I suspect some of you may be feeling the end-of-year blues.
Managers are pressuring you to close deals and you're getting the brushoff from prospects who want to call you back next year. Often they'll use those other priorities as an excuse to put buying decisions on hold. This is especially true when your potential customers are publicly traded companies. "I need some more time," "let me think about it" and "call me back next (month, quarter or year)" are three of the most frustrating phrases you'll ever hear in sales.
So as a salesperson, what should you do? Try these five great ideas to help overcome any unwarranted delays:
1. Offer alternatives. Once when I was selling software, we offered to split an invoice in two, charging the customer for the software in December and the maintenance in January. Because the payments were split, the order fit better into her quarterly budgets and the customer as able to make the deal right away. Can you think of a creative way to help your customers say yes right now?
2. Question them into a corner and close them when they get there. Tell your clients that you'd be happy to call them back next month, but follow up by saying: "Do you mind if I ask, what will have to be different in May to make you want to buy from me then?" Or take the opposite approach and ask: "Will anything change over the next few weeks that will cause you not to buy?" Once the prospect assures you that they do want to do business with you, you can respond with: "Great! Let's get your order into production now so your project won't be delayed, and we'll deliver it after Jan. 1." One of our salespeople offered to ship his product in advance and the invoice later, so that his customers can benefit from having the product on site while paying for it later. Of course, he only does this with clients who have excellent credit. But it worked well – and he never has to discount his prices!
3. Use the F-word. Agree with your clients, and then disagree by offering an alternative: "I know how you feel. Other clients of mine have told me that they felt the same way. What they have found is that they can save up to 20 per cent if they buy now. Are you sure you don't want to save this money now?"
4. Get a testimonial letter. Testimonials are the most powerful tool in your arsenal. They're also a salesperson's best friend. Ask someone who bought before the quarter end, or any client who accelerated their purchase and was glad they did so, to write you a two-paragraph letter. The first paragraph should state how they originally wanted to wait, and the value they received by not putting it off – for example, did they save money? Time? The second paragraph should detail how happy they are with your after-sales service.
5. Get scarce. Remind your customers (if it's true) that the price will be going up after a specified date or that there might be a product or delivery back-up after the 1st of the month, and advise them to schedule delivery now. If your business tends to be seasonal, encourage clients to buy during off-peak periods in order to get priority shipping and production.
Sales expert Colleen Francis is founder and president of Engage Selling Solutions and the author of the recently released Nonstop Sales Boom (AMACOM) Ms. Francis ensures clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.