A crafty old sale associate once asked me this question: “Do you know the only objection that can’t be overcome?” The only objection you cannot overcome is the objection you never get to hear. With stalls, the customer offers no particular reason for hesitating. If she has an objection, she isn’t telling us what it is.

Stalls. We all use them, so why shouldn’t we expect to hear it from others when we are on the selling end? “Let me think about it.” La de da—the flake-out of an order. The modus operandi: obviously, we must get past a vague stall to a concrete objection or allow our customer to discover there is really nothing to be concerned about. Some customers just need reassurance that they are making the right decision. A methodical nudge may be all it takes to put things in motion.

For customers, when they try to move forward, doubt sets in. “Am I getting the best deal?” “Is there something I would like better elsewhere?” 

A mere, “Let me think it over,” can turn a sale from a seemingly sure thing to a transaction in serious jeopardy. Stalls are by far the most difficult yet reoccurring element in completing a sale. Here is the worst part: Very few salespeople know how to manage these exasperating stalls and customers know it! 

When you receive a stall after a presentation that you do not take control of, your chances of her coming back are reduced drastically - and I mean drastically. Only about 20% of these customers will actually return to your store. So, often, when customers say, “Let me think it over. I may be back,” they then think themselves out of a purchase. They are afraid of a commitment and end up shopping at other stores to be sure of their choices until a trained salesperson knows how to close a stall.

Here is an important thing to understand about customer be-backs. Ebbing House did a study on memory and they found within 24 hours most people will forget 75% of what you just said. That means that when you call them back the next day, they have forgotten most of what was said in your showroom. Other studies show the same thing. So now the hype is gone. Now they are even less certain and have lost most of the information about whatever they wanted to weigh out in their minds.

Preventing stalls

You can help overcome stalls by managing them from the beginning. Build Rapport! Build Value!

During the greeting, you need to get on a personal level. Notice what people are wearing and compliment them about it. Are they wearing a shirt with a team logo? What team do they like? Talk about it. Find something in common and warn up. What kind of car are they driving? A bit of small talk before discussing product does wonders in building rapport. When you do this, trust develops, and it makes closing simpler.

After I first greet a potential client, I sit down with them and talk about why they are looking to change their flooring and what they liked about their old flooring. What didn’t they like about it? What they are looking for in terms of color, style, and quality. All these questions will help you know what to show a customer. It builds trust as well.

Another way to prevent stalls before they happen (and they will happen sometimes no matter what you do) during the presenting and objections phases of the selling process is to get an agreement on all critical issues ahead of time. We should not assume that the customer understands or even hears every crucial point we make. 

After an explanation of a question asked, you might conclude with: “Does that make sense?” or “Does that answer your question?” Listen and respond to her answer. These validating questions put you on common ground and make you the trusted advisor while constructively controlling the direction of the sale. It systematically removes questions from their minds. This selling formula is also part of a deliberate strategy which will eventually support the closing process and help prevent stalls. We simply focus on finding out what is necessary to do business, from beginning to end.

Is it a Stall or an Objection?

Many salespeople think of stalls and objections as different words for the same thing. They are not. A stall is worse than an objection. Stalls and objections are both things you may hear after you have asked for commitment, but a stall is a delay of the sale for no given reason. With a stall, there is no objection. However, an objection is a specific reason not to buy. With a stall, the customer is trying to push back her decision due to uncertainty, and too often, customers will think themselves out of a purchase until a skilled salesperson knows how to close them.

Here are some examples of objections:

  • “Your price is too high.”
  • “How do I know this carpet will hold up in traffic areas?”
  • “Will this carpet show footprints when I walk on it?”
  • “How do I know I will get a quality installation?” 

Again, with objections there is a specific rationale for not doing business with you—yet. A stall however lacks commitment without a reason.

Examples of a stall: 

  • “I want to think about it.”
  • “I need to check with my husband.” (like he doesn’t know)
  • “I don’t make fast decisions.”
  • “I need to get my friend’s opinion.” 
  • “This is the first place I’ve shopped.” 

If you have been in sales long enough, you have run into every one of these stalls.

Many prospects say, “I want to think it over,” because they may not be fully seeing the value in what you are selling. There has been a lot of information given in a brief period. They need more assurance or confidence to buy, but you don’t know what is missing because they aren’t saying. 

Once a stall occurs, we manage them entirely different from an objection. With an objection, all we need to do is to tactfully give added information such as clarification or new alternatives to deal with the concern. With a stall, we need everything on the table to receive an order because something is missing that must be resolved and we don’t know what it is. We must reduce their hesitation by reviewing everything that has been said while reassuring the customer.

When you manage an objection, there is something specific to address. With a stall there is nothing to sink your teeth in because they seemingly have no further concerns. Most of the time they are just unsure or there is a hidden objection. Either way, it is our job to either expose a hidden objection or uncover for the customer that there is no legitimate reason for not moving forward.

In the next edition, we will see how to manage stalls with a systematic approach which engages a reduction to the ridiculous technique using conversational tie-backs to earlier parts of the presentation.