5 Steps for Handling Indecisive Customers

© by Dr. David Weiman. All rights reserved.

If you’ve ever bought something you didn’t really need, you’re familiar with what I call “the moment.” It’s that few seconds during which you try to convince yourself that – although you don’t “need” that pink sweater with the little boxer dog designs on it – you really want it. So you buy it.

There’s a lot going on in your head during “the moment.” And for most people, it resolves itself quickly into a “buy” or “don’t buy” choice. For others, however, “the moment” doesn’t end in a few seconds. It can take a few minutes or even longer for them to decide whether or not to buy something. And when that person is your prospective customer, it can be frustrating to wait.

So what should you do when you have an indecisive prospect in front of you? I’ll get to that in a moment, but first, it’s helpful to understand what’s happening in a person’s mind when they’re making a decision.

Decisions, Decisions

Decision making usually involves the following stages:

identifying what the choice is (to buy or not to buy, for example);
thinking of alternatives (buy now, buy later, don’t buy);
weighing the pros and cons of each alternative;
picking the best choice;
enacting the choice
As you know, most people don’t consciously or mechanically go through these steps when they’re making a choice. But when indecision is present, it often means the buyer is “stuck” in one of these stages.

For example, someone who’s overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices available can stall in their thinking. The person can’t make up his mind because there are too many options to consider. People in that mode can’t process all of the options. In fact, in studies of decision making, many people – when given too many options – will make no decision at all, because it’s easier than trying to process all of the information needed to choose one.

Customers can also get stuck when there aren’t clear pros and cons to the alternatives they’re considering. This can happen, for example, when they’re looking at two very similar pieces of jewelry at a similar price, with no clear advantage to buying one over the other. Although it’s natural to think of jewelry buying as a subjective (and therefore non-rational) purchase, I’ve heard many people go through a very rational analysis as they’re trying to make up their minds about whether or not to buy.

Finally, a prospect may have decided what to do, but then get anxious about taking the action needed to complete the purchase. For example, Joyce decides she likes the purple necklace, but she always gets a little anxious and feels somewhat guilty right before she buys something for herself. She then hesitates to take out her credit card.

Common Mistakes

One common mistake that jewelry sellers make when a prospect seems indecisive is to try to read the prospect’s mind. We jump to conclusions about why they’re hesitating. And then, without asking them why they are undecided, we start talking to fill the void, hoping that something that we say will help them decide.

Another mistake is to offer more choices. We think that if we keep showing them more options, we’ll eventually show them something they like. As you now know, providing more options can confuse the indecisive prospect by giving them too much information to process.

Finally, we often make the mistake of leaving the prospect alone, believing that with enough time, they’ll figure out the right choice. I don’t disagree with giving people time to think about their decision. But learning what they’re undecided about is important, too, and that requires talking with them.

Helping People Decide

When you sell handcrafted jewelry, you aren’t just selling a product. You’re also providing a service, through your knowledge and expertise as an artist and a jewelry maker.

Helping prospective clients make good choices will foster a cordial relationship that can turn someone who’s just browsing into a longtime customer. So, it’s important to adopt a helping attitude when you’re working with an undecided prospect. Even if their indecision is resolved by deciding not to buy something from you now, they may value your decision-making help. And the trust that results from that help may turn into a sale later.

Five Steps You Can Take to Help Indecisive Customers

Acknowledge the indecision. It often helps an undecided person to have the indecision acknowledged or noticed. Usually they indicate their indecision through body language. That includes things like looking back and forth at two pieces, picking up a piece and putting it down several times, scratching their head, putting their finger to their lips or other obvious signs. To acknowledge that, simply say, “It seems as though you’re thinking this over,” or “Is there something you’re not sure about?” You will not only help them start resolving the indecision by acknowledging it, but their agreement puts the two of you on the same page.

Try to learn what they’re telling themselves about the purchase.
Thinking involves talking to ourselves. And the best way for you to learn what that prospect is saying to himself or herself is to ask. To do that (after you’ve confirmed that there’s some internal conflict going on), just ask: “What are you thinking right now?” or “Tell me a little about what you’re thinking.” The purpose of this step is to learn more about what part of the decision is keeping them stuck.

