by Bill Hellkamp
There is a time in most sales cycles where your prospect is going to delay the process. Seldom will they announce this, such as, “Hey Bill, we couldn’t make a decision if our life depended on it, so we are going to dither around fruitlessly while you dangle in the wind.” No, they are seldom that honest. In fact, they rarely recognize the fact that they are even hesitating. Instead, they give you reasons that sound legitimate but are merely ways to defer the decision. And we all know how frustrating a delay can be. So let’s look at some of the reasons that prospects delay the deal and how we might help them to move forward.
It is a strategic play to gain an advantage. Salespeople are in a hurry to get the deal done and the buyer knows it. By slowing down the selling cycle, they put pressure on you to get the deal done. The more you sweat, the closer they are to gaining a concession when contract time comes along. Quite often a sales person will sweeten the deal without being asked and without even getting the concession of closing the deal. Here is what it might sound like.
Salesperson: Mr. Benson, I spoke to my manager and he said that we could give you a 40% break on the service contract to sweeten the deal.
Prospect: Well, that’s fine Henry, and it sure does help us to afford the purchase.
Salesperson: So I’ll send over the paperwork for you to sign.
Prospect: Not yet, Henry. Let me think about it for a couple of days.
You see the salesperson gave away the 40% on the assumption that it would move the deal along, but he didn’t make it a qualified discount, as in: “If you are willing to sign the contract today, I can get you a 40% discount on the service fees.” See the difference?
Now if you don’t have a concession you can (or want to) make to move the sales forward, another way to get things going is to Build FUD – fear, uncertainty and doubt. In order for the prospect to allow the sale to move forward, there must be a penalty for waiting. Do they need your product to keep their manufacturing plant open? Are prices going to rise soon? Is there an event or time frame that will cause this sale to change its level of urgency? In order to move the sale forward, you need the pressure to be moved to the client’s side.
They are afraid of making a mistake. While the client might like your service as opposed to your competitor’s, they may be concerned that they might get in trouble if things don’t go well after the purchase. This means that you will need to reassure the prospect that all will be well and that they are making the correct decision. Some ideas:
1. Tell success stories of customers with whom you have worked closely
2. Show them testimonial letters from real customers.
3. Give them a list of customers they can contact
4. Introduce them to those that will handle their account
5. Show them written contracts or policies that give them confidence in the process
They are confused. And a confused buyer will say those words that sales people hate to hear, “I need to think about it. Get back to me in a …” Lifetime? The prospect probably had enough information to proceed at a particular time in the process, but the salesperson kept talking until the water got totally muddied. In the discovery step you should have determined what the key needs of the prospect were. During the development step you should be closely linking your product to those needs. The best way to keep from confusing a customer is to get them focused only on those attributes that make the buying decision clear. For example, you have six key features of your product and the customer is interested in the first, third and fourth features. Don’t cause confusion and uncertainty by talking about the second, fifth and sixth features! This does not help the customer feel better because the product has so many features. Instead, she begins to wonder why she should pay for features she does not want or need! By discussing only the features they want, we seem to be giving them the “perfect” product that meets their specifications.
There are others involved in the decision. If you find out late in the sale that there are other’s involved that you don’t know about, then you didn’t ask the right questions early in the process. We teach sales people to include a question such as, “In addition to you, who else will be part of the decision?” This can bring out some names, and it is your job to get these people actively involved at the earliest opportunity. If you didn’t get that information early you will still have to get in front of these people late in the process. But don’t leave it to your client to tell your story. You must do it yourself.
Often we can find ourselves in a sale that gets bogged down. Do your best to find out the reason for the delay and take proactive steps to get it back on track.