Too often in sales this is what we get told by the prospect, “it would be nice to have but…”
Sure there are always ‘compelling needs’ (“we need to be more efficient” is a common one) but they are not enough. Too vague, no timeline, all too easy to delay, ending up in “nice to have but…”
The hard bit in sales is finding ‘the compelling event.’ Hard because finding it means you have to leverage trust and engage human to human. But if you find the compelling event your sale cycle will completely change. Let me illustrate this with an example.
Some years ago I was leading a significant software opportunity. It had been running for a few weeks but I didn’t really know if the client was in ‘nice to have but…’ mode or not.
I decided to ask my contact who’d I’d built up a strong and open conversation with a simple question: “What is the compelling event?” I pushed him a little further and explained that “based on our many conversations I can’t see one and if there isn’t one I am not sure if there is any value in developing our engagement much further. Could you help me?” (Notice how I asked him for help, small but important detail).
“What is a compelling event?” he asked.
So I explained. “I can understand why you are interested in what we do but what happens if you don’t buy it? What are the consequences of staying as you are and not buy our solution?”
His reply was revealing.
“Our GC is well regarded in the business and she is ambitious for her department and its status in the wider business. The Board has given her a KPI to solve x problem by deploying y system in this financial year. If she doesn’t deliver then she won’t receive the bonus that has been agreed for achieving it. And nor will I.”
What my contact revealed was that there was a consequence of doing nothing. Missing a KPI, no bonus for the GC, loss of political kudos in the eyes of the Board, department continuing to run inefficiently, no bonus for my contact. But there was also a specific event; this financial year.
If there is no consequence in doing nothing, no timeline, then don’t be surprised if your prospect doesn’t buy and eventually says “it would be nice to have but…”
Next time you start an engagement one of your first questions should be “what is the compelling event?” You have every right to ask.
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