she can’t decide between ordering now or in the Fall — and it’s a genuine reason — Q4 probes that response. “Joanne, what’s keeping you from signing up now?” Her answer becomes an objection to overcome through additional probing. Tom may use this opportunity to discuss any pricing advantages and other benefits for ordering now.


If the wait-until-fall comment is just an excuse to put off a decision, Tom should try to uncover what’s behind her reluctance — in a helpful manner. The point is, this kind of influencing is not the same as a Q1 badgering or goading. Q4 probing may actually help the potential customer to sort out any reluctance and overcome objections in the spirit of problem-solving.