Next let us suppose that the questions in the stall technique have been exhausted to no avail— she still wants to think it over. It is going to happen. I once had a customer state, “It’s just that my wife and I have learned over the years not to make quick decisions.” It is hard to argue with that. Even so, when we do the review, it will at least put things in perspective, increases recall and it improves the chances of her returning to your store.

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 important issues.

Here are some critical elements about the stalls method in the last issue to evaluate:

You probably noticed that I parenthesized “silence” after every tie-back question. That is because it is essential that you be quiet after each question. Silence is golden. It is your most powerful weapon. You have thrown the ball in her court, and she must hit it back. The longer the silence only means she is considering your question very carefully. Be patient and wait for her thought-out answer. She may squirm because she cannot think of any objections and so, she might at any time blurt out, “Oh, let’s go ahead and get this thing moving.”

A tip on the “catch-all”: If her response is, “Oh, just the whole thing,” 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.”

Use of the trial close. A trial close is a test to determine the buying temperature of the customer. They are normally questions that assume ownership or ask for a minor decision regarding the product. The customer’s response will tell you how close she is to moving forward. With the questioning technique from the previous issue, we are asking for a modest decision, in this case a measure, which may lead to the larger commitment thus moving the closing process along. With stalls, trial closes may be the final push that makes the customer crumble to the obvious and agree to the sale.

In the above instance, we trial closed twice. Therefore, we generate twice the possibilities to receive a commitment rather than waiting till the end and trial closing once. Further, we do not first trial close until the three primary concerns of color, style and quality are confirmed, and thus we make this is a relevant time to ask for a commitment. We next move on to store reputation and price and carefully settle these concerns through conversational tie-backs and subtly ask again.

One of the characteristics of the best salespeople is they ask for the order more than one time. IBM did a survey of their salespeople, and they discovered the only difference between their topflight salespeople and the mediocre salespeople was the top salespeople asked for the order multiple times. Of course, we would not ask for the order so early that we have not witnessed buying signals or established trust within the presentation. Also, when asking for the order too early, the customer may perceive this as pressure.

The beauty of tiebacks is that the customer feels less pressured. After all, we are only coordinating a relevant review about what she has asked, said, and agreed to. With a stall, where uncertainty develops, it is welcoming to clear things up and put things in perspective.

Tie-backs are less see-through and manipulative than other techniques, which pound the customer with unsolicited questions such as “Is this the exact color? ... Is this the right style? ... Is the quality you wanted? Such basic questions which have clear “yes” answers to them may make the customer feel led, manipulated and possibly even a little disrespected. Such obvious “yes” questions may also seem controlling and conniving when she simply wants to “think about it.”

With tie-backs, customers feel less grilled. Tiebacks are more conversational because they refer back to a specific aspect of the conversation. We are tailoring and catering to the customers’ previously discussed needs and minimizing conflict. The customer sensing genuine empathy for her needs and concerns will sense this technique, done discreetly, as based on a sense of caring by personalized statements like “Gloria you mentioned wanting....”

If this technique seems like a lot to memorize, we really base the questions on the same sequence most customers use to make buying decisions in home furnishings: color, style, quality, store reputation, and finally price. They are only expounded upon by matters of recently completed conversations.

Know when to stop. Overdoing these techniques can hurt you! While this entire sequence of diffusing stalls may be revealing and often useful, if your customer begins looking irritated, you might counter, “Mary, the last thing I want to do is make you feel pressured; it’s just that I am trying to figure out how to help you and meet your needs. Then, depending on her response, it may be best to move forward and let her decide on her own.

P.S. Please do not upset your be-backs. Many salespeople make a fairly good living off them. 20% adds up.