In our last article, I Need a Little More Time, I discussed prospects who tell us they need more time to make a decision. That article posed a question: is your prospect the indecisive party or it is you?
To recap the last article, salespeople should do a thorough examination of the prospect's willingness to make a decision, and to make one in a reasonable timeframe. Elements to explore include determining whether the need or problem has existed for a long time or is relatively new (both are red flags to the professional salesperson); examining the magnitude of the consequences of either solving the need or problem, or failing to do so (mild consequences should always set off alarm bells to the professional salesperson); and understanding the prospect's decision-making process and examining how complex it may be (obviously, the more involved the process, the longer the decision cycle will be and the greater the chance of a delay).
One of the major elements that contribute to "I need more time" requests is the salesperson's failure to secure firm commitments from prospects to make decisions. The salesperson should secure a commitment to either continue the sales process, or terminate it, at every interaction with the prospect.
However, this does NOT mean we ask for a "yes" or "no" buying commitment at the end of the first meeting! That would be suicidal in most cases. What we actually want is a commitment from our prospect to evaluate the conversations they have with us, and at the end of each meeting, make a determination about whether they feel that investing additional time with us to consider the possibility of working together is justified.
Just as we ask our prospect to make this determination, we also should be determining whether additional time with this particular prospect is warranted.
So, as our interactions with our prospect take place, we are both evaluating whether our discussions warrant additional time and energy. At some point, we may we arrive at what is often the final step in the sales process, that of making a presentation.
Here's the rule governing presentations: salespeople MUST get a commitment from the prospect as to what happens after the presentation is over. All too often, salespeople believe that they simply need to make a winning presentation, and the prospect will be so impressed they'll grab the first pen they see and ask, "Where do I sign?" That fantasy is usually punctured when there is no firm commitment for a decision after the presentation, and the reality sets in that the chase for a decision has only just begun.
Remember that once the prospect has your proposal, and all their questions are answered, they don't need you anymore. So before you make a presentation that will provide them with all the information they need, stand firm and ask, "After I finish the presentation today, if I have fully satisfied you that we can solve your issue/problem/need in a manner that you believe will work, and I show you a solution that you feel you can buy into, will you be able to make a decision to work with us or not?"
If they say yes, then you simply need to enforce that decision after you are done. If they say no, put the powerpoint on hold, and start asking some questions on why they cannot make a decision today. What you learn in the ensuing moments will inform you on whether you should be making that presentation today or whether you have more work to do before you present.
By carefully evaluating your prospects' needs and examining their motivations for and consequences of fulfilling them, and securing firm commitments from those prospects to make decisions along the way, you will reduce, and perhaps even eliminate, the requests for "more time."
-- by Jeff Nay