If you dread it when a prospective customer says, ‘let me think about it,’ you may benefit from a process – proposed by New Zealand’s foremost thought leader in sales excellence Bill James – that helps you land the sale from start to finish in virtually one sitting.

“It’s a busy world and people don’t have time for chit chat the way they once did. They want to know if you’re worth the time investment before the rapport building begins,” says James. To begin with, it is important to get your positioning right. Always approach the sales call as if you were a General (a leader, not a follower).

“Walk and talk like a General,” says James. “There are two types of people in your prospective customer’s eyes. You are either the prospective sales customer’s peer, or you are subservient. You want them to accept you as an equal and an expert in your own right.”

Establish your relevance and set the agenda

“Rapport is still important, but relevance is the prerequisite. So what you want to do in the first 15 to 20 seconds, is establish why you are relevant to their business and important to them – whether it’s offering a tangible return-on-investment, efficiencies or other benefits.”

James says that an agenda is a valuable asset as every personality type appreciates and has faith in the process. Start with something like, ‘I would like to get to know you well enough that we may do business together’.

While the other person knows you’re there to sell something, putting it front and center shows intent and clears the air. It swings the pendulum of trust and credibility back towards the salesperson.

Another example may be: ‘I hope to impress you enough with what we have to offer that you will see us as the right option, but there is obviously a conversation to be had before we can decide if we are a good fit. How does that sound to you?’ The next step should be about them:
‘Could we start by exploring why you agreed to see me and what you want from our meeting?’


‘What are the challenges that have us talking and what have you already looked at as a means of solving them?’

‘From there I will share and few ideas and, if what we have discussed feels like the right option, we can work out where we go from here. Does that sound ok?’

Ask good questions

“Ask some exceptionally good questions. Not stupid ones like, ‘how many staff do you have?’ Instead, use questions like, ‘Why did you agree to see me today?’ and ‘What is your biggest challenge?’ Then you should deep dive into those questions. Ask ‘why?’ frequently.” Another question may be, ‘Is this something you really feel you need to fix in your business?’


Summarise the prospective customer’s problems back to him or her and make sure you haven’t missed anything. “At this point, you can ask permission to talk about some of your solutions,” says James. “Always use relevant examples of the work you’ve done in the past and the great results you achieved.

“Test your solutions. Ask them, ‘Which of the solutions I have proposed is more palatable? And, ‘Why do you think this one isn’t palatable?’ There’s a Harvard Study that says 42% of decisions are made at the question stage – it’s where they decide if you’re an idiot or not.”


Bringing the sale to a close could involve questions such as, ‘It looks like this solution would fix everything for you. Can you see that? That’s great. Let’s talk about a plan to implement it’.

“If you have understood the challenges well enough, you’ll be able to finish with statements such as, ‘You told me that not doing this solution is costing you $17,500 per month.

The sooner we start, the sooner we can stop that bleeding – shall we begin? “Finally,” says James, “Build a degree of excitement. Don’t be deadpan.”


Bill James – Director, Attain NZ