Why Timing is Everything!
Today I want to talk to you about timing in your sales conversation and why getting it wrong can cost you the sale – even if the client actually wants and needs what you have to offer.
The video today was inspired by a sales conversation I had a few years ago where I was the potential customer. I’d been to California for a business conference and while there I met someone who I felt could help me with a specific area of growth for me in my business, that I’d already decided to make a key focus during that year.
Watch the video or scroll down to read more.
This meant that I turned up to our sales conversation already knowing that I needed support with what she was offering and thinking that she might be able to help.
But like anyone making a buying decision I had my concerns:
– Was this programme really going to give me what I needed?
– Was it really the best place to invest my money right now when I also had other projects in the business that I also wanted to invest in?
– With all the other things I was juggling, would I have enough time to fully do justice to the programme and the investment?
– What specifically would be covered and included?
So, you see, I was just like any of my own clients – and any of your clients.
We all tend to have exactly the same concerns when making these sorts of decisions.
Totally valid concerns.
And a well structured sales conversation would have helped me to explore them and come to the right decision for me.
But I didn’t end up joining the programme – even though I knew I needed it (and was interested enough to book a call to talk about it). She missed out on an $8,000 sale and I missed out on getting some valuable help that could have made all the difference to some of my business challenges this year. Not necessarily because she was not the right person for me to work with, but because she didn’t take me through an effective sales process.
Why Timing is Everything in your Sales Conversations
So let me start by telling you the story of what actually happened, and then I’ll break it down and talk about what Tammy (*not her real name) should have done instead.
So we got on a zoom call and we jumped straight in with friendly chat and rapport building.
Tammy didn’t set an agenda for the call, let me know what to expect or how long the call would go for. Our call was at 6pm UK time and I had pencilled it into my diary for 1 hour.
We started by chatting about our personal lives, and were very excited to find that we had lots of things in common. I really enjoyed this conversation – we were engaged and animated. But we didn’t even start talking about my business or her programme until we’d already been on the call for more than 30 minutes.
Once we moved on to talking about what we were there to talk about there was no structure to the conversation. At the 2 hour point we were still going and she still had not told me details of what was included in the programme or mentioned what it would cost me. And most importantly of all she had not started exploring or addressing any of the (very normal) concerns that I mentioned above.
By this point I was tired and hungry. It was well past the end of my working day and remember, I’d only expected to be on for an hour.
I was also no longer able to fully take in what she was saying. It was around now that she started asking me some quite searching coaching questions which would have been great earlier in the conversation, but 2 hours in my brain just couldn’t focus and I wasn’t able to dig deep enough to explore the answer to those questions.
She was giving no signs of being close to wrapping up the call, or even moving on to some of the things that would have helped me make a decision, so I made a decision to end the call.
The important thing to notice here was that I wasn’t a “No” I was just an “I’m too tired and hungry to continue right now”.
But the sale was lost, not only for these reasons, but also because of how she handled it afterwards – but if she’d got it right there would have been no need for an “afterwards”, we could have been done and wrapped up in that one call.
So here are the lessons for you in your own sales conversations:
1. Set your agenda at the beginning
Let the other person know what to expect, how long you’ve set aside for the conversation and double check that they are also available for that long. The last thing you want is to lose out on a client because she suddenly has to run out to do the school run 40 minutes into the conversation when you thought you had an hour.
2. Keep the main conversation to within an hour
And whatever you do don’t let it go over 90 minutes. The only exception to this would be if the client has already said yes to going ahead and you are wrapping up the details and taking payment.
I know this is important from my own experience being on the receiving end of long sales conversations. Every single time someone has tried to bring me to a decision after 90 minutes or more, I’ve had mental fatigue from the call and lost the clarity of focus needed to be able to make the decision. So what do I do in those cases? I say I have to go away and think about it – which is true because I need to come back to it with a clearer mind.
3. Follow a structure
This is how you achieve point number two. If you don’t have a structure your conversation is likely to wander off all over the place. Yes you’ll have a really good conversation and you’ll almost definitely enjoy the conversation, maybe even make a new friend!. You’ll even cover some good stuff but it’s really hard to contain that sort of a conversation within a particular time period if you don’t have a clear structure to guide you. To learn a really simple but effective structure for your sales conversations sign up for my free video training here: The 7 Steps to Yes! videos.
4. Find out their concerns
Make sure that you directly ask your potential client what concerns they might have about working with you. If you don’t know them you can’t address them and you might end up being like Tammy – talking for a long time, but not about the things your client needs to talk about if she’s to come to a decision.
5. Manage timings by checking in regularly
Check in from time to time about the times e.g. “We’ve got about 15 minutes left – I want to make sure I’ve given you all the information” or “We are coming up to the hour, I’m happy to continue for a bit longer if you are?”. This way you keep control of the conversation and it will be clear to you if you can wrap the conversation up or if you need to schedule another call (but like I said, as far as possible aim to keep that initial sales conversation to one hour or less – splitting the call is another common reason why you might lose the client).
6. If you do need to continue, schedule another call
Don’t try and squash in trying to bring someone to a decision if you are more than 90 minutes in. You will have more success if you acknowledge that it’s been a long call and suggest you schedule a time to come back and finish the conversation. Or give the person the information they need and suggest you book a follow up call for you to answer any questions and help them make a final decision.
Let me repeat; You are unlikely to bring someone to a decision in a sales conversation that has gone over 90 minutes
In my experience calls normally only go over an hour if the client is not sure about working with you and needs your help in overcoming their concerns and making their decision. If you still haven’t helped them come to a decision within 90 minutes then the truth is your chances of doing that are going to decrease, not increase, the longer you stay on.
The exception to this is where the client is going to go ahead. Typically, I will have the whole sales conversation within one hour, but if the potential client is serious about working with me and they have a lot of questions, or we need extra time to explore finances or overcome concerns, it can go on longer.
(The other exception is if you are meeting your client in a face-to-face situation where you can have a longer conversation without the mental fatigue setting in – but the principle still stands – the longer you go, the more fatigued they will be and the harder they will find it to make a decision – so try and get that “Yes” in principle within the hour!)
To learn a very simple but effective structure to your sales conversations, sign up for my free video training “The 7 Steps to Yes!”