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The “Polite” Prospect Can Be the Most Difficult Prospect

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For people who sell, there are many difficult objections that they need to prepare for; cost, trust, and urgency, to mention a few.  One of the leading objections, however, is often misread.  As a matter of fact, if you aren’t paying close attention, you’ll never see it coming.

You’ll just be another victim of “The Polite Prospect Syndrome.”

A few years ago, after 26 great years in our home, we put our house on the market to sell.  We did everything the realtors told us, including working with a professional stager.  The house never looked better, and we couldn’t wait for our first open house and all the competing offers we were sure to receive!  The feedback from those who came by could not have been nicer. According to our agent, people just loved our house… but strangely enough, we received no contracts.

Surely the lack of actual offers was an anomaly, so the very next weekend, we opened it up again – with the same results. People just loved our house… but still no offers.  A month went by, and each time our house was shown, we seemed to hear the same feedback.  One month became two, and I finally asked to meet with our realtor. I understood that we were getting the views, and good feedback, but something wasn’t working. This wasn’t a marketing problem; this was a sales problem.  Once I expressed my concern, my realtor reminded me of something I had clearly forgotten: “Yes, prospects are telling us they like your house, but they are also being polite.  They don’t want to hurt your feelings.”  She explained that buyers are often polite, and in a sense, too polite.

Does that sound like a made-up excuse by a realtor, who is having trouble selling houses?  Think again.  Think about the last time you were undecided about purchasing an item – an expensive item – and the salesperson you were working with could not have been nicer. I’m guessing you made up a few excuses, and I’m also guessing you did this because you didn’t want to hurt the feelings of the person who was working with you. I’m also guessing, from time-to-time, you avoided all attempts to communicate, and hid from the salesperson whose feelings you didn’t want to hurt.  It seems ironic that often the “polite” prospect can be the most difficult prospect.

Related: What to Do When You Do NOT Make the Sale

But there are solutions to this problem. Just because a prospect is polite, it doesn’t mean the prospect doesn’t need to be sold.  Polite prospects fear change just like everyone else. Don’t confuse a polite prospect with a committed prospect. Please also remember that you don’t have to guess where your prospect is in his or her Decision Cycle; you can always ask.

For instance:

  • The first decision a prospect needs to make is whether or not to fix his or her existing problem. After you have helped the prospect to look deeper at the problem and you want to find out if the prospect is truly ready to fix it, why not ask, “Are you committed to making change?”
  • Once a prospect has made a decision to change, the second decision a prospect needs to make is what exactly addresses the problem he or she is trying to tackle. When you have helped the prospect to crystalize what the solution looks like, why not ask, “Will you be basing your decision of this list of criteria?”
  • Once a prospect has made a decision to change, and he or she knows what that solution needs to look like, the third decision a prospect needs to make is where to find that solution. At the appropriate time, why not ask, “If we can find something that addresses your list of criteria – to your total satisfaction – is there any reason why you would not give us a realistic opportunity to work with you?”

Trial closes not only confirm where a prospect is in his or her decision-making, but it also creates a series of commitments that even polite prospects will abide by.  The next time you’re having a conversation with a prospect, and they seem to like the ideas you are presenting, don’t become another casualty of the Polite Prospect Syndrome.  Gain commitments along the way.  What’s the worst that will happen when you ask for those commitments? You’ll hear an objection?  Remember, you want to hear that objection because you may very well be saving yourself time and money by not chasing after a prospect that was never a qualified prospect to begin with.

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