Two pretty, fit older ladies were eating dinner beside me last week at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Fran. As they were finishing up their meal, the waiter came and asked if they would be having desert. “Oh, no, I couldn’t possibly have any more,” said one of the women. The other one hesitated, and then nodded in agreeance with her friend. Women can be funny when it comes to sweets… they never want to go down alone.

Astutely, the waiter picked up on their desire to actually have the desert. He noticed, as did I, the hesitation in the second woman’s response. So he did what any great salesman would do – kept the conversation going by asking the simple question: “Are you sure, ladies?” They hesitated again, and that was all she wrote. He swooped in for the close, “How about I show you what we have?” They smiled sheepishly, and he scurried off to the back…

I thought that meant he would be bringing back dessert menus. But no, this guy was selling hard… he had other plans. The waiter wanted to make this as tangible and enticing as possible.

How to Close a Reluctant Buyer

About 60 seconds after leaving, the waiter came back with a beautifully organized tray of real desserts. This guy was a salesman who believed in his product; and he knew that in order to close this deal, it would require showmanship and senses needed to be tantalized. He had to remove the women’s natural objection to calories (and peer perception) by making the choice irresistible. What makes a sale like this one all the more tough is that he would have to close both of the women on the purchase. Most times, a sale/purchase has one decision maker, but this was different given how women are with calories.

He explained which desserts on the tray were what, hinted at his personal favourite, and then the women bashfully deliberated on their next step (basically they were trying to read the other one – if I go down you go down with me sort of thing). They agreed to split the cheesecake after he informed them it was award winning and there were only three pieces left…

How to Close the Deal After a ‘No’

In sales, a no is not a no way. A no simply means the buyer hasn’t been convinced, and this waiter picked up on that brilliantly.

Once you get a ‘no’ in sales, you’re definitely in a tough spot – essentially digging yourself out of a deficit. However, it can be done, so long as you don’t look desperate for the deal. It’s not about going for the hard sell, but rather selling hard – enticing with features.

Give the impression that it’s the buyer’s loss, not yours, if they don’t take the deal (waiter achieved this by showing the physical desserts). Subtly explaining to the buyer that an offer is not a purchase, rather an opportunity is the key (the waiter achieved this by explaining how the cheesecake was award winning and only three pieces remained). Your ability to do so without coming off as desperate is what separates a skilled salesman from a dud. Sell by being persuasive, and clearly ask for the business. Be cool, but be thorough in your pitch. Some products need to be shown, while others need to be sold using analogies. Know your product by understanding how it can trigger a buyer. What better way to sell a dessert than to bring the dessert out, right in front of the guest… If they have any smidgen of a sweet tooth, and your product is quality, they’re indulging. But had the waiter simply told them what deserts were on the menu, then those two health conscious ladies likely would have passed.

Stay hungry,



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