We’ve all been there.
In this case, “there” is an industry trade show or networking event where you talk to a ton of prospects that are interested in your product or service. You walked out of the room with a pocket full of business cards, patting yourself on the back for meeting new people, having great conversations, and generating solid leads for your sales pipeline.
When you start the follow-up the next day, an interesting thing happens. A couple of those people respond right away. Others respond a few days later. And others don’t respond at all.
Now you are “there.”
Naturally, you ask yourself, “Why did this happen? I thought we had great conversations, and Ms. XYZ Buyer was super interested.” This progresses to more questions along the lines of “Was it something I said in the email? Was it too long? Was it too short? Are they super busy? Were they just pretending to be interested?”
The fact is, that buyers have different timelines for making a decision.
Here’s an example: Say you are a solopreneur web designer that builds amazing websites for small businesses in your hometown with three conversations:
- is a business owner that says, “Funny; I’ve been shopping for a new website.”
- is someone thinking about starting a business and says, “YES! A website is on my list of things to do when I launch.”
- is an entrepreneur that says, “I paid a ton of money for a site three years ago.”
Yes, all could use a new website or a refresh. The difference is in how soon they are looking to make a purchase.
- has already been looking and just needed to hear about you. (I need this now)
- is likely more talk than action at the moment and may get it soon. (I need this in a few months)
- may try to squeeze one more year out of their previous web investment. (I need this in the future)
For the solo- and entrepreneur, it’s all about clarifying your buyer’s timeline, and there is an easy way to do this: Ask!
Here are two simple questions you can ask to gauge their timeline:
- Ask “How soon are you looking to invest in (insert service or product) a new website?” You aren’t asking for the sale right away; you are asking about when they are looking to decide whether they go with you or not.
- Then ask, “Why is this timeline important to you?” This goes a bit further than a simple date/deadline and allows you to discover more information about why they are thinking the way they are and possibly reveal other factors that may influence their timeline.
These two simple questions will reveal a lot about how serious your buyer is. You then have more info on their situation and what things may influence their timing decision, which allows you to continue the appropriate next step in your pipeline.
Perhaps the buyer needs a little education from you on why now is a better time to act with you, or maybe they really do need a couple of other things to happen before buying. The point is, you never know their timing until you ask and dig a bit deeper as to why. It also creates the opportunity to start building a relationship and truly understand their situation.
So stop waiting for a response. You now have a simple process that gives you clarity and precise information on when and how to move the conversation forward that aligns with your buyer.
Try incorporating this tactic into your everyday sales process. With some practice, you can become a better salesperson, more comfortable with the process, and more effective.
If sales aren’t your strong suit, and you don’t know where to start, you don’t have to go at it alone. Schedule a free two-hour session with our sales advisors to dig into your business and develop a plan.
Mike VonLunen is an Advisor for small business owners with Cultivate. Mike brings a strong background in entrepreneurship to Cultivate, after having worn multiple hats at startup companies. He has become a master at starting, growing, and maintaining small businesses.