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The Ruby Group | Akron and Columbus, OH


“You’re close to making the sale, but I have to talk with some other people,” said Mary, watching for the reaction from Tim.

“That’s good to hear,” responded Tim with a sigh of relief.

“What you are proposing looks good, but I’m not sure of where our budget will be this year.”

“Does that mean there is a chance of doing business?”  Keep it positive, thought Tim, positive.

“Considering all of the proposals that we have seen so far, yours certainly has top consideration.”  Mary figured that if she kept up this barrage of meaningless phrases, Tim would eventually leave feeling just like the last six salespeople — with positive feelings and absolutely no commitment on her part at all.

“Is there anything else, Mary, that I could do to help you make a decision?”

“Tim, let me be honest with you,” responded Mary, “If I have my say, then there is a good chance that we could do business.”

“My company would certainly work to meet your needs,” responded Tim.

“It appears that every opportunity is open to you.  I don’t think you have to worry about where we will go with this.  You have our top consideration.”

“I can’t tell you what that means to me.  I look forward to hearing from you.”


Tim was promised nothing, but left feeling good because he thought he was promised something.  Mary avoided commitment and politely got rid of another salesperson.


Why do salespeople accept play-it-safe words?  Because when they go back to the office, they get to think and say that the prospect/customer is probably going to buy — this makes the sales manager happy.

Why do prospects and customers use play-it-safe words?  Because they have learned this is the surest and quickest way to get rid of salespeople.  They get to avoid commitment and as a bonus, get rid of the salesperson.

In this story absolutely nothing was promised by either party.  No commitments.  Unfortunately for Tim, he is under the illusion something was promised.


Instead of accepting play-it-safe words, turn them into a question directed at the prospect.

    "You have our top consideration.”  “By ‘top consideration,’ just what exactly does that mean?”

    "Your proposal looks good.”  “By ‘looks good,’ I’m not sure what that means; could you explain a bit further?”

    “I have to talk to some other people.”  “The other people, who are they?”

    “There’s a good chance that . . .”  “By ‘good chance,’ I’m just a bit confused.  What do you mean by that?”

    “We really appreciate the effort you’ve made.”  “I’m a bit confused; by ‘really appreciate,’ you mean…?”

Wait for an answer, and don’t accept more play-it-safe words as the answer.

Play-it-safe words are how prospects and customers avoid commitment.  If you accept these words, then don’t expect a sale.

©1992, 2007 Sandler Systems, Inc and TEM Associates, Inc. All rights reserved. S Sandler Training Finding Power In Reinforcement (with design) and Tactics for Sales Professionals are registered service marks of Sandler Systems, Inc.


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