In the last issue, we discussed how to prevent stalls before they happen and what differentiates a stall from an objection. Before we move into the precise technique for managing stalls, let us consider a few more perplexities and clarifications when dealing with stalls.

When a stall happens, there are seven possibilities:

  1. She is insecure about her buying decision.
  2. We have missed something that she has not told us.
  3. Her stall is legitimate. 
  4. Trust is lacking. 
  5. They cannot think of a reason to buy now, so they don’t. Procrastination. 
  6. You didn’t tap into the emotional needs of the customer. 
  7. I'm not sure your product is the best value. 

First a warning: Never challenge a stall. By asking her to give a reason when she says she has none, you are in essence calling her a liar. It’s like you do not believe she is uncertain. While stalls are frustrating, when challenging a stall, you create unnecessary conflict. Never say, “What’s to think about?” or “What do you mean you want to think about it?” or “What exactly do you want to think over?” When she says, “I want to think it over,” it implies she is uncertain. If you force her to invent a reason, it will incline her to defend it. She gave you no reason for not buying, so do not force her to come up with one. We want to avoid conflict, especially when we are trying to gain commitment. We want to use persuasion, not pressure.

In doing a systematic review, we need to devise a generalized list of questions to ask. What questions do you ask, and in what order? In most industries, there is an order of importance in the way you present a product. In floor covering it is color, style, quality, store reputation and finally price and in that order.

In handling stalls, it only makes sense to do your review of what we have already covered during the presentation to begin with questions about color, then style, quality, store reputation and heading to price and in that order. 

Before we move on, let me explain the importance of the cushion. Examples of a cushion after a stall (or an objection) are: “I completely understand how you feel” ... “That’s perfectly fine” ... “Sometimes when I am shopping, I need some time as well.” This may seem counterproductive, but when you cushion, you soften her stall by supplying empathy. 

Many people skip this step, but it is probably the most important shift transferring an unclear setback of a sales transaction to an order. Cushioning merely recognizes what the customer states is important. To her! It builds the customer’s self-esteem and puts you on her side. Cushioning, in this case, is acknowledging the reasonableness of the particular stall to the buyer. Cushioning opens the line of communication and counteracts the customer’s defensiveness. It encourages dialogue and communication.

Now let us discuss the happenstance of how a stall may begin. Let us say you really have done everything perfectly. Then it happens. You ask for the order or try to move forward, and the customer hands you a stall: “Let me think it over.” It is the kiss of death for most salespeople, but this is no actual surprise. In fact, stalls are one of the eventual givens in selling. Regardless of your skills, stalls happen to the best of us at our absolute best. Consider this a new challenge, not a frustration - if you know how to manage a stall. 

Before I re-write one of these articles, I do more research to see what has changed or is new. I bought a book written by Duane Sparks entitled “The New Action Selling.” In there I discovered the significance of tie-backs in dealing with stalls. 

The solution to a stall is to do a systematic reviewDuring the review, we need to tie back to the conversation things said earlier in the presentation and agreed upon. So, a tie-back is defined as connecting to an agreed-upon need. 

So here is the systematic, step-by-step technique to manage a stall after asking for a commitment:

Customer: “Let me think about it.”

Cushion and Bridge:

  • Cushion first: When you cushion, you soften her stall by offering empathy. State, “I completely understand. If I were buying flooring, I would want to be sure as well. Then at once go to the bridge so that they are said together.
  • Bridge: “But when I hear, ‘I want to think about it,’ it sometimes makes me uneasy, like I missed something. So, before you leave, I want to make sure we have covered everything.

Start your tiebacks:

  • Tieback 1. “You mentioned it was important that we need the color beige to tie in with your sofa and drapes. Do still feel this carpet ties in well, or would you like to consider some other backup colors just in case?” Do not say another word – wait for the customer to answer.
  • Assuming nothing has changed, and the customer answers positively, get confirmation. Salesperson: “I agree they go well together, and it picks up on...” (Always follow up with positive affirmations on her statements and get agreement.)
  • Tieback 2. “In addition, you mentioned how you dislike footprints when you walk, so rather than a texture, would you like to consider another style such as a Berber that doesn’t show footprints at all?” (Silence and get confirmation.)
  • Tieback 3. “Based on our discussion, you also mentioned how you wanted to find a quality carpet that will hold up under traffic while not spending more than you need to. Of course, the heavier the carpet, the more it costs, but the better it wears. Would you like to look at some heaver alternatives that will perform even better?” (Silence and get confirmation.)

Trial close halfway through the questioning: “Well, it seems like we have covered the important parts. Are you sure you don’t want to set up a measure and get this done? What do you think? If she moves forward – problem solved. If she still holds to her stall, all is not lost because you have left yourself some ammunition (i.e., store reputation and price). 

Cushion and bridge again: “I appreciate how you must feel. I would want to be sure as well. Obviously, you would not take the time to think it over unless you were seriously interested, but somehow, I still wonder if I’ve missed something.”

Without pause, move back into more tiebacks:

  • Tieback 4. Do you have any questions about the reputation of our store? Our staff works as a team. Our installers are all certified with years of experience and have been with us for a long time. Are you comfortable with our company? (Silence and get confirmation.)
  • Tieback 5. You mentioned that price is a consideration. Are you ok with the trade-off between price and quality, or would you like to consider something even more affordable? (Silence and get confirmation)
  • Catch-all. Is there anything else at all that is a concern for you? If “no” ...

Trial close again: Well, everything seems to be in perfect order. Let’s set up a measure so we can get the exact total price. There is no commitment, and you can change anything. When is a suitable time for you?

A tip on the “Catch-all”: if her response is, “Oh, just the whole thing,” you reply, “Well Mary, it’s difficult to help you with ‘the whole thing’ all at once. Could you be a little more specific? Note: I always use the “catch-all” last because we just covered “the whole thing.”

Of course, if we uncover a concern, this is exactly what we need to find out to complete the sale. We now have an objection. This is part of the reason for the review, to discover anything that is making her hesitate. When this happens, we regroup and search for the right alternatives or give added information. 

The last time this happened to me (she still says no), the woman said to her husband: “I like that, at least, we got total agreement on every point.” The next day, they came back in and bought. They may have shopped some more, but likely nobody achieved total agreement on all critical issues. 

In our final issue, we will discuss some clarifications of the stall technique above, other specific stalls (let me check with my husband) and suggest open-ended questions to trial test the customer’s buying thinking when the stall process has failed to produce an order.

In the meantime, good selling to you!