Clarify the source of the indecision. You can help the indecisive prospect by identifying the source of their indecision. Let’s say that the prospect is undecided because, although she likes a piece of yours, she just bought another piece of jewelry earlier in the week and can’t decide if she should spend more money on jewelry. A good clarification is a simple re-statement of the core of the issue: “I see … on the one hand you just bought a piece of jewelry the other day, and on the other hand, you’d like to have this one, too.”

Although a good clarification seems natural, it can take a great deal of patience and practice to accurately reflect back to someone what the source of their indecision is. Since indecision is a fact of life, you can practice with yourself! The next time you’re undecided about something, try to narrow down what the options are and then say them out loud. The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll be helping someone else clarify the source of their own indecision.

Identify the barriers to the decision. By this point in the conversation with the undecided prospect, you’ve confirmed that they’re undecided, they’ve shared with you some of their internal dialogue about the indecision, and you’ve clarified with them what the source of the indecision is.

Now you want to learn, as specifically as possible, what the barrier is to the decision. To learn that, you’ll need the prospect to focus not on the options, but on what’s preventing them from making a choice. So, using the example above, you might say, “It sounds like you feel you might be spending too much on yourself … ” The prospect will either agree with your comment, or clarify it in some way. The key here is to make sure you understand the barrier to the decision.

Remember, the correct decision isn’t necessarily to buy from you. And you’re trying to be helpful. So, as long as you help them resolve the indecision, you’ll be forming an effective relationship with them that will pay off now and later.

Eliminate the barriers.

Once you’ve identified what the real barrier to the decision is, your skill in sales will help you remove it. There are a number of ways of eliminating barriers, and they all have to do with offering solutions to the problem the prospect is trying to solve.

For example, in the situation above, let’s say the prospect agrees that they feel a little guilty about spending so much on herself in one week. You can eliminate that barrier by saying, “You can use a credit card to buy it, and that way you can actually pay for it later.” Or, “You can use a credit card to buy it, and I can ship the item to you” or some other solution that recognizes that the buyer is having a tough time justifying the total she’s spent.

Another option is to say, “I want you to feel completely comfortable with buying this today … completely guilt-free. You can take it with you now, and if you decide at some later point that you want to return it, your money will be refunded.”

By offering this kind of guarantee (and I’m not suggesting you do this with everyone), you’re reversing the “risk” this prospect feels as a result of buying the piece. In other words, you’re taking on the burden of the “guilt” so that she can buy it and be happy! If she’s not happy in a few days, she can return it with no questions asked.

Yet another option is to ask the prospect to imagine that the barrier doesn’t exist. Often, when you tell someone to “imagine” something, their mind bypasses any obstacles and goes right to the solution or goal. So, you might say (again, using our example above), “Can you imagine feeling good about being able to buy something for yourself that you really like?” This has the effect of removing the guilt the prospect originally felt … that they didn’t deserve the additional purchase.
Helping indecisive customers deal with their indecision is an essential jewelry selling skill. And like anything you want to do well, it will take a lot of practice and repetition to do it well. But if you commit yourself to improving your skills in this area, you’ll achieve a greater sense of competence, and along with that competence, a greater sense of confidence about your ability to help connect prospects with the jewelry you work so hard to create.

Very soon, you’ll help prospects turn that “moment” of indecision into the pleasure of owning a beautiful piece of your jewelry for a long, long time.

About the Author: Dr. David Weiman, “the Jewelry Marketing Doctor,” is a psychologist and internationally-known expert on marketing and selling handmade artisan jewelry. He is also the marketing director for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, Step by Step Beads, and Step by Step Wire Jewelry. His new book, 101 More Jewelry Selling Techniques from the pages of Jewelry Selling Insights — along with many other books and tools for selling handcrafted jewelry — at http://www.MarketingJewelry.com where you can also sign up for his free “Jewelry Seller” e-newsletter.


All Things Metal Clay is proud to be an affiliate partner with JewelryMarketing.com!

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About the Author

ElaineI'm an artist, writer and provider of hard to find tools for metal clay. I blog about metal clay and jewelry making and the business of crafts at All Things Metal Clay.View all posts by Elaine →

One comment on “5 Steps for Handling Indecisive Customers

  1. Pingback: All Things Metal Clay » Blog Archive » Marketing Mondays

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