Finish this sentence: “Once a customer agrees to a deal, and they have signed their name on the line that is dotted, you ___________________!”
When I learned how to sell, I was taught there were three answers to that question.
- “Leave now!”
- “Leave right now!”
Yes, the “leave – leave now – leave right now” approach to finishing a conversation that ends with a commitment was, and still is, widely accepted. The thinking behind this unusual last step is this: There is nothing left to be said or done, and the only thing that could come out of your mouth are words you may regret later. That’s not a completely invalid statement because for many, sitting nose-to-nose with a person, and moving that person through a persuasive process, involves pressure. When that person says, “yes,” the pressure is removed and so is our full concentration. That might lead to words we could regret.
That said, my gut still told me that it was important to have a few simple, well-rehearsed words that reassured my customers that he or she had made a wise decision. I also wanted to thank them, and I didn’t think there was any harm in that. Of course, I never really told my bosses, and I made this an optional step in the sales training
classes I delivered… until some years ago, when I spoke at the Baltimore Hostage Negotiation Seminar. A comment that day changed my tune.
It was a large seminar of about 1,000 participants. There were hostage negotiators, SWAT team members, police officers and rescue professionals. If they carried a badge, they were there. That day was one of those days I chose to mention that I offer a careful, well-rehearsed remark to reassure my customers regarding the decision that has been committed to.
After I made my suggestion, a police officer walked up to a microphone out in the audience and spoke these words:
“Mr. Jolles, I happen to agree with your suggestion. Two months ago, I was on the phone communicating with a suspect for almost 40 hours. It took me 20 hours and I got the children out of the house. It took me 10 more hours and I got the wife out of the house. 10 hours later I was able to get the suspect out of the house. However, my highest realistic level of commitment was getting this person to come out, but with his gun.” “My last words to him were, ‘just go slow.’
The suspect stepped out of the house onto the porch. I moved up the driveway slowly with the SWAT by my side. The suspect looked out, he looked back, he looked out, he looked back. Then he blew his head off.
I spent 40 hours on the phone with this person and can tell you, this was not the kind of person who intended to come out and put on a show. It was an emotional moment. He changed his mind. I will always wonder, to this day, if I could have handled this differently. I wonder, if the last words out of my mouth had been ‘You are doing the right thing. I will be here every step of the way and make sure everything we agreed upon will happen; I can assure you’. . . I believe that could have saved his life.”
I no longer found the act of reassuring others for decisions they committed to be obscure or unnecessary, nor did I make this last step optional ever again.
The message is clear: Our job is not
finished when we receive a commitment to a decision we helped others make. It’s a natural step within the decision process for people to reconsider the commitments they have made. Now add in the fact that there is a strong possibility that the decision being recommended was not an easy choice for this person to make.
Finishing your conversation by reassuring a person you’ve just gained a commitment from is not an obscure step, and should never be overlooked. Instead of “leaving – leaving now – leaving right now,” why not give others something to think about when they reconsider the decision that has been made. Let them hear your voice in their mind telling them this: “You are doing the right thing. I will be here every step of the way and make sure everything we agreed upon will happen; I can assure you.”
, you can leave.
Related: The Litmus Test For Great Customer Service