Building trust and creating a sense of urgency go a long way towards moving the sales cycle forward
Is it my imagination or are people taking longer to make buying decisions for transportation and logistics services? among business people all over the country who have deals and purchases pending, pending and pending. While it may seem that all your elusive sales are out of your control, the reality is that there is a great deal in your control to move the sales cycle forward, faster.
The first step is to create a greater sense of urgency. I’m not talking about forcing the sale with a line like, “this is a limited time offer…” I’m not one for hard selling, especially when you’re looking to build long term relationships. In the bestseller So Your Foot’s In The Door…Now What? (footsinthedoor.com) Author Steven J. Schwartz advises that an effective opportunity to create a sense of urgency and accelerate the buy decision is immediately after you have identified the challenges or problems your customer is looking to remedy. The key is to have the prospect articulate either what the positive outcome would be when the problem is fixed, or what would happen if the problem was not fixed. Schwartz refers to this as finding out “what’s at stake”, adding that “the more urgent the problem, the faster people tend to move to fix it.”
Another great tip I gleaned from Schwartz is to tie your solution to something your customer has an immediate use for. For example, if your service is going to save company money, find out early in the sales cycle where the customer is likely to use the savings. This information can either be ascertained off the net, or in your initial conversation. Suppose the company you are prospecting is in growth mode, and the savings will likely be used to purchase new equipment. At the point in your conversation when you quantify the savings, you would say something like, “these dollars can translate into new equipment next quarter for your expansion.” All of a sudden the dollars go from being abstract to funding that is tangible and urgently required. Here’s another example: Suppose you were selling landscape design and found out that your prospective customer is thinking of expanding a deck in the backyard and adding a rock garden. Right now all you have is desire without a sense of urgency. But what if you found out that the customer is considering the landscaping at this time because they have a birthday party coming up and would like to have the party outside? The deck and landscaping are not a priority, but the birthday sure is, and the closer the birthday, the greater the sense of urgency. You see where I’m going. The moment you learn of the birthday your whole conversation should evolve around preparations for the party, because the party is the real objective here.
Another road to a shorter sales cycle is to build trust faster. I learned from Schwartz that one of the most effective ways to escalate the trust factor is by having effective answers to questions. Effective means that the person understands and relates to your answer, because people will not take action if they do not understand and relate to anything you discuss. It’s funny how most of the questions we get asked are the same, yet we seldom prepare effective answers in advance. Schwartz likens this insanity to adlibbing in front of an audience. He also says that our worst nightmare is not the questions we get asked, but the ones we don’t get asked. If someone is out there thinking about a question without verbalizing it, it will take him or her much longer to take action. The remedy: be proactive with your answers. Don’t wait to be asked. This holds true for any written communication where the message is passed along to someone else who has not met or spoken with you. Assume the person reading the information or proposal has the same questions. While you’re at it, control their desire to read your every word. Schwartz says, “clarity is the foundation of persuasion”, so keep your message clear of your corporate jargon, and keep the message simple.
One final tip from Schwartz: Uncover hidden roadblocks created from internal politics. At the end of each meeting, ask the decision maker, “was this meeting what you expected?” Sometimes the unexpected answers can make your sales move forward a little faster.
Wouldn’t that be a welcome change?
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