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Sales Tips – What do we do when potential prospects give us excuses?

Ashley, a sales representative for a regional software company, makes several calls a week to new potential prospects to request a meeting to demonstrate her product. She gets lots of voice mails, speaks to lots of gatekeepers and sends a lot of emails with no response.

Every once in a while – statically five out of 100 – she will reach a potential prospect live. When she does, she is so excited that she doesn’t even recognize the excuse.

There are several excuses that a prospect will give a salesperson. What is most interesting is that the salesperson will likely not see them as excuses and believe them.

There are some examples that are almost always an excuse and not the truth. Let’s look at them one at a time:

The excuse: “Why don’t you send me/email me something?”

The translation: “It’s easier to ignore you through email.”

If this prospect were truly interested, she would take at least a few minutes and talk to the salesperson right then, just to determine if there is a need.

The excuse: “I’m in a meeting.”

The translation: “I have no time to talk and I’m hoping this illusion of interruption will get you off of the phone quickly.”

I love this one! So, you are in an actual meeting in your office, you don’t know who’s calling, but you pick up the phone anyway? Seriously? Salespeople fall for this one all of the time! At this point, the salesperson keeps calling, but the prospect now knows the phone number through caller ID and will just avoid the call.

The excuse: “We don’t have a budget/money at this time.”

The translation: “I just don’t see the benefit, and having no money will make you go away, at least for a while.”

Money is an interesting thing. People will find money for what they determine will bring them value. We often blow this one by trying to quickly show how our product will save them/make them money. The response: Yeah, right! (It doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not; you can’t shove your idea of value down a throat on a phone call.)

The excuse: “Call me after the third quarter.”

The translation: “Wow! I just put you off for at least a few months.”

Salespeople like this one because it gives them something they can follow up on – at least in their mind. This is where followup, in my opinion, becomes stalking. The salesperson keeps calling when this date arrives, and the prospect will not even remember she told you to call, let alone meant it when she said it.

The excuse: “We’re good right now, but you can check back.”

The translation: See the previous translation.

I say gee, thank you so much for allowing me to check back! You must really like me/be interested, etc. (Yeah, right.)

The excuse: “I’ll think it over and let you know.”

The translation: “I have no intention of reaching back out to you, but I asked for the next move to be done by me.”

This is no move, but sales people happily agree and wait and wait. What’s funny is they would rather take any of these excuses than hear whatever the real truth is – most commonly a no.

If we, as salespeople, could get comfortable with asking right up front for a “no” as an option, we wouldn’t be wasting so much time, energy and our control of the sales process.

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About Greta Schulz

Greta Schulz is the president and CEO of Schulz Business. She has been involved in sales, sales management, marketing, and training for almost thirty years. She is a columnist of "SELLutions" in Business Journals across the country and a contributing author of New York Times bestseller Masters of Sales and Greta's own book, "To Sell…