When a sales call isn’t going your way, tension builds quickly as you scramble to find some last second Hail Mary question to keep the conversation going. The problem with that strategy is it often pisses the prospect off even more, which makes them even less likely to want to take your calls in the future.

Here’s what I’ve found that works best in these situations:

Plant a seed

Planting a seed means:

  1. You’ve recognized that this call needs to come to an end, and
  2. You want to leave them with something that causes them to keep bringing their thoughts back to you, every time a “trigger event” happens.

Trigger events

A “trigger event” is when something causes your prospect to feel a pain that you can solve for them. It’s their hot button. It’s something that makes your prospects stand up and say “Help me solve this problem — and I’ll pay you for it.”

So for the “plant a seed” play to work, you need to know what problems your primary prospects must have that will cause them to become your best clients.

Here’s an example of how the “planting the seed” play works.

Let’s say the sales call hasn’t gone the way you had hoped and you can sense the call needs to come to an end in order for you to live to fight another day. Instead of trying to keep them on the phone (only to annoy them even more) try this:

Salesperson: Mr. Prospect, it doesn’t sound like we have anything at the moment that would be a good fit for you.

This is only the first sentence in the “plant the seed” play. But let’s stop here and analyze why this is so important: It lowers your prospect’s guard.

Once they hear you say “It doesn’t sound like we have anything at the moment that would be a good fit for you,” they sense you are backing off.

Prospect on phone

When your prospects aren’t focused on trying to end the call, they are more likely to hear a message that could lead to a sale. (Photo: iStock)

Now that their guard is down, they are more open to hearing you. So here’s one example of what you could say next to plant the seed:

Salesperson: “Mr. Prospect, it doesn’t sound like we have anything at the moment that would be a good fit for you. We specialize in (hot Button 1, 2 and 3). What I’m going to do is this, I’ll send you an email with my contact info and if (hot button 1, 2 and 3) become a concern for you, you’ll know who to reach out to. Fair enough?”

The prospect will A) have their guard down and B) hear what you said and C) if you are truly speaking to a real prospect, your hot button messages will grow a little more every time one of those issues pop up. Hence the term “plant the seed.”

Here is an example I’ve used.

Salesperson: “Mr. Prospect, it doesn’t sound like we have anything at the moment that would be a good fit for you. We specialize in helping inside sales people who are struggling to hit their numbers due to constantly being rejected by gatekeepers, leaving voicemail message that don’t get returned and frequently hear “we’re all set/no budget/already have someone that does that” responses. What I’m going to do is this, I’ll send you an email with my contact info and if any of those issues become a concern for you, you’ll know who to reach out to, fair enough?”

Prospect: ”Umm OK. That sounds good. Thanks for the call.”

I can’t tell you how many times I would come in the next day and have a voicemail from that prospect, or an email from them asking me to call them or a phone call from them saying, “You know, I thought about what you said. I have a few questions for you.” Now you’re right back in the game!

A word of caution

If you find yourself having to run the “plant the seed” play way too often, that’s an indicator that your sales call process (what you say in your qualifying/needs analysis stage) is off the mark and needs to be corrected.

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