Avoiding Stalls, Put Offs and the Dreaded “I Want to Think It Over”

The Drill

If you have been in selling for any length of time you know the drill……….

You met with a prospect or potential buyer. They had a need or problem that you could solve. They seem committed to investing the money to fix the problem and they ask you to give them a proposal. You agree and scheduled a follow up meeting.

You then proceed to spend several hours putting together a detailed, customized solution to their problem and presented it to them. At the conclusion of your presentation you attempted to close. They stalled by telling you they liked what you had but they needed to study your proposal and “think it over”. You tried to close again but they refused to move forward and ask that you call them back in a week or two.

You agreed and then went into chase mode by following up with them the following week. After several attempts to follow up and close you finally came to the resounding conclusion that this deal was never going to happen. If this only happened occasionally maybe you could accept it. Unfortunately, for you it happens over and over and over again. It’s frustrating, demoralizing and is a complete waste of your time.

The Approach

To avoid all of this unnecessary nonsense, when a prospect asks for you to present a proposal you should say:

“Mr. Prospect I appreciate that but before I agree to do that it is important that you understand that preparing a quote and doing a proposal involves significant resources of time, energy and money on our part. We are committed to doing this for you but we ask that you make a similar commitment to u. Fair?”


Let me explain. When I come back and present the proposal to you we need to have everyone who has any part in the decision making to be present. That way I can explain everything once to everyone and answer any and all questions that they may have. This will streamline the process and save us all a lot of time. Can you commit to having all decision makers present at this meeting? (if they say no you must seriously consider why you would want to go back and give a presentation to someone who will not be able to make a decision)

If the prospect agrees you continue with…I appreciate that. When I come back there are three things that can happen..


#1 at the end of my presentation you can tell me you like my proposal and would like to move forward, #2 you can tell me that you don’t like my proposal and don’t see a fit between my company and yours or #3 you can tell me that you would like me to leave my proposal so that you and your group can review it and discuss it. Now I am ok with you telling me either yes, you want to move forward or no, you don’t want to move forward but what I am not ok with is you telling me you can’t make a decision and would like for me to leave my proposal behind so that you and your group can “think about it”. To be very clear you need to understand that I will not leave my proposal unless you agree to move forward. I realize this may be different than the way you normally do things or the way my competitors operate but we are different and are not like anyone else. Knowing all of this up front, do you still want me to put together a proposal?


Oh, one more thing. When I get here if all of the decision makers are not present I will not be presenting my proposal and we will need to reschedule when they can all be present.


If you think this approach won’t work in your business because your industry, profession or prospects are somehow different – you are wrong. At last count, I have over 67 industries and professions using this approach. If you are uncomfortable with this approach you need to get over it and quit being such a wimp. If you refuse to do this you deserve to get crapped on or used and abused by prospects that have no regard for your time, your expertise or your energy. As we say here in the South, “ain’t nobody can walk on you if you don’t lay down”.





3 replies
  1. Kaleem
    Kaleem says:

    Most inappropriate way of handling a client has been give above. Unless of course you sell Boeings and the client is asking you to custom. In that case you may say some such thing or even charge them for the pre-feasibility. But if you are selling heat resistant paints or specialty coatings or some such thing you cannot state it like this.
    The idea should be to try to find out why he is stalling ? Is he mad ? Unlikely. Is he waiting for another quote ? Probably. Does he feel he is being conned ? Maybe. So educate him. But you cant say Mr Prospect it will take a lot of my time etc so you have to make a commitment to be equally serious about this proposal or some such thing. Sorry wrong answer.

    • sclark
      sclark says:


      Thanks for your comments.
      While you are entitled to your opinion, you are not entitled to your facts.
      The truth is this works if the salesperson has the guts to do it.

      Steve Clark

  2. Michael
    Michael says:

    Steve – I agree with your post. For over 30 years I’ve been a business and finance strategist in Silicon Valley. Wish I had read your advice at the beginning of my career. So much of my time has been wasted by people who are not serious, don’t have the money, or the authority to approve a purchase. Your idea would have saved me thousands of hours and frustration.

    Although the approach may not work for EVERY industry, I believe it will work for most. The person who wrote a comment may either be in one of the industries where this does not pertain, or unfortunately, he is probably experiencng the pain of being a “nice guy” and not getting to the point with his “suspects/prospects.” I’ve used your approach, from a program I bought from you years ago.

    It really works. For those not ready, not serious or unable to make a decision – it scares them away, without insulting them.


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