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3 Ways to Get Customers to Take Action

We’ve all been there. An opportunity is gaining momentum. Key players are opening up to us. We’re gaining valuable information in our discovery conversations and all indications are that the fit and timing is perfect for our products or services.

And then it happens.

We uncover a pivotal individual in the customer’s buying organization who is comfortable with the status quo and sees no need to act. Deal killer? Not necessarily.

Let’s take a step back and look at how and why people buy: All buyers start out in a status quo state. Then, something changes. Perhaps due to a new regulatory ruling, a merger/acquisition or a growing dissatisfaction with current results, they decide they need to take action.

Back to the stalled pursuit at hand.

The good news: From your analysis it appears that just this single (albeit critical) individual is holding up the sale. Should there be multiple individuals in the buying process in this status quo stage, there may be a reason to put this pursuit on the back burner or even to lose fast. However, with just one buyer, you have some strategic options to consider:
  1. Watchful Waiting – This is always an option. Given enough time, something will eventually cause this individual to make a change. However, is this really the strategy you want to employ when you have an opportunity that is a great fit and time is of the essence? Probably not. Especially when you also have competitors that could swoop in at any moment, say something that resonates with this buyer and steal the opportunity you worked so hard to develop.
So how can you create a sense of urgency for the buyer stuck in the status quo stage?
  1. Educate – Part of our role as professional salespeople is to make our customers aware of opportunities and potential challenges. This might take the form of opportunity costs for not doing anything now or potential negative consequences if they don’t act.
Many moons ago, when I first started in my sales career, I was exposed to numerous methodologies made famous by successful companies at the time like IBM. “Big Blue” was known for having their sales teams employ the F.U.D. factor when talking to prospects. (F.U.D. is fear, uncertainty and doubt.) It was not seen as manipulative, but rather as simply letting prospects know that data requirements were going to grow exponentially and they needed to be prepared. Looking back, one could argue that IBM was doing their buyers a favor.

Of course, creating a sense of urgency requires effort on your part. Hopefully, your marketing and research teams have databases of information on your customer and their verticals that can eliminate some of the legwork.

Timing matters, too.
  • Can you find recent press releases or articles that are relevant to this individual’s role and responsibilities?
  • How about financial filings (think 10k) that highlight the strategic initiatives and risks that impact their ability to meet targeted revenue projections?
  • Can you craft this message in a compelling enough manner that your customer sees addressing it as a priority and agrees to meet with you?
Key side point: Should you be successful in setting up a meeting or call, the interaction will be far more effective if you ask a few well-thought-out questions and let the BUYER do the majority of the talking. It may seem counter intuitive, but this approach will allow you to have a more effective dialogue, gain credibility and actually control the conversation. And don’t play 40 questions – three to five strategic questions are all you need. 
  1. Leverage Others – Remember, in this example, you are in a sales pursuit where the other key Buying Influences appear to be on board and are excited about your offering. Take advantage of this! Take time to map out a plan for enlisting their aid to speak to this holdout and help him see the need – or at least go along with the majority. You should select individuals who have credibility with this person and a vested interest in the success of the buying process. If you are a Miller Heiman Alumnus, you know how important these Coaches are to your selling process.
Also, don’t forget about others in your own organization. Perhaps you have a peer that has worked with this customer on other initiatives, knew him or her from a previous employer or shares a common bond. LinkedIn is a great resource for uncovering these connections, and the most successful salespeople have turned leveraging social media information into an art form.

Have a story to tell about a buyer that was stuck in the status quo stage? How did you get them to take action? We’d love to hear about it!
Posted: 10/25/2013 6:00:00 AM by Bill Bevens | with 0 comments

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