In the fishing world, there’s nothing like the feeling of getting a bite and setting the hook, with the realization that your hard work will soon pay off as the prize you’ve so cautiously sought for hours is on its way to the boat.
At least, that’s how we all envision angling occurring.
More often than not, though, after a long day of chasing quarry, we get a nibble, then—to ensure the prey does not get antsy and pull away—we continue feeding it line. We want to ensure it has properly taken the bait and that we’ll get a solid hookset. And while this approach requires patience and resolve, it’s very effective for dealing with tough prey that don’t easily fall for simple tactics.
Salespeople, too, are well aware of this approach, often referring to it as strip-lining. A lead is forced to make a quick decision that will dramatically alter the shape of the negotiations. For example, when faced with a prospect who complains about the features of a vehicle they’d previously expressed interest in, a car salesman may say, “Maybe this isn’t what you’re looking for. Have you tried [a competing brand]?”
At that point, the prospect will typically say one of two things, both of which alert the salesperson where the potential customer stands in the process:
Upon hearing the first answer, the salesperson knows the prospect has likely done her homework and wound up here after narrowing down her options. This means she’s being coy about her interest in the vehicle, but is likely ready to negotiate.
If a salesperson hears the second answer, they can rest assured the prospect is not ready to buy and is likely wasting their time.
When working to qualify difficult prospects, the saying, “To be forewarned is to be forearmed,” certainly applies.