(This article originally appeared on Deb Calvert’s blog)
This isn’t an article about creating a sense of urgency. Most sellers do a pretty good job of setting deadlines, dangling special incentive carrots or offering price discounts for a limited time only. Marketing departments and sales managers help when the urgency needs to be dialed up a notch. So I’m convinced that you don’t need a lot of help in creating urgency for your clients.
Instead of being an article about buyer urgency, this is article about seller urgency or, more accurately said, the lack of seller urgency.
As a field coach to sellers, I’ve seen a recurring problem that is easy to solve once it is acknowledged. The bigger challenge is in getting sellers to admit there’s a problem. Here’s a classic example – this is a recent conversation I had with a sellers who lacked sufficient urgency. Unfortunately, this type of conversation is not unusual. (I’ll bet this will sound familiar to a lot of sales managers, too.)
Me: Nice job in that needs assessment. I was wondering, though, what kept you from setting a follow-up appointment? I think they’re primed to hear your proposal.
Seller: I’m not sure when I’ll get to work on the proposal, so it’s better if I call back to set that appointment later.
Me: How long does it usually take to put a proposal together?
Seller: It depends. Market research might need to get involved. My manager will take a look at the finished proposal. It could be a week or two.
Me: A week or two!? That seems like a long time to keep a buyer waiting. What, specifically, causes the delay?
Seller: It’s no big deal. I’m just really busy right now…
Where to begin?
First, it is a big deal. Buyers are not patient. If you did a good job of assessing needs, then you need to “strike while the iron is hot.” With your needs assessment, you’ve heightened the buyer’s awareness of and discomfort with a problem. From there, only three things can happen:
- You offer a solution to address the problem right away. You offer that solution while the problem is still on the buyer’s mind.
- You offer a solution to address the problem later, when you get around to it a week or two after the initial meeting. It takes a little more time to get back in the door. Since your last meeting, the buyer’s attention has been diverted a dozen different directions. Your recollection of the needs the buyer shared has gotten a bit fuzzy, and your proposal is a little more generic because of that.
- You don’t offer a solution at all. Other priorities keep you busy, you procrastinate even longer. Eventually, you forget all about this proposal or you feel it would be too awkward to return after all this time has elapsed. Or you don’t offer a solution because the buyer doesn’t allow you in for the follow-up meeting. Why not? Maybe because some other seller was more responsive. Once you raised the buyer’s awareness and discomfort, right at the time when they were most likely to buy, some other seller stepped in to fill the gap you left.
Second, proposals shouldn’t be stalling out inside your building. If there are elaborate systems for pre-screening proposals or requirements for research, graphics and approvals, then you need to do everything in your power to expedite getting those elements. Put the wheels in motion immediately after the needs assessment. Build in the prep and/or approval time others will need.
Next, as in the example above, the seller should always set a follow-up appointment with the buyer before ending the sales call. If the seller anticipated needing two weeks to complete the proposal, then an appointment two weeks out should have been set. That would set the appropriate expectation with the buyer, create an accountability of a deadline for the seller, and save both the buyer and the seller time with the back-and-forth of appointment setting by e-mail and/or phone.
Finally, think about the message this seller is telegraphing to this buyer. Basically, to the buyer, it looks like the seller has better things to do. Urgency conveys priority. A lack of urgency suggests that the buyer’s needs don’t matter all that much to the seller. This kind of delay is particularly troublesome to buyers. They know sellers are supposed to sell. If a seller isn’t motivated enough to come back in a timely manner to sell you something, can you imagine how hard it will be to get their time and attention after you purchase? Your delays may actually be a serious breach of your buyer’s trust.
When I press sellers to put a little more urgency into their follow up, the number one response I hear from them is that they don’t want to seem pushy. The sellers who say this most often are the ones who fail in sales.
Showing urgency and caring about your buyers enough to follow through with them expediently does not make you pushy. It makes you professional.