How advisors can avoid client diversions and get a straight answerArticle added by Steve Lewit on March 6, 2012

Steve Lewit

Buffalo Grove, IL

Joined: February 27, 2008

My Company

Several things need to happen to make certain that clients will make clear yes or no decisions at the appropriate time during a sales call.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle or landmine in the selling process is the stall when a client says they need to think about it or says something that is an "I need to think about it" in disguise. There’s no worse feeling than spending three or four meetings with a client, putting together a terrific plan on their behalf, having them tell you how much they like it, and then hearing them say something like:

“Steve, this is a truly great plan. All we need is a little time to mull it over and then we’ll be ready to go. How about we give you a call in a couple of weeks?”

Customers keep the think about it stall in their hip pockets, their ace in the hole. They play this card when they feel uncertain and under pressure (usually from you). It is the touchdown of the client’s basic strategy with you (and all other sales professionals) to get information from you without making any commitment on their part. In other words, the client’s plan is to get you all excited about getting them as a client.

Like peacocks, clients strut their feathers (their pain, losses, concerns, stresses, etc.) in front of you. As they do, you become increasingly more excited that you will make a sale, so much so that you go back to your office, loaded with their data, and spend hours putting together a plan.

When you present their plan, they nod in agreement right up until you go for the close. When they feel the close, they back away and ultimately hide behind their ace in the hole stall; “Thanks, but no thanks. We need to think it over.”

"Think about it" darn near got me out of this business. I remember so many sales calls where everything was going great. It was going so well that I thought there was no way I couldn’t make the sale, and then, with the uttering of just a few words, my selling world would collapse with yet another sale biting the think about it dust. And my self-esteem would collapse right along with my selling world.

I knew that I now would have to move from selling mode into chase mode. And, if you are in sales, which all of you reading this article likely are, you know that chasing customers is time consuming, inefficient and degrading. No one wants to have to chase people to earn a living.

If I didn’t eliminate think about its from my selling, I wouldn’t be here today. Here’s how I did just that.

Several things need to happen to make certain that clients will make clear yes or no decisions at the appropriate time during a sales call.
1. First and foremost, you yourself must be making clear yes or no decisions during the sales call regarding your client.

Think of it this way. Your clients will reflect back to you your very own attitude. This might sound subtle but it’s very real and very powerful. During your sales call, if your clients don’t feel your willingness to walk away from them and your sale; if they don’t feel your independence and confidence; if they see you wavering and unable to make a clear no decision about them, they will give you clear decisions in return.

Let’s say your client has a lot of money but is a very difficult person to work with. If that client feels you chasing him or has the impression that he can do or say almost anything and that you will be okay with whatever it is, he will ultimately decide that he is in control of the process and if wants to give you a stall, he will.

On the other hand, clients will follow if they see you as discriminating; a person who makes decisions about who you want to work with and who you don’t want to work with. They'll follow a financial professional who is sending a clear message that says:"If you are not willing to meet me and work with me in a mutually agreeable way, I don’t care how much money you have, we aren’t together.”

They will follow your lead and give you what you need while getting what they need. Your meeting becomes one of mutual respect, rather than salesperson and prospect. Decisions get made, which is both good for you and good for client.

2. You must lay out your sales process

Clients typically don’t like the unknown; it makes them feel unsafe, uncomfortable and they don’t know when they are supposed to do things. When clients feel fear, discomfort or confusion, their first reaction will be to bail out from the meeting. That bail always comes in the form of some type of think about it stall.

It’s a gut reaction which they have used to protect themselves successfully over and over again in the past, so they will use it on you too.

Lay out your sales process clearly, and let your client know what you expect at each point. Mine looks like this:

“John, let me explain to you how I work, okay? After all, if you don’t like how I work, our meetings won’t go very well will they?

John, I have a three meeting process – discuss, design and decide. The first meeting, the discuss meeting, the one we are having today, is just to talk with each other and see if we are a good fit. If you like me and, candidly, if I like you. If this meeting goes well, then we move to the next meeting.
The design meeting is where we put our heads together and design strategies to help you meet your goals. I don’t gather all your information, go back to the office and prepare a plan and present it to you. After all, the plan I might design may not be the plan you want. So we do it together, collaboratively, and most of the second meeting focuses on us building your plan.

Now, along the way, I will be giving you the pros and cons of everything we talk about. That’s my job. Your job, you have a job too, is to give me responses based on our discussion. Now if that meeting goes well, we’ll move on to the third meeting.

The third meeting is the decide meeting. In this meeting, I’m going to have your strategies laid out in detail. Again, I’ll give you the pros and the cons; that’s my job, and your job, again, is to give me a yes or no.

If you say no, that’s okay. I’ll still be your friend and you don’t have to run away from me if you see me on the street.

If you say yes, then we’ll implement your program.

John, do you see any reason that we can’t work that way together?”


By laying out your process and getting a buy-in from your client, you level the playing field between you and your clients and, at the same time, you earn respect. Clients want leadership and direction. They also want collaboration and respect.

By putting out on the table exactly what you want and expect, you will be amazed at clients’ willingness to give it to you. Getting a clear yes or a clear no, eliminating think about its, is easier than you think. All you need to do is ask.
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