Prospect says they'll buy soon? Ask this question!

by Steli Efti

If you’re on a sales call with a qualified prospect that says they will buy your solution soon, what do you do? You’ve probably encountered this many times where a prospect verbally commits to buying ... someday in the near future.

Prospect: “We’re going to buy this next week.”

Inexperienced sales reps jump up and high five their colleague now, already pocketing this “win”.

They’re often in for a bad surprise: something unexpectedly came up, and next week turns into next month. Then there are budgeting issues, or other more urgent and pressing priorities need to be taken care of on the prospect’s side, and blah, blah, blah … the deal is lost.

So what should you do when a prospect tells you they’ll buy next week? There are different ways to respond to this, and if you’re a regular reader, you know that the best way to lead a sales conversation is by asking powerful questions.

Sales rep: “Is there anything that could stop this deal from happening? Anything that could threaten our partnership or prevent this contract being signed? Anything you can think of that would get in the way of moving forward in the next few days?”

What do you achieve by asking this question?

  • You prompt your prospect to think through his buying process and identify potential roadblocks. You can now be proactive about managing obstacles that could derail the deal.
  • It re-confirms and strengthens the prospect’s commitment to buy.
  • It can help you to close the deal faster.

Example: Uncovering a new stakeholder

Here’s one way how this might play out. You ask the question, and the prospect responds, “I’m pretty sure that we’re going to do it, but I still haven’t talked to the CEO. It’s unlikely that the CEO wouldn't approve this, but I don’t know, I still have to ask him.”

This prospect has never mentioned the CEO before, even though you’ve previously asked about others involved in the decision. It might just have slipped his mind at that time.

So you’ve just uncovered another crucial stakeholder in the buying process! Rather than getting caught by surprise, you can now proactively help to win the CEO over.

You could respond like this, “Could I be part of the conversation with your CEO to be able to answer all his questions, be a resource to you in the negotiation with the CEO? What can I do to help you get this deal done with that person?”

You always want to be involved in moving the deal forward, don't rely on an internal champion alone to make it happen.

Example 2: Closing the deal faster

Another way how this could play out is if the prospect responds to your question by telling you that nothing could get in the way of this deal happening. What do you do in such a case?

You tell them: “Hey, if there’s nothing else in the way of making this happen, let’s close this deal right now, let’s sign this contract right now since we’re both on the phone already.”

If the prospect is really committed to buying, there’s no reason for not closing the deal right now.  We do this with Close when we’re talking with a prospective customer who is still on his trial period but already committed to purchasing.

We tell them, “Let’s not wait for the trial to expire before you buy, let’s make it happen right now. You’ve still got another seven days of using our sales software for free with this trial, and you’re going to keep these seven days. Your billing cycle will start eight days from now, but you can be a customer and commit to this right now.”

(Notice how we’ve preemptively managed the objection of not missing out on the free trial days. If there’s a sales objection that almost every prospect brings up at a certain point, you should bring it up first and handle it rather than letting them bring it up and then react to it.)

Closing the deal now is good for both parties. For you, it’s one less prospect in your sales pipeline you have to manage. And for them, it’s one less buying decision they have to keep on their to-do list.

And if the prospect responds he’s not ready to buy yet?

Then it’s your job to find out why. If it’s something you can solve, do so to close the deal now. If it’s something that’s outside of your control, then end the call on a high note: “I’m excited about making this deal happen with you. I’ll talk to you tomorrow when we have this contract signed. I’m really looking forward to start working with you even closer.”


Further reading:

The most important lesson I ever learned in sales
If you haven’t read this blog post yet, read it first. I share the story of how many years ago a very successful sales director taught me the most valuable lesson about the power of asking questions in my entire sales career. It serves me well to this very day.

How to ask powerful sales questions
Learn more about the art of asking questions in sales. What are the common mistakes people make when asking sales questions, and how to avoid making them? What’s the best way of eliciting relevant and high-quality responses, and manage the flow of the conversation? How do you get the client to open up to you and willingly share their insights, concerns and requirements with you?

The virtual close
A great question to ask earlier on in the sales process, when the prospect is qualified and stands to gain a lot from what you have to offer, but hasn’t yet said he’ll buy. Use this question to gauge where you are in the sales process and what needs to be done to make this sale happen.

Flip your prospect's questions to close more deals
A simple sales questioning technique you can use to close more deals: flip questions back on your prospect to uncover underlying wants and needs.