Get Customers to Buy Now, Not Later

Last Updated Aug 16, 2011 4:39 PM EDT

You know the scenario: A prospect hears a presentation, agrees that your solution is the right one, and works with you on the price -- only to later tell you, "But let's look at this next week/month/quarter/ year..." It just doesn't add up.

Companies invest time in considering a change in approach or supplier for a reason and that usually includes a level of urgency for change. If they then don't move forward, what should you do?

People push off for many reasons, including:

  • No political will -- you are talking to someone who cannot make the decision or greenlight the budget
  • They are waiting for a big enough failure in their current solution to "trigger" change
  • They are waiting out a contract
  • They anticipate that the changeover will take more time than they have to invest at the moment
  • You were just an "ace in the hole" -- not a now-change, but an in-case change
But wait, you asked them up front what their timing was on making a decision and a change, right? So what is slowing things down? Here are a few possibilities:

You are at too low a level. This person can't make a change. Often times, people who claim to be decision-makers are wannabes. They are scouting for alternatives with the hope to find a choice so good that their boss will agree to the change.

You are addressing the wrong size problem. Problems that are too small never create the necessary level of interest and value to motivate. Problems that are considered too big are pushed off until the mythical moment when things "settle down."

You haven't given a clear map to them showing how changing to your solution is safe and easy. There are many fears about changing solution approaches and providers, highest of these is the amount of work switching will require.

They weren't going to change. Governance and management processes require the research of alternatives to current providers as a part of the job of the people with whom you are speaking. They are doing their job by creating a false opportunity for you to bid.

But there are some ways to accelerate the waiters:

1. Change the size of the problem. Go back to your decision-maker and re-work the solution into either a larger impact, or a smaller step. By changing the problem size you change the motivation in either direction.

2. Give clear milestone steps so that there is a sense of control that they can exercise. Companies who are anticipating internal resistance, increased work, or other risks need to feel that they have control in order to proceed. Creating the map with step-off points, calibration reviews, and performance thresholds will relax the fearful and produce a sense of control your buyers need to move forward.

3. Secure more sponsors. Change requires sponsorship and you don't have enough. You need to go up, down, and at peer level. These don't have to be power moves that often don't work. Rather, take the angle of data-gathering, specification calibration sessions, and socialization of the decision. By getting the necessary contacts and demonstrating value and ease you can push the decision forward.

4. Drive the snakes from the island. If you cannot make progress from these methods, then you need to face down the potential that there was never going to be a change. Ask your buyer, "With your current solution, what kind of performance would be bad enough for you to make a change immediately?" or "What kind of performance improvement would you need to know with 100% confidence before you would make a change?" These questions can help separate the posers from the deciders.

Sure, there are legitimate delays that occur in the buying process with a prospect and timing is almost always a factor in a big deal. However, start with a suspicious mind. If the buyer was motivated enough to see you, go through your sales process, arrive at a workable price but then slow down, something's not right.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Dalo_Pix2 cc