How to Deal with the Stall: Managing Objections and Overcoming Excuses

Feeling stalled with donors imageAfter months of cultivation and relationship building, the time has finally come to ask for that major gift of which all your research has told you that he or she
is capable. You are, at long last, face-to-face, knee-to-knee with the prospect. You know your prospect, your case and you are the right person to do the ask.

The setting is perfect. You have structured the environment so that the prospect really is comfortable and believes that he is in control.

The conversation goes perfectly. You open and in a gentle way engage the prospect in the search for common ground. By responding to your open-ended questions, your prospect talks about himself and your agency. As you listen actively and take notes, you are planning how to reinvent your case for this prospect.

During the conversation, the prospect provides you with the perfect clue and you launch easily into the case. Even as you present your vision, you check in regularly with the prospect to make sure that he is with you every step of the way. Each time you ask an open-ended question your prospect seems to become even more interested and invested in what you are presenting. You are collecting a series of affirmative replies all along the way.

The moment of truth approaches when you have to ask the prospect to do that which you both came together to do-to make a difference. You ask the prospect to “consider a gift of the ‘rated’ amount. And after you ask, you are silent. The prospect turns the request over and over in his mind. You wait for the inevitable objections or excuses.

There are numbers of objections for which you are prepared. You have role-played with your colleagues every conceivable question that you think the prospect might raise.

And, so as not to disappoint you the prospect does indeed ask some questions about the impact of his prospective gift, who else is contributing at this level, and what future needs would be.

You know how to respond. First, you seek clarification, if necessary, to make sure you understand exactly what the prospect is saying. Second, you acknowledge that you have heard what the prospect has said by restating the objection. Then, you resume the case in a focused manner to respond to the objection. And, finally, you close again by asking the prospect to consider the gift, stated perhaps in a different manner than initially.

Finally, after what has seemed like an eternity, but in reality is only a few seconds, the prospect says, “I’d like to think it over.” You have just encountered the “Stall.” The good news is that the prospect does have some desire to make the gift, after all, he came this far in the solicitation process with you. The bad news is something is stopping him from making a gift decision now.

A stall signals conflict. The conflict is the agony of indecision between the desire to make the gift versus feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. When the desire is great enough the prospect will make the gift. A stall usually means your prospect does not have enough reason to buy now-he does not have a sense of the opportunity or the urgency. You obviously need to do something.

You remember all the affirmative responses you “collected” during the earlier part of the conversation. Now, in the face of the stall, you need to focus on the prospect’s positive emotions about your enterprise and the gift opportunity. When you overcame the objections earlier in the conversation you neutralized a block in the decision process. However, that is not enough. To overcome the stall, the prospect must feel a strong, positive benefit. Your task is to discover what the prospect perceives those benefits are and help him focus on them.

You might do that by asking questions such as:

* What do you find exciting about this enterprise?
* What advantage do you see in the opportunity?
* How would you benefit from making the gift?

By asking such questions, you will have a clearer understanding of your prospect’s motivation and be in a better position to move him toward a positive decision..

Try to find out the reason the prospect feels he might need more time to “think about it.” Then, when the prospect identifies his reasons for not making a positive decision, you have an opportunity to deal with them.

It is the combination of focusing the prospect on his positive thoughts as well as identifying the blocks that are the best way to overcome stalls. You may find that the prospect wants to give but does not see why he should buy now. He may not feel the urgency!

It is up to you to create that sense of urgency by “selling” his problem back to him. Build his desire by reminding him of the problem-and all the possible consequences of inaction-that his gift will solve. Get agreement on the opportunity, then rescue him with the solution-all the positive benefits that he had identified earlier.

Of course, there are times when you are legitimately stalled. For example, you and the prospect must do further analysis of the cash flow needs of the project as well as the income and estate tax consequences of the gift.. In that case, then you must employ strategies to obtain the next appointment as you keep his interest and involvement high.

Whether on the first or final call, the stall is the classic excuse to avoid making the gift decision. With a bit of practice, you can become adept at questioning to uncover the reason for the stall. In that way, you will help the prospect to understand why he can benefit from making the gift commitment TODAY!