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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

How to Obliterate Buyer Procrastination

Buyers procrastinate. They are programmed to do so. Many sales professionals will try and overcome this with urgency by giving the prospect three reasons why they must buy now. This tactic will not work until you understand why prospects procrastinate and then you can deal with it effectively and make a sale.

Many things we do as humans we inherit—our genetics. One of the genes we inherit is the “caveman gene.” As cavemen, we learned to stay in the cave as much as possible because if we ventured out of the cave, the danger was great, as we could get eaten by lions or tigers or bears (oh my).

So we developed a strategy for survival. We stayed in the cave until it was absolutely essential, a matter of survival, to leave the cave. We left the cave only to make a kill for food. Our simple strategy became, “If I am comfortable or in minor discomfort, I will stay in the cave where I am safe. I will venture out of the cave only if I am about to die of starvation.” The modern mans’ version of this strategy is, “I will maintain the status quo as long as I am not too uncomfortable. I will change the status quo only if I am very uncomfortable.”

So you make a presentation to your buyer. He is genetically programmed by the caveman gene not to buy, to procrastinate, because to buy would be a change in his status quo. He is fearful on buying (i.e. leaving the cave) because such an action is dangerous while the status quo is not too uncomfortable. So you try and turn up the heat as your prospect procrastinates, making him even more uncomfortable. This insures he won’t buy.

Just the opposite tactic is what you want to employ. Your buyer procrastinates out of fear of making a mistake (getting killed in caveman days). In order to get him to leave the cave (buy), you want to show your prospect how safe it is to proceed. You want to calm your prospect and give him assurance, through evidence, testimonials or emotional appeal. The last thing you want to do is make your prospect more anxious and increase his emotional stress.

So the conversation may sound like this (S=seller, P=prospect):

S: Bob, it sounds like you have some uncertainly. I don’t want you to do anything that does not feel right. What is your concern?
P: The state of the markets are really treacherous with inflation, the credit crunch, the sup-prime crisis. I am just very nervous about buying in such an uncertain period.
S: That makes sense to me that the current environment makes you nervous. How do you think investors felt during the depression or in the middle of World War II or when we had the lines at the gas pumps in 1974?
P: I’ll bet they were freaked.
S: And in each case, the people that did invest when the markets were down because of this worry, how did they do with their investments when they looked back 10 years later?
P: I think they probably did pretty well. I know that the markets did really well the 10 years following World War II.
S: So what lesson can you glean about investing and the best time to invest?
P: I guess its best to invest when the markets are down. I’m just so nervous about doing so.
S: Understandably. But do you think that people who make money with their investments make money by using their head or allowing their emotions to hijack their actions?
P: I should likely use my head.
S: So what should we do next?

As we see from the above dialog, the seller allows the prospect to gain some calm by gaining some perspective on his decision. Additionally, as explained in a previous post, the seller does not tell the prospect anything. The seller asks questions and allows the prospect to see the right course of action.

Our procrastinator is now sufficiently calm to proceed.