The salesperson had exactly what the prospect said he wanted. Yet she couldn’t close the sale. She called the prospect over and over and sent a series of emails, all to no avail. But the prospect was indifferent and seemed curt in the last conversation, so the salesperson became frustrated, then angry, then took the prospect out of her “active prospect tickler file” with a deep sigh and ultimately forgot about him.
Months later the phone rang. It was that long-forgotten prospect who now wanted to make that purchase. After filling out the paperwork and getting the purchase order signed, the salesperson asked the customer why he seemed so indifferent back when she was actively pursuing him to buy. The answer was simple and enlightening, “I wasn’t ready to buy yet.”
There’s a classic difference between the salesperson and buyer. They are both working under different needs and different timetables. The salesperson wants and needs to make the sale immediately. The buyer purchases when it is in his best interest, not when the salesperson wants to make the sale.
The problem or challenge for salespeople is that typically, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to get an accurate understanding of the buyer’s timing needs. The buyer might be on a “fishing trip”, just discovering what is available in the market and has zero immediate need, but isn’t willing to tell that to the salesperson. It’s just as possible that the buyer is in the middle of a “hair-on-fire” emergency and needs to make a purchase as close to yesterday as possible.
Yes, the salesperson can ask those questions, but buyers often hedge because they don’t want to divulge information that might put them at a negotiating disadvantage, so accurate answers are rarely forthcoming.
When she inquired about his timing of the purchase, he told her that he had to search through his notes to find her name and phone number. Upon hearing this, the salesperson took out her “inactive prospect” file and started calling all those people she dropped while wondering how often she had lost sales because of the differences in priorities between the buyer and the seller. Is it happening to you too?
I often preach the strategy of using “polite persistence” to keep in touch with prospects who seem to have the need but don’t have the current commitment to buy because, at some time in the future, when it is in their best interest to make the move, you want to be the one on the top of the list who will get the call.
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