Getting to a Decision Sooner

It’s that time of year again.  The dog days of summer.  The kids are back to school and despite the nice summer, it’s time to get back at prospecting.  Although some prospect regularly, it is a good time, at ¾ of through the year, to think about what’s next for your prospecting efforts.  If you think of the timing, your customers want to finish strong as well.  And, as we approach the end of the year, it may be even more difficult to reach decision makers as they put their nose down to finish off the year strong.  Therefore, between now and Thanksgiving we need to make a strong prospecting push.

The challenge, of course, is that some decision makers are more difficult to reach this time of year.  They will tell you things like, “We aren’t looking at that right now”, “Call me in a couple months”, “Call me in the fall” and even, “We’re not even thinking about that until next year”.  Keep in mind that when the stereotypical salesperson hears this, they follow their directions…and leave.  Or, they get off the phone quickly.  Why? Some have told me that they don’t want to be a bother, think there is a chance later or, frankly, don’t know what to say to get past these comments.  Now, we will never teach someone to be overly persistent and put a lot of pressure on the buyer because we don’t believe it’s what sales is all about (contrary to many out there).  Additionally, it doesn’t typically work.  Some will tell you it will take between 6 and 10 calls to finally beat them into submission, but we simply don’t agree.  There is only so much time to call on people.  While you’re spending time chasing someone, there are likely several others that would enjoy hearing from you, they need you, but will never meet you because you were spending time with those that may never do business with you.  There isn’t enough room in this article to debate it, but I’d like to offer some alternate strategies.

Let’s begin.  First, a mindset change.  Many salespeople believe that simply by following up when they are told to, they have a chance.  Maybe.  On the other hand, many times that you’ll hear this, it’s really a “blow-off”.  They don’t want to hurt your feelings and don’t want to deal with the argument of telling you why they aren’t interested so they give you a delayed excuse instead, such as the examples, above.

Therefore, the first rule of thumb is when you hear a delay is to “check it out”.  Meaning, find out more about what they mean.  If they give you lots of details, maybe it’s real.  If they are vague, maybe not.  Thus, you can ask questions like, “When you say you want us to call you in a couple months, what would you like to accomplish when I call?”  If they answer with, “We’ll have you in to look over the sight, ask you questions about your plan and discuss contracts, then…” good.  This is a fairly specific reply to your question.  You’ve gained understanding and they have details.  If they were to respond instead, “We’ll talk about the contract”, generally, not so good.  Too vague and not specific about anything.  Doesn’t mean they won’t use you, but certainly not showing detail.

Another example, if a new prospect says: “Call me in the fall”.  You can ask, “You know, sometimes when people tell me that I find out later they really weren’t interested.  Is that how you feel?  It’s ok”.  This one is tough to say for many, but does it ever save you time!  Don’t be afraid to find out what is really going on by asking questions when you hear delays.  If you think that someone might be trying to get rid of you, ask them politely, however you do it, if that is the case.  Make them good though, people will get impatient with you with questions that don’t go anywhere.  Also, be aware that until you get good at asking questions like these, you’ll get standard answers, as above.

Another tactic.  Have some coined phrases that you can email or say when you get delays.  Practice them endlessly until you can say them in your sleep.  In the case of email, copy and paste them into your messages when necessary.

Some examples for maintaining accounts that want to wait:

  1. When we met last year, we discussed how difficult your year was, pertaining to _________.  Assuming you are still concerned about the issues, would it make some sense for us to have a brief conversation over the next week or so? 
  2. I appreciate the fact that you want to wait. Can I make a suggestion?  Invite me out for a brief meeting over the next couple weeks.  That way, we can figure out if it even makes sense for us to meet up later.  Make sense?
  3. We can certainly wait, but if I told you that many of the clients that we’ve helped over the last several years wanted to meet with us earlier, would you want to know more about that?
  4. We used to simply wait until companies wanted to meet with us later. Then we discovered that when we did that we found out that had we met earlier, we could have really addressed their concerns…

If you have something else that you are using, in order to get people or companies to meet with you sooner rather than later, continue to use it.  We’ve heard many that work well.  Use it over and over again with each prospect and existing person or company.  Get good at it both in writing and through email.  Track results and tweak it as you go.  We’re constantly changing approaches as time goes by and the field evolves.  Get people to make decisions earlier and you can help eliminate competition and make your future more predictable.

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