Out on a limb--it's an old saying, yet at one time or another, everyone in sales has been caught out on the proverbial limb.
It's when the customer pulls a fast one by asking a totally unrelated question and then makes that question the basis for determining the sale. It's usually a question that has nothing to do with the sale, and it usually catches the salesperson off guard.
Some customers use the tactic as a subterfuge when they feel blocked or backed into a corner. In other words, they use a way-out question to throw the salesperson off stride.
This then allows the customer to regroup while the salesperson tries to restore the situation to the previous control level. There are, however, ways to maintain control without breaking pace.
Perhaps the simplest method of all is to ask, "Why do you say/ask that?" or "What do you mean?" or "I'm not following you. What's your point?"
This method will normally stop the customer's attempts to create a subterfuge and will keep control levels close to the original. Instead of following the customer's lead, ask open-ended questions to
involve them in your discussion again.
Another method is to acknowledge the customer's question, delay answering it, and then continue.
You might try something like this: "That's an interesting question. Let me consider how that affects this situation while I finish telling you how our widget will increase your profits 15%. Okay?"
Unless the customer really wants to cause problems, the answer will be affirmative. Most customers who knowingly practice the subterfuge will also respect a salesperson for recognizing and dealing with it.
Sometimes a customer may be insistent and demand that the question is entertained. That's easy. Entertain the question while drawing parallels (examples) back to what was originally being discussed. Then continue on your previous track.
Being "out on a limb" means that you have to think quickly and use innovative connections to get back on track. By addressing the customer directly, you can face the issue and go for a sales connection.
Stay in control. Use sound reasoning, logic, and innovation to bring the sale to a successful close. If you find yourself stuck out on a limb, it doesn't mean your sale is finished. It just means that you
have to find a new way to get yourself, and your client safely down on the ground.