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"I want to think about it"
How to deal with one of the most irritating sales objections
By Brian Jeffrey

 If I had a dollar for every time I've heard the I-want-to-think-about-it put-off in the 30 years I've been in sales, I wouldn't be in sales -- I'd be comfortably retired.

As salespeople, we hear this put-off so many times that you would think we'd be masters at dealing with it, and yet that's rarely the case. Most of us, including me, still stammer around and then say something like, "Well, why don't I give you a call next week?"

When we get back to the office, we tell our manager that everything looks good but the prospect just wants to think about it before making a decision. When our manager asks what they want to think about, we either stand there like a dummy and say "I'm not sure," or our creative juices begin to flow and we make up a Pulitzer prize-winning story.

Using an auto-response

There is a better way to deal with this put-off: You need to develop an auto-response that kicks into gear the minute you hear the dreaded "I want to think about it."

What is an auto-response? It's the words that automatically come out of your mouth in response to a stimulus from another person. For example, whenever a retail clerk says "Hi. Can I help you?" your auto-response is "No thanks. Just looking." See what I mean?

Before we develop a couple of auto-responses, let's look at where the I-want-to-think-about-it put-off comes from. There are five primary sources:
1. For some reason, the prospect truly needs to think about it.
2. The prospect is concerned about the price and/or unsure about the value.
3. The prospect is a procrastinator and never makes a fast decision.
4. The prospect has no intention of buying and wants you to disappear.
5. Someone else's approval is needed before moving ahead.

You should have uncovered reason #5 during the qualifying process ("Who else, besides yourself, will be involved in making the final decision?"), and there is little you can do about reason #4 except take the hint and disappear. All you can do for reason #3 is find out how much time they need and let them have it. If you push too hard at this point, reason #4 may come into play. So that leaves us with reasons #1 and #2 as candidates for developing an auto-response.

The underlying methodology for dealing with this put-off is to get the prospect to tell you exactly what they want to think about. While this sounds simple, you can't just blurt out "Well, whaddaya want to think about?" and expect to get to the real answer. Remember, you want to get them talking about their concerns.

Developing your auto-response

As with handling an objection, the first thing out of your mouth should be a neutral acknowledgment of the prospect's concern. I've trained myself to use the phrase "I understand how you feel." I usually embellish it a bit to show empathy for the prospect so it comes out as "I understand how you feel. If I were in your shoes, I'd probably want to think about it as well."

That's the first part of the auto-response. The second part depends on what I think the concerns might be. If I think the stumbling block is reason #2 (price/value) I might ask "Tell me, are you concerned about the cost?" or "Is it the cost that's holding you back?"

If the prospect says "Frankly, yes," then I know I'm dealing with a price objection and I'd better give them additional benefits or it's a no-sale. Another approach is to do the Weighing Close where we review all the ideas opposed to buying and weigh them against the reasons for going ahead.

If the prospect's reason for wanting to think about it stems from some hidden concern (reason #1), the best thing you can do is get the concern into the open where you may be able to do something about it. That means you have to get them talking about it.

The same rules apply -- the first thing out of your mouth is a neutral acknowledgment followed by something like:
"May I ask what concerns you still have?" or
"May I ask what's causing you to hesitate?" or
"May I ask what questions I've left unanswered?" or
"May I ask what your final decision will be based on?"
So the auto-response sounds something like this: "I understand how you feel. If I were in your shoes, I'd probably want to think about it as well. (brief pause) May I ask what concerns you still have?"

It looks good, but…

Sometimes you get the sense the prospect has positive feelings about your offering but something is stopping him or her from buying now. You can help the prospect rebuild a sense of urgency and rekindle a desire for the product/service by having him or her restate the benefits to you. I call this the Reaffirm/Rebuild method. After you acknowledge the concern, say something like this:
"Which parts of the proposal do you like best?" (Then ask, "Why?") or
"How do you see yourself benefiting from our product/service?" or
"Which benefits do you feel are most important to you?"
There is absolutely no doubt that you're going to hear "I want to think about it" many times during your sales career, so you might as well prepare for it now. Write out your response on a three-by-five card and carry it around in your pocket until you memorize it -- and it becomes your auto-response to one of the world's most popular put-offs.

Brian Jeffrey, CSP (a.k.a. The Sales Wizard), president of SalesForce Training & Consulting Inc., is a sales trainer, sales management consultant, columnist and author. He is the publisher of Targets, a newsletter for professional salespeople.

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