Sales and Marketing Advice
What to do if customers put buying decisions "on hold"
Let's face it -- you hate hearing "call me back after the first of next month" or with the end of the year fast approaching, "call me after the holidays." As these words roll towards you, that queasy feeling rumbles around inside you.
If the holidays are right around the corner, it is possible that even serious buyers are too busy with end-of-year obligations to handle anything new. You hope that the prospect means it and you plan to call them back later.
Or you just got the brush off. Either way, what's your plan to handle these dreaded words?
Start by determining what the objection is hiding behind this stalling tactic -- if you can. You'll need to quickly size up the situation and make a decision about the value of continuing the conversation. Your mission is to get your prospect to help you do that.
Once you've decided that it's worth following up, be firm. This doesn't mean you need to be aggressive. In fact, humor will get you what you want many times. But, what do your want to happen here? Get your prospect to agree to something, such as a specific action.
There are several things you can do to prevent decision makers from putting buying decisions on hold -- or at least set the groundwork for a relationship when you do call back. Here are five tactics you can use.
Gain agreement on the benefits. Either the prospect wants you go away and not come back or truly is busy for the next few weeks and not ready to make a decision now. Before your say you'll call back or schedule another appointment later, confirm the key features and benefits they want. Based on the answer, you'll know if your offering fits and where you stand -- and if they consider your solution important enough for them to look at, now or later.
Gain agreement on their timeframe. Get the prospect to share their timeframe for making a decision.
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You'll at least know how serious they are about buying and when you need to get back with them. Help them out by asking ““when after the first of the month can I treat you to lunch?" Or schedule a definite day and time to call -- “I can call you back on the first Tuesday at 2 pm, will that work for you?” You can quickly find out where you stand by getting agreement on when they plan on making a purchase.
Give a reason to buy now. Once you confirm the time frame for purchasing, ask "will anything change between now and then that will cause you not to purchase?" More than likely they'll say “no”. Let them know about a special incentive that goes away before they plan to buy. Another approach is to quickly reaffirm the business case and remind them that they'll miss out on the huge savings your product or service offers until they reengage with you. Show them that delaying their decision will cause some pain or loss.
Humor them. Get creative with humor. This tactic assumes you've built a rapport and feel comfortable doing this. If the relationship foundation is there, go for it. Try “wow, my boss said that if I can't help you save money before the end of year, there will be no holiday for me! I have a few openings before then, what do you say?” Use your imagination and get them to smile. Make sure your tone of voice clearly conveys that you're having fun. You'll both laugh and you may get to the next step in the sales process faster.
What to do when you do call back. In most selling situations it's worth your time to dig a little deeper. For example, use Google to look for recent news about your prospect. No matter if it's about their company or more personal, like receiving an award from a local civic club. If you can't find something about them you can use, try a keyword search on what's important to them and a problem that your offering will solve. Send them an article about what you found with a short handwritten note. Let them know how much you're looking forward to speaking with them on the promised date. This will separate you from your competitors in a big way.
When you align with your prospect's priorities and gain agreement on that, you've qualified the buyer. If you get push back anywhere along the line, maybe this prospect isn't worth your time.
Ron Stein is the founder and President of FastPath Marketing (www.marketing-strategies-guide.com). He has more than 20 years experience in sales, marketing, and business development, working positions ranging from salesman to vice president of sales and marketing to CEO of startups with industry leaders such as Motorola, VideoServer, Paradyne, and SercoNet. Ron is a member of the advisory team at the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, a nationally recognized entrepreneurial and startup accelerator for the state of Florida. He can be reached at 727-398-1855 or Ron@FastPathMarketing.com