When to stop selling: The Ask

When you are in sales, there is a time to verbally sell and then there is a time to stop talking. Once you have explained the deal completely and done all you can, there comes a point where you “ask” the buyer if they want to buy whatever it is you are selling. It is common knowledge in the sales world that once you propose the “ask,” you need to be quiet until the buyer has answered. If you continue to talk after the ask question, you almost always will kill your chances of the buyer buying what you are selling.

The first time I got to the point of asking a buyer if he was ready to move forward with an offer was on some ding dong hotel in Florida 25 years ago. I had been selling hotels for maybe a month. I will never forget that moment because to this day, it still makes me chuckle. Here I was at this hotel in Florida and didn’t know what I was doing.  We walked through the hotel, the market, the construction and answered every question except what size underwear the seller wore, and we were standing outside the hotel on the grass. I looked intently at the buyer and “asked” him if he was ready to move forward, and then I purposely closed my mouth and stopped talking. We stood there quiet as a church mouse for maybe 45 seconds while the buyer decided what he wanted to do. As I looked down, I noticed that the buyer was standing in an ant bed, and he had a thousand ants on his shoes and pants. I decided I should probably tell him what was about to happen because he was about to be crying like a baby. Well, I looked at him and told him about the ants, and he looked down and just about fainted. He ran off to his room to jump into the shower. Well, you guessed it. He did not buy that hotel. Maybe if I had waited until a little longer before that first ant found skin, the outcome might have been different. It still makes me laugh today.

I know this other broker who is probably the smartest person I have ever met, but the problem is he is so smart he cannot shut up. He would get to the “ask” question and just keep on talking and almost always talk the buyer out of the deal.

There is a time when you have people’s attention, and there is also a time when you began to lose their attention. In sales, it is important to know which phase you are in. I have literally been in presentations before with a client where you sense a shift in the client’s attention; you just know that you have reached the peak in the meeting, and you had better make a hasty retreat if you want to save the deal. The more you talk, the less likely your chances are.

So, I guess in summary, there is a time to be in selling mode and there is also a time to be in listening mode. In business, you need both gears, but you need to know when to shift. KT

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