Don’t take my word for it. Ask any salesperson, entrepreneur, negotiator, or deal maker. The experienced ones tell me the same thing. Or just run a quick search on the title of this post and see what comes up.
I used to think it was the primary responsibility of salespeople to increase their closing ratio. But I’ve come to learn that reducing the sales cycle is much more important. Sandler Training has many techniques about how to control and reduce sales cycle as well as how to deal with and possibly discard those prospects that continually delay. But that is not what this article is about.
Parkinson’s Law – Work expands to fill the time available for its completion
I agree with Cyril Northcote Parkinson. I’ve experienced this phenomenon thousands, if not millions, of times in my own work-life. There is a limit of course – too little time can be equally destructive. But I usually see salespeople allocating way too much time for systematic tasks like prospecting, sales calls, and duration between successive meetings with prospects.
They rarely, if ever:
- Set time in their calendar to do outbound prospecting
- Set realistic time constraints for their meetings with prospects. (The successful salespeople always do)
- Establish rock-solid commitments about the next meeting time and objective with the prospect before they leave the current meeting.
- Negotiate short time lapses between successive appointments with the same prospect/company. (Their entire sales cycle is longer and their close ratio is subsequently lower)
Ineffective salespeople exclaim that the prospect wouldn’t meet with them sooner or “it wasn’t appropriate to ask them for a rapid response and next meeting”. (It drives me nuts when a salesperson says anything wasn’t appropriate. I wish they would just ask the prospect instead of making an axiomatic judgment.) They refuse to acknowledge that the prospect’s inability to respond rapidly is an indication of their urgency and thus their intent to make a purchasing decision.
So they follow-up with no appointment and play phone tag for days or weeks only to find that some unpredictable occurrence has impacted their prospect.
“They hired a new CEO from Berkeley so everything is on hold.”
“My champion got transferred to San Jose.”
“They were acquired by Google.”
“They went bankrupt.”
I’ve heard all the reasons. So time does kill deals and in respect to the struggling salesperson, there was nothing they could have done about it. Except to shorten the sales cycle and get to a no or a yes faster…
I also have a theory that prospects (the genuine prospects that actually want to solve their problem) pay more attention and take our appointments more seriously when they know they have a time constraint. Their level of engagement with a salesperson during a meeting and their urgency between meetings improves with a deadline or time constraint.
I’m not suggesting you say some lame things like “the price goes up next month” or “we only have 2 left in inventory”. I’m merely suggesting that prospects willing to establish time constraints are just better prospects. No manipulation or fancy techniques are required for the salesperson to figure this out.