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Getting a Decision on the Spot

Getting a Decision on the Spot

This is a question that comes up over and over when I run my “Get More Clients Saying Yes!” course.  It’s also an emotional one, with many clients and friends having strong opinions around the topic.

Is it right to try and get a decision on the spot during  sales conversations?

Doesn’t that put pressure on the client and make us feel “icky”?

Isn’t this just the same as the traditional “pushy” sales that we are trying to move away from?

I actually do believe it’s important to bring a potential client to a clear decision quickly –  to me the real issue is not that we are trying to encourage a quick decision, but how we go about it.

There is one approach that I’m definitely not a fan of.

It’s been affectionately nicknamed by a friend of mine the “Buy Now or F*** Off!”  sales approach.   In the last few months it’s been experienced by a number of my clients, by a friend of mine when buying a new kitchen, and by me when exploring possibilities with a potential business mentor.

Decision on the spot

The “Buy Now or F*** Off” approach does exactly what it says on the tin and goes something like this:

1.  Take client through the sales conversation as normal.    Involving building rapport, listening, exploring problem, empathy and compassion.

2.  At the solution stage before offering your solution ask the potential client if they are committed to solving their problem by working with you.   Usually before they know what is involved or the level of investment.

3.  If client doesn’t give a clear commitment before knowing details of your package tell them that you only work with people who are committed and decisive and as they are neither you will not be inviting them to work with you.   This may elicit the required commitment but if it doesn’t, end the call and move on to the next client.

There is also a variation on 3. which involves offering a significant discount for an on-the-spot commitment.   Again, if the client fails to commit on the spot, end the call, remove the opportunity and move on to the next client.

I’ve been at the receiving end of this approach myself this summer and was stunned at how it left me feeling.  The turn from compassion, interest and empathy as I shared personal and business details to coldnesss and even aggression when I wasn’t in a position to commit left me feeling pretty shaken up afterwards.

But here’s the thing – this approach does work.  In fact it works really well and is surprisingly effective.   There are many people who are way more successful than I am who have grown their business entirely using this approach.   Their philosophy goes a bit like this:  “OK so I will annoy and upset  some people, but that’s OK because I don’t want those sort of people as clients anyway, and the number of “Yeses” that I get more than makes up for the number of people I might upset along the way. And if they don’t say “Yes” on this call they are probably not going to say “Yes” later anyway”

So like so many established, traditional sales techniques it works!

But it’s not very heart-centred.    I also think it’s short sighted.

While I love sales and selling, and I love getting fairly rewarded for sharing my gifts I also love respecting people, working with integrity and treating people how I like to be treated.   I like to get off my sales calls leaving my potential clients feeling good about their decision – whether it’s a Yes or a No.

I see it as my responsibility to help the client clearly see just how I can help them, the impact it will have and the cost of doing nothing.   But it is not my job to force them to a decision, no matter how clearly I think they need my help.

So, while I don’t subscribe to the “Buy Now of F*** Off” approach I DO believe it’s important to bring your clients to a decision while they are on a call with you.

This is because of 2 key factors in basic human psychology:

1.  Natural Resistance

People (all people – myself included) will always resist spending both money and time.   Even to achieve a change that they know they want.   Even when someone knows on an emotional level that they want to work with you it is almost always more comfortable for them to take some time to “think about it”.   So if you let them they normally will.

2.  The Half-Life of Enthusiasm

Your client is never going to be as emotionally engaged in the idea of working with you to solve their problem as they are right in that moment on the call with you having just spent up to an hour exploring the impact it’s having and creating a vision for how things could be instead.   24 hours later they will be only half as enthusiastic and committed – leave it a whole week and it just might not feel so important any more and the doubts and naysayers will have taken hold.

What these factors combined mean is that if, by the end your sales conversation, your client doesn’t  have the clarity and certainty that they need to make a decision then they will be even less clear after 3 days of “thinking about it”.

And so because I really “get” this, I like to offer incentives for a quick decision

Whether I’m selling my online programme or membership via webinars, or places on my private mentoring programme in a 1-2-1 conversation I always build in a good reason to make a quick decision.

But there’s an important distinction

I do this with the intention of getting those people who are already a strong “Internal Yes!” to overcome their natural resistance and make a commitment.

And I tell people that’s what I’m doing.   I don’t dress it up as only wanting to work with decisive people.  In fact many of my clients are not decisive action takers.   That’s often why they want my help in the first place!

At the same time I recognise  that sometimes for a larger investment (and what constitutes a “large” investment is different for different clients) people do often need a little time and space to process things.  So if it feels appropriate I might give people a little more space – sometimes a few days, but I keep control of the process and I don’t let the client let themselves off the hook.

And if someone has a valid reason why this might not be a good time for them – a major house move coming up, a close family member going into hospital – I will acknowledge that and schedule to speak again later – after all why would I want to take on a client who isn’t going to be able to give their full commitment to my process and not get the results I know I can deliver?

See?  No smoke and mirrors.   Just service and straightforwardness.

The difference between this and “Buy Now or F*** Off” is that it respects the clients right to follow a longer decision making process if that is what they need.   There is no point pushing someone to a decision who wakes up full of anxiety the next morning and calls you to cancel.   You want them to be fully on board, emotionally and mentally.

