This question comes from a young, sales rock star in the heart of the Midwest. She writes: “What is the appropriate way to apply deadlines in a pricing situation?” This question is about how to create urgency on the part of the buyer, and it’s an important question.
Here are some things to consider.
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The idea behind the urgency here is well established and well documented. If you want to understand it, look no further than the masterwork on persuasion, Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.
What underlies the pricing deadline, what makes it work, is a concept called scarcity. It’s the idea that if you don’t buy now, the offer will go away and you will never get another chance to obtain was offered at that same price.
The picks and shovels gang out here on the Internet, the people who sell you the “How to Succeed on the Internet” programs and packages, use every method Cialdini outlines in Influence, including scarcity. They use them because they are powerful and because they work.
For most of us in sales, however, it’s not quite so easy.
That Trust Thing
For most of us in business-to-business sales, we can’t easily use some of the concepts and tools that marketers and business-to-consumer organization can use. In order for scarcity to work, the idea that the offer will not be made available later, isn’t very compelling to your prospective clients for a couple of reasons.
First, are you really being honest when you tell your prospective clients that the price that you are offering them will not be available if they were to accept it a few days after your offer expires? I don’t believe most business-to-business sales organizations really intend to withhold the price offered, and I believe buyers know this.
If there isn’t some compelling, logical reason that your price would be going up at some future time, then it feels dishonest. It feels manipulative. It feels like the deal is about you, about your needs, and about your timing—not your dream client’s. This works against your longer-term goals, which include a relationship built on trust and the value that you create. (If there is a real and valid reason your price will be increased, then that is something different.)
Also, scarcity doesn’t create a lot of urgency if there are many people who sell what you sell and you are unable to differentiate your offering. If what you sell isn’t really scarce, it’s hard for buyers to believe they can’t find someone else who is willing to help them obtain the outcome they need. (However, if you are special, you may have this power even in a crowded and commoditized market).
How to Create Urgency
The reasons a salesperson or a sales organization feel the need to resort to tactics to compress their sales cycle are many. But tactics rarely offer the kind of improvement that you can obtain by working on the fundamentals of good salesmanship.
There are more compelling and more honest ways to create urgency. To create the urgency you need to move your client, you need to show them what is costing them to not move on your offer sooner. You need to show them the improvement that could be getting now, and what that improvement would mean to their business.
What is costing the business to not adopt your solution now? How much will it cost them over time, say the next 30 days? How would they benefit by adopting your solution now instead of later?
Sometimes, there are sales process issues that cause your deal to stall, too. There are, of course, questions you can ask and answer to determine what the obstacles might be.
Does your client have concealed or unresolved concerns that you need to address? Did you identify the power sponsors, or are there other people you need to get agreement from to move the deal forward? What fears or concerns do they have that you have left unresolved?
It is easier to attempt to create a sense of urgency through pricing. Easier, but not effective. If pricing isn’t what is preventing your buyer from buying—if it isn’t their motivation—then it is weak, ineffective, and it can violate trust.
How do you create urgency on the part of your buyers?
Why do some tactical approaches work against your long-term goals?
When are tactical approaches effective?
Do you really intend to not honor the price if your dream client decides on a different timetable than the one you need or prefer?
Is your threat really all that frightening as to create urgency?