Diffusing “I can’t talk right now.”

Pop quiz. 

You make a cold call.

After your opening line, your prospect says:

“I’m busy right now and can’t talk.”

What do you say?

Most salespeople try to overcome this “objection” by saying things like:

“I completely understand. Maybe this isn’t worth your time—the last seven people I talked to said the same thing initially. But after a brief conversation, they were glad they took the time to learn more. Just give us three short minutes to determine whether this is a wise investment of your time.”

“You must not be that busy, you answered on the first ring.”

Each of these statements sends a very powerful message to prospects: that you’re putting your best interests first.  

Whenever prospects feel pressure, they enter the Zone of Resistance (ZOR). 

The ZOR is a reflex reaction to pressure. Pressure is perceived as a threat, so it triggers the fight or flight response. 

So let’s try another approach.

This “objection” carries one of two meanings:

  1. It’s true. The prospect is busy and can’t talk. 
  2. It’s not true. The prospect feels sales pressure and wants to end the conversation.

When you treat a truth like an objection, you piss people off.

So you need an approach to understand the truth, not to overcome the objection:

Prospect: “I’m busy right now and can’t talk.”

Salesperson: Pause for two beats. One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Why? When you talk faster than your prospect, you create pressure. Slowing your rhythm reduces the ZOR. Pausing sends a signal that you’re listening. It also gives you time to think about what you’ll say. 

(Calm voice with a downward inflection.)

Then: “Seems like you have a lot on your plate right now.”

Chris Voss calls this labeling. You’re describing the underlying emotion the other person is feeling. Making others feel heard lowers the ZOR. Typically after you label, you get more information:

Prospect: “I’m baking cookies with my daughter. Thought you were someone else.”

Salesperson: “Sorry for interrupting. I’ll try you later this week.”

Later in the week (Playful, friendly tone):

“Hey Matt, it’s Josh. You probably don’t remember me. I interrupted you when you were baking cookies with your daughter. Are they still in the oven, or do you have a brief moment?”

Humor is one of the best ways I know to lower the ZOR.

If you let go of expectations, you’ll notice that more prospects will open up because they don’t feel the pinch of the sale.

Don’t overcome objections; understand them. 

Rewire your brain to listen.