4 MIN. READ
"Listen, can I get back to you about this?"
It's a phrase that has killed countless sales. Say it to any experienced sales rep, and you'll probably see them deflate before your eyes.
But do clients who say, "I'll get back to you" just want to let you down easily? The answer may be more complicated than you think, especially in light of how the pandemic has transformed B2B sales.
Today, we’re exploring what clients really mean when they hit you with this phrase.
Here are four reasons a sales prospect in manufacturing will tell a rep "I'll get back to you:"
1. They don't want the product or service a rep is offering but don't want to confront them directly. Telling someone you'll "get back to them" and then dropping contact is a lot less confrontational than telling a rep "your product/service doesn't meet my needs" or "I don't like what you're offering."
So yes, some prospects do use this phrase to disengage with salespeople.
2. They're not sure a rep's product or service can outperform a competitor's. Frequently, prospects will use "I'll get back to you" to stall for time and do some more research on what a product or service can do. They may call a competitor in and see if they like their pitch more, or they may try and research alternatives independently.
3. They like a rep's product or service but aren't directly in control of the sale. We've covered this previously, but the average B2B buying group today has around seven individuals in it. Sometimes, if a key decision-maker in that group (like safety director) can't make the pitch, prospects will put a rep on hold until they can include that stakeholder in the sale.
This is particularly prevalent in manufacturing, when one stakeholder (like a safety manager or QA executive) can easily axe a purchase. Sometimes, prospects are just being honest; they really will get back to a rep, they need to talk to another member of the buying group or understand their budget more first.
4. They are overwhelmed: Being able to simply get through to decision makers was a challenge in and of itself during COVID. Many companies were scrambling to pivot and stay afloat during the pandemic and taking calls from salespeople may have been the last thing on their list.
Today, even as the pandemic eases, many manufacturing decision-makers are still scrambling, facing new and unprecedented challenges, from labor issues to supply shortages and high prices as demand heats up. These prospects may actually have a true interest your proposal, but simply don’t have the time to devote to it.
So, how can you handle each of these prospects?
1. Let Them Let You Down Easy
If you think a client is just using "I'll get back to you" to disengage, tell them. Saying "you know, I hear that a lot, and I usually don't hear back from people who say that. Are you just trying to let me down easy?" can resolve a lot of tension.
The client can specify precisely why they want to delay the sale, and if they're just not interested, you can save everyone's time by cutting the prospect loose. Even experienced negotiators don't like letting down a rep they like, so giving the client an easy out may be appreciated (and open up the door to future business).
2. Ask Them What You Can Do to Close the Deal
If you think a prospect isn't biting because they don't fully believe in your offering, ask them what you can do to change their mind. Would an on-site or virtual demo help convince them? What about a discussion with a C-level executive from your company? Manufacturing deals often require a lot of capital, and prospects want to make sure they're investing in the best product. Try to assuage any doubts they have, and you might close the deal.
3. Research, Research, Research
Having a complete picture of your high-value prospects in manufacturing can help you build a follow-up pitch that goes straight to the heart of what your prospect really needs. What products do they make? Are they seeing a surge in demand right now and need more staff, new equipment, new suppliers? Who are their competitors? What are the main challenges in their particular industry? What can you bring to the table that truly helps them out? A little follow up never hurts, especially if you can demonstrate to these clients that you’ve taken the time to understand their business.
4. Offer Alternative Means of Communication
Some prospects prefer a quick call. Others prefer email. Some may even want a Zoom call, Google Meet or to connect on social. The Pandemic unleashed a host of unorthodox business communications. If you sense your prospect is stalling because they’re overwhelmed, don’t railroad them onto an Outlook calendar spot. Ask them their preferred method of communication for a follow-up and be open to engaging with your prospect in unconventional ways.
5. Ask Them What the Hold-up Is
If you suspect another member of the buying group or a budgetary issue may be holding up the sale, approach the client tactfully about these topics. Ask them if there's another member of the buying group they'd like you to speak with.
Inquire about potential budgetary issues and let them know you're open to negotiation (if you are, of course, open to negotiation).
Even if you don't make the sale immediately, you'll at least understand the problem and can maybe move the sale forward. Plus, you can use client feedback to improve your pitch and avoid these issues in future pitches.
"I'll get back to you on that" can be a demoralizing phrase for a salesperson, but it doesn't mean the end of a sale. With the right know-how and a little tact, you can navigate even the most avoidant client with ease. Meanwhile, it helps to have a constant pipeline of fresh sales leads to pursue.
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Want to explore more types of sales objections and how you can best navigate them? Read our Definitive Guide to Overcoming Common Sales Objections
Editor's Note: The post was originally published in February of 2020. It has been edited to include information on changes in the B2B sales world.