The TACTIC: A prospect who is listening is no prospect at all

Tactics Sales


Mr. Ross, a local antique dealer, stopped by John’s car dealership to look at cars. John had a great looking, previously owned SUV with low mileage and many attractive features that appealed to Mr. Ross.

“My problem, John,” said Ross, “is that I’m trying to justify this expense at this time. It’s more money than I planned on spending.”

Mr. Ross picked up John’s worksheet, looking it over, tapping his pencil, thinking.

John, a little panicky that the flow of conversation had ceased, readily piped up and offered the following:

“In the business you’re in, think how great it will be to have all that cargo space. Think of how much you can carry in the car and how much money you’ll save by having your own delivery vehicle!”

“That’s excellent advice, John. Give me a call tomorrow, and I’ll tell you what I’ve decided to do.”

When John called him the next day, he discovered that Mr. Ross had purchased a new cargo van at the dealership across town at three times the price of the SUV.

“You know,” he told John, “I was all set to go with that SUV until you got me thinking about cargo room and saving money. I figured if a little more room would save me a little more money, a lot more room would save me a lot of money . . .

John, I can’t thank you enough for helping me buy the van. Without your advice at the last moment, I never would have thought of it.”

John hung up the phone, kicking himself, since there were five new cargo vans on his lot. I wonder why, he thought, Mr. Ross didn’t look at them. Oh well.


John did not have the discipline to keep quiet while his prospect was making a buying decision. When the conversation came to an appropriate lull, John just had to fill in with one more reason to buy the SUV. And the concern John raised was so compelling that the prospect had to get a solution that day. Unfortunately from another salesperson and dealer.


All conversations, including sales presentations, have naturally occurring lulls. During these lulls, many different things occur. Some lulls are used to figure out how to phrase what comes next; others are used to review what has been said; still others are used to make decisions and carry them out.

A lull in the conversation is not a sign to a salesperson that something must be said. It is a sign to wait until it is appropriate to start talking again.


A lull in the conversation should be viewed as the salesperson’s opportunity to possibly ask a question. Most lulls need to be where they are. Enjoy them. If you have to ask a question, it should be open-ended. For example, “It seems you’re looking for something . . . ?”

Wait for a response. If you don’t get one, wait longer. The reason you didn’t get one is that the prospect did not hear what you said because he is too busy thinking of something. Respect your prospect’s right to think in peace.

Interrupting his thought process is not going to get you a sale. What you may get, if you insist on interrupting his thought process, is a prospect who views you as pushy and not willing to listen to what is important, even though he is not even speaking.

“Hey, this salesperson won’t even let me think things out. I don’t need this. I’m headed out the door.”

Think of what happened with John and the antique dealer. John also had cargo vans for sale, yet Mr. Ross went somewhere else to buy one. Price had nothing to do with it.


Lulls in conversations are not bad, and there is no reason for you to fill them in.  

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