Why a verbal agreement is an obstacle – not a sale

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 “Yes, we’ll definitely be moving ahead, I’ll get the paper work back to you early next week.”

This type of customer response to a sales person’s request for the order may seem like a positive outcome to some. To the more experienced sales professional, this form of response is treated as a core objection and must be overcome.

To seasoned sales professionals, the ‘deadly’ verbal agreement, carries no weight and is often seen as a signal the deal is about to go pear-shaped. In fact, I have known some sales people to ask the customer to retract it. Why?

From the customer’s perspective it’s much easier to offer a verbal agreement than make a full commitment and sign on the dotted line. Often a verbal is used as a reason to stall or slow-up the buying process or a it’s polite way of saying, ‘no.’

Verbalisation examples: 

– I’ll come back to tomorrow with my credit card I promise. 
– No I wont commit today, but I will definitely call back tomorrow. 
–  This is just a formality now, I’ll get my manager to sign and fax back. 

In all environments both B2B and B2C, verbalisation is rampant, with too many unwitting sales people buying-in and letting the customer walk out the door with a commitment, never to be seen again, or they engage in a fruitless pursuit that can span months, chasing the deadly verbal.

So how do you overcome verbalisation?

Well, here’s the thing, a verbal is not a sale. A verbal is not an agreement. A verbal is nothing more that an intangible and tenuous response to a request for a commitment.

A verbal cannot be trusted; the salesperson must make an effort to make the commitment tangible. This can be applied in the form of signature, deposit, or even an email confirmation, but it must be tangible.

The customer is so close to a full commitment, all that is often needed is one party to take the lead, be assertive and ask for a tangible commitment. If the response is negative, it must be treated as an objection and worked through with patience and structure. I call this approach, valuing and  fighting for the customer.

If the conversation or sales process has reached this critical point, being verbalised is out of the question, it’s unacceptable.

Next time a potential customer verbalises you, have a little chuckle to yourself and then respond, with, ‘sorry, we don’t accept hot air, please sign here.’

Trent Leyshan is founder of sales training company BOOM! Sales and the author of OUTLAW & The Naked Salesman.

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Trent Leyshan is the founder of sales training company BOOM! Sales and the author of Outlaw and The Naked Salesman.

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