What a Customer Says is Not What They Mean

Have you ever had a customer tell you that they only have 15 minutes and because of the great job you did, they are still there two hours later? Or have you ever had a customer tell you at the beginning of a transaction that they are not buying today, then 2 hours later, because of the amazing way you treated the customer they are telling you; “I wasn’t planning on buying today?” Of course, you have, and it feels good, doesn’t it?

When a customer tells me about something that will halt or stall the transaction, like “I only have 15 minutes,” or “I am not buying today,” or the dreaded “I am gathering information to take home to my spouse.” what should I do?

Should I…

  1. Immediately try to set an appointment for a later date when the obstacle is no longer relevant?


  1. Slow myself down, therefore slow the customer down
    • Start asking questions in an attempt to take the customer as far down the sales process as possible

I am sure everyone said B, it is the obvious choice. However, is that what our actions say. Most salespeople panic when a customer throws up an obstacle early on in the sales process. They start dancing around the concern in an attempt to overcome the concern.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of this:

Customer: “I only have 15 minutes.”

Salesperson: “Well 15 minutes is not enough time to buy a car. When can you come back?”

Customer: “I am not buying today.”

Salesperson: “Why not?” or “What if I get you a deal too good to be true?”

Customer: “I am gathering information to take home to my spouse.”

Salesperson: “Where is your spouse? Can we take the car to them?”

In each of these scenarios, the salesperson, just accepted what the customer as true, however, what if the customer said these things only to protect themselves from being pressured to make a decision. Also, in each of these scenarios the salesperson does not give the customer a chance to change their mind.

Early in my sales career I was taught a simple process for an early process objection or concern. This process was called AIM, Acknowledge, Ignore, Move Forward. All though these may seem harsh or crude, this process is very effective, because most early process objections and concerns are smokescreens, red herrings, natural defensive reactions, or whatever else you want to call them. Simply put, customers want to protect themselves from being pressured into making a buying decision, so they say things to protect themselves. In fact, most of the time a customer expresses one of these types of concerns, they may not even realize they are doing it. “Just looking,” is one of the most common occurrences of this.

Now let’s take a look at those same early process concerns using the AIM approach to handling them:

Customer: “I only have fifteen minutes.”

Salesperson: “Fifteen minutes is more than enough time. Let’s make the best use of the limited time you have, accomplish everything you came here for today, and maybe I could ever answer a few questions for you. Would that be, ok?”

Customer: “I am not buying today.”

Salesperson: “That is not a problem. In order to make the best use of your time and to ensure your visit is a success, please tell me, if today’s visit was perfect, what do you hope to accomplish?”

Customer: “I am gathering information to take home to my spouse.”

Salesperson: “That is very nice of you. Your spouse is very lucky. I will make sure that we get you all the information you spouse wants, and maybe even a little extra. What information is most important to your spouse?”

In each of these scenarios, the salesperson acknowledges the customers concern, for all intensive purpose they ignore the concern, and then they ask a question that will move them forward with the sales process. Your goal her is to buy enough time with your customer in order to build a relationship with them, build some rapport, and get them focusing on you and your service meanwhile forgetting all about their concern.  

If you invest your time in showing the customer you care and you are operating out of their best interest, you will EARN more of your customers time and energy, and most importantly the sale!



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