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Don’t Accept those Time-Sucking Continuances


sitting on the benchStop celebrating continuances.

Your sales process has specific steps to progress from opening to closing the sale. There is no step in that process where sellers sit on the sidelines. So why do sellers breathe a sigh of relief or rejoice when they get a continuance?

The dictionary definition of continuance is “an act of continuing or remaining in the same place.”  In sales, a continuance is when the buyer doesn’t buy but gives the seller a glimmer of hope by saying something like “call me back” or “let me think about it.” Since this is not an outright “no,” optimistic sellers view a continuance as good news. It’s not.

The classic continuance is actually worse than being turned down. Continuances will consume way too much time, cause you to put your proverbial eggs in the wrong basket, and keep you from focusing on other prospects who are more likely to advance all the way to a close.

A solid “no” is preferable to a continuance. When a prospect offers a continuance, it should be handled like an objection, not like a buying signal. Sellers need to know what is preventing the buyer from saying “yes” today. Whatever doubt or hesitation caused the continuance is only going to grow so long as it remains unchallenged.

Some prospects are “too nice” to give you an outright “no.” They choose, instead, the softer rejection of a continuance. You know what happens next – they don’t respond to your calls, e-mails and efforts to get back in the door.

What those prospects don’t understand is that continuances are costly for sellers. Every attempt to reach these prospects is wasted time.  Every follow-up call, e-mail, voice mail and visit represents lost opportunities – time you could be spending with prospects who are truly interested.

If a buyer says “let me think about it,” “let me talk it over with my partner,” or “give me a call next month,” ask at least one of these questions. The answer will indicate how much more time and effort is warranted with this prospect.

  • What would make it easier for you to move forward with me today?
  • What is causing this delay in getting started?
  • Is that just your way of politely saying “no” or “not now?”
  • What, specifically, will you be thinking about? (or talking with your partner about?)
  • What will change between now and the time we meet again?

You may find that you are working with someone who genuinely does need time to think or talk with other decision makers. These questions will not be offensive if that’s the case. These types of buyers will not mind if you set a follow-up appointment before you leave (a best practice in all sales calls, by the way).

You may, however, find you’re being brushed aside and there’s no real intention to buy. Knowing that now will be a blessing in disguise.

Always go for clarity instead of a continuance.

Deb Calvert, President of People First Productivity Solutions, is a Top 50 Sales Influencer who’s championing the movement to Step Selling & Start Leading. Deb provides consulting, training and coaching for companies aiming to improve their sales, leadership and team connections.

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