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Creating a sense of urgency for the customer

by Troy Harrison

Troy Harrison“Troy, how do I create a sense of urgency in the customer’s mind so that my proposal doesn’t just sit on his desk?” It’s one of the most common questions that I get, and it’s one of the most frustrating situations for any salesperson (including me). You’ve made your proposal, the deal is good, the buyer likes you – and then the whole process stalls. Isn’t that painful?

This is when the salesperson (you) tries to go back and “create” some urgency on the part of the buyer. Let’s get this guy excited so he moves and makes a decision! The trouble is that your buyer has already made a decision, and that decision is that your proposal does not warrant action now (if it ever does). It’s too late. And all the fancy schmancy “objection resolution” techniques in the world won’t help – you can “feel, felt, found” until you turn blue.

The place to address time frame and urgency issues is in the questioning phase of selling – which should happen BEFORE you present and propose. Always remember, 80% of your chance to win or lose the sale happens when you’re asking questions. If you don’t get to know and understand the buyer’s needs – and effectively prioritize those needs – all the great presentation, objection resolution, and closing techniques in the world aren’t going to save the sale.

First, we have to ask questions designed to discover if it really does benefit the prospect to act sooner – and if it really doesn’t (and it won’t sometimes) we have to be honest with ourselves and the customer in recognizing that fact. We’re always in love with the benefits of our product, and we always think that sooner is better when it comes to buying (and selling). But does the prospect feel that way? Is there a genuine advantage to acting sooner?

Second, we have to understand the time value of inaction. Again this happens through questions – for instance, does your prospect have a goal to reach, and whatever you’re selling is a key touch point for reaching it? Is something going on right now that is costing money each day it continues, and what you’re selling can reverse that? Or perhaps, is the problem your prospect is confronting one that is significant – for example, does he receive complaints from employees on a regular basis and your product can fix these problems?

Third, are there any inherent barriers to implementing your solution? Do departments need to be reorganized, facilities renovated or moved, or new staff hired before your solution can be implemented and fully taken advantage of? This is the time to be realistic. If your prospect genuinely can’t use – or can’t maximize the use of – your product quite yet (and the issue isn’t simply a stalling tactic), you can be of the highest service to your prospect by helping him stage or plan the sale and implementation.

Finally, we have to understand the overall corporate priorities. Even if there is a sense of urgency within a given department, there might be other priorities in the company that they want to take care of first. For instance – and I’ll use myself for an example – maybe I’m selling a sales training program, but the client is revamping their production plant for more capacity so they can handle elevated sales. Our ‘stuff’ only is important within the context of the overall picture of needs. Understanding the overall context of the sale is one of the greatest weaknesses of salespeople. It’s hard to recognize that our ‘stuff’ lives within the scope of our customers’ companies.

The key is to get the CUSTOMER to articulate the consequences of not acting or the benefits of acting sooner, NOT YOU. If you’re telling them, it won’t work; if they’re telling you, you have a shot. Remember, contentions only become FACT in the sales process when the CUSTOMER either states them, or agrees that your contentions are statements of fact.

Here is the equation for a sale to happen: Need articulated by customer + Solution articulated by salesperson AND AGREED TO by customer + TIMING. A good friend and client of mine refers to this as “their window being open.” In this analogy, the customer can have needs, and you can have the perfect solution – but if their window (timing) isn’t open, you’re simply throwing rocks at a window. Yep, sometimes you can break the window, but have you ever seen a window owner be delighted that it was broken?

Notice that nowhere have I spoken of ‘creating urgency’ on the part of the buyer. That’s because you really can’t. Sure, you can use tired old tactics like the old “If you buy today, it’s at this price, but not if you buy next week,” but today’s customer sees through that. What you can do is discover, channel, and accentuate urgency that already exists.
And even if you do all that, the sale still sometimes won’t happen – because we sell to human beings. That said, this method gives you the best shot. Hope that helps!

Troy Harrison is the author of “Sell Like You Mean It!”, “The Pocket Sales Manager,” and a speaker, consultant, and sales navigator. He helps companies build more profitable and productive sales forces with his cutting-edge sales training and methodologies. For information on booking speaking/training engagements, consulting, or to sign up for his weekly E-zine, call 913-645-3603, e-mail, or visit


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