But this is also why knowing how to take someone through a structured sales conversation is so crucial. Because if you do this well you will know exactly where your client is at by the end of your conversation and whether it’s right to encourage them to make a commitment right then,  or build in a little more space.  You can’t force anyone to a “Yes” decision – and neither would you want to – but if you understand where they are at you will know if the “I need to think about it” is really a “polite No” that you need to explore more deeply, or a genuine need to reflect and process and you can adjust your sales process accordingly.  Which in turn means you are respecting the potential client, which builds trust, and actually makes them more likely to commit than if you try to force them into something they are just not sure about yet.

I would love to know your opinion on this topic – do let me know in the comments below.

With Love & Gratitude,

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13 Comments

  1. Linda Anderson on September 2, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    What a fabulous post, Catherine.

    I love the distinction you make between the ‘Buy Now or F*** Off’ approach, which basically seeks to manipulate anyone who gets into a sales conversation, and your own, which is all about being in integrity and of service to the people who need what you have to offer.

    That’s the reframe of ‘sales’ that has transformed the way I feel about having those conversations.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  2. Kat on September 2, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    Excellent post Catherine, I really enjoyed reading about your own experiences and so felt the energetic of the place you come from and your integrity 🙂 Keep em coming! You are such a great writer!

    • Catherine on September 2, 2014 at 2:52 pm

      Thanks for the comments Kat and Linda – much appreciated 🙂

  3. Claire on September 4, 2014 at 6:07 am

    There appears to be a fine line between the two approaches and it can be confusing for someone who is absolutely passionate about their business, really wanting to help people, and yet is totally new to sales. You are right Catherine, there are a few people who will always need time to think about buying and you need to keep control of the process. Your method would work very well with those who as part of their natural decision making process need to take time to think about things, and that needs to be respected. Even when they are really, really keen (and these people usually seem very cool and not that emotional), they don’t like to feel they have to decide straight away and you can lose them if you take the Now or F*** off approach.

    Thank you for this blog post.

  4. Joanna on October 8, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    I’ve realised that this approach just screams to me, ‘needy! needy!’. I’m currently considering working with someone who has been exactly the opposite – rather, ‘I’d like your business, but I don’t need it’. She respects that it’s not about her, it’s about me. Personally I like to do my research, and then return to the sale when the time is right for me. And I do.

  5. Karen Williams on October 8, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    Brilliant post as always Catherine. I was on the end of what felt like a buy now or f*** off approach last year and she wouldn’t even tell me the price before I indicated commitment. For me there was a mismatch in terms of our personalities, which made me realise it wasn’t right for me. I then went on to buy a similar service from someone who was willing to give me time to think about it and talk it over with my husband before I was able to say yes. With my prospective clients, if I really want to work with them, I’ll always give them time to think about it if they need it, but I’ll always put in a follow up call to talk further too.

  6. Nina Cooke on February 7, 2017 at 10:16 am

    This is so spot on, Catherine. If clients want more time think about it, I book a follow-up call a week later. But the ones who have become the best clients are those who sign up immediately.

    • Catherine on February 9, 2017 at 6:32 pm

      Hi Nina
      That’s great – but I wouldn’t advise you leave it as long as a week. Reference the “half-life of enthusiasm” I mention in the post. A week is a long time for someone to decrease in enthusiasm AND to think themselves out of it. I would always recommend finding out what specifically they need to think about and then arranging the follow up call fairly soon after – ideally just a couple of days while your initial conversation is still fresh in their mind.
      Catherine

  7. Grace on February 7, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    Excellent post. I have been that person who has been pushed into an on the spot decision ” who wakes up full of anxiety the next morning and calls you to cancel”! I certainly don’t feel comfortable using such aggressive techniques.

    • Catherine on February 9, 2017 at 6:35 pm

      Hi Grace
      Yes it feels horrible doesn’t it. Even if the thing you bought was the best thing ever for you, that sense of discomfort would cause you to back out. I remember once buying an expensive programme, cancelling it the next day because I felt I’d been rushed into the decision without enough processing space. Then two weeks later I bought it again once I’d had time to check in with myself! Of course I missed some shiny bonuses but the feeling of being grounded in my decision totally made up for that.
      Catherine

  8. Tim Gray on February 11, 2017 at 11:54 am

    Slight tangent, but talking about that feeling of the conversation turning round and dropping you down a hole reminds me of telesales calls I’ve received. We were having a pleasant conversation about a software product that I might have been interested in, and when I said I wasn’t going to go ahead they started suggesting I was stupid or deficient in some way for not seeing how great it was and jumping on it.

    It’s an experience of betrayal, albeit in a small frame.

  9. Harriet on May 8, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    I’m all up for asking for a decision, but before I’ve even given my solution that feels really icky. If I know they are right for what I offer, and I want to work with them, the way I explain my solution, tailoring how I explain it to match a lot of the conversation we’ve just had, can turn them from a maybe to a big yes. Often you can tell if ‘needing time to think’ is an excuse to get off the call, or if they really do need to check their finances and then decide which payment plan to go for or some variation of that. I couldn’t agree more that the ‘yes or f off’ approach is totally uncaring, and that’s not aligned with my values or the kind of relationship I want with my clients, potential or actual. Nor is it how I want to be known reputationally, which is something else to consider brand wise.

    • Catherine on May 18, 2019 at 5:45 pm

      Harriet, thank you for your comment – and yes you are 100% right, this is also about our brand. If we want to be seen as caring, heart-centred, supportive and be known for doing business that way then how we conduct our sales conversations – and just how we treat people in general feeds into that too – such a great point.

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