If you’re having trouble pushing some sales through the deal funnel, you should put your best salespeople on it. They are diligent, but also respectful and flexible in the face of distractions and other priorities that compete for the buyer's time. Unfortunately, the stresses of performing and struggling conversion rates can sometimes cause even the best sales people to become impatient. Creating urgency can certainly be valuable for the buyer, but portraying that as impatience is anything but productive.
These are the three most common detrimental behaviors that occur when sellers feel pressure to move opportunities along faster:
“Convincing” the customer they should care. Sellers get so excited about the problems their product or service will solve that they focus on the potential future, ignoring the current reality for the customer.
Playing “gotcha” with the customer by asking leading questions. Some sales people ask questions with good intentions, but come off as extremely self-serving to the customer. For example, “If I could show you how to increase ABC by X amount, would you be interested?” As soon as a customer hears a question like this, they feel like they’re being sold to and their response doesn’t actually matter.
Discounting in order to get a contract over the line before a certain date. While discounting can certainly be useful and appropriate in certain situations, most sellers acknowledge it’s far too often a first step instead of a last resort – and eventually, your customers will come to expect it.
Creating urgency with customers in an effective and genuine way requires understanding the buyer’s thinking at every point of the sales cycle. Despite the increasing adoption of metrics in the B2B sales world, the typical sales cycle is still riddled with assumptions. We assume that the customer knows (or remembers) more than they do, and we overestimate how much we know about the customer.
Here are three steps every sales team can take to significantly improve the ability to understand the buyer’s thinking, improve the sales process, and move deals through the sales funnel organically:
- Uncover: Asking questions is one of a salesperson’s most valuable tools. It’s human nature to enjoy talking about yourself, so questions about the prospect’s environment or their current process are usually the easiest to ask. The answers are straightforward and can be helpful in qualifying. However, the usefulness of questions like these decreases rapidly – especially when you only have a short time to conduct “discovery.” The key is ask more thought-provoking questions than purely factual ones. Focus not just on trying to spot a problem, but also on helping the buyer reflect on factors that might lead them to new approaches.
- Validate: Always seek to confirm that your understanding is still correct, especially since some weeks (or even months) may have passed since your last conversation. You might discover an important detail that you missed or misunderstood. When multiple buyers are involved, the collective thinking can change rapidly as more weigh in.
- Influence: The best way to create urgency is to prompt your buyer to focus on a part of their own situation that they are not currently focusing on. The “what if” structure can be particularly useful to get them to think about the negative consequences of not acting soon enough, or the positive outcomes of addressing problems in the right way.
If your deal funnel is clogged, don’t vary your own behavior. That could mean changing the cadence or channels of communication they use with a potential buyer. However, the most effective way to move deals through the sales pipeline is to use the three steps above to inspire a variation from the buyer. The circumstances of the buyer, and not the activity of the sales person, will always be more important to closing business.