Have you ever been out to dinner with a group of people and, when it comes time to order, there is that one person completely overwhelmed by this decision? “Come back to me after everyone else orders,” he’ll say. When the waiter comes back, he still needs coaching from the group.
In the book People Smart in
Business by Tony Alessandra and Michael J. O’Connor, the way people make
buying decisions is explored. You would most likely categorize this indecisive
and overwhelmed dinner guest as a cautious thinker. This is a person who will
prolong and agonize over a buying decision, especially if there is a
significant dollar amount at stake.
After being in the residential HVAC replacement business for nearly 20
years, I’ve seen my share of cautious thinkers. When this cautious thinker is
in research mode (getting their estimates) it can be painstaking for a sales
person. To win their business, you need to be patient and understand the
cautious thinker’s process. I have success selling to cautious thinkers and maintain
my 50 percent closing rate. I also know when it’s time to walk away (for my own
well being and sanity).
One of the most challenging situations for a cautious thinker is when
they are forced to make a decision prior to completing their psychological
process. I encountered one of these situations when I recently met one of my
service technicians out at a house. The customer had his 50-year-old hot water
gas boiler shut down by the gas company for an unsafe condition. As I arrived,
my service technician was explaining for the fifth time that the heating system
had to be replaced. The customer wanted the service technician to try to clean
the 50-year-old leaking gas boiler and then turn the gas back on.
To most people that sounds like a ridiculous and unsafe request. To the customer,
the epitome of a cautious thinker, his request was quite natural. It was 10°F
outside and the temperature in the house was down to 45° and dropping. The
customer was beside himself because he was unable to do his research, get his 6
estimates and make the buying decision at his own pace.
After empathizing with the customer, I needed to take charge quickly. I
re-explained the safety issues we were facing: carbon monoxide poisoning,
freezing cold temperatures, and the potential of pipes that will burst.
I was able to calm the customer with my credibility book. This is a book
full of testimonial letters, references, copies of my certificate of insurance,
and some notable organizations with which we were members. The last piece of
the puzzle was a copy of my competitor’s estimates to prove our prices were
competitive. In the end, I needed to have a take charge attitude with the
customer for his own good.
I said to the customer, “I need
your authorization right at the X_______ and I’ll get this heating system in
for you today.” To ease the burden we were able to offer him a one-year
interest-free payment plan. If I didn’t take control of the situation, the
customer could have been a victim of his own cautious thinker personality type.
This could have cost him and his family time, misery and more money in the long
Michael O'Grady is the author of the new book, “Selling at the
Kitchen Table: A Contractor’s Guide to Closing the Deal”. He offers sales training
seminars, private coaching sessions and products for sales professionals,
managers, contractors and business owners.