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How to Sell NOW to the Procrastinator

By Paul Johnson

923 words. Abstract: When your customers want to think it over, it's only natural. Take away three approaches that enable you to leverage human nature and help them buy now instead of later.

Why do we always want the very thing we can't have?

Perhaps you've gone to the airport to discover your gate is the very last one at the far end of the terminal. After schlepping your bags to your gate and taking a seat, you realize you passed the last restroom two blocks back. Suddenly you have an insatiable urge to go to the bathroom.

Perhaps you've been scheduled for some medical tests that require you to eat nothing beforehand. From the moment you wake up that morning until those blasted tests are over, everything you see reminds you of a doughnut.

The Nature of Now
This basic human nature can help us sell more products and services if we put it to good use. We know that buyers procrastinate. For those of us who grew up in the United States, we have been conditioned to expect a world of abundance. We believe we can get whatever we need whenever we need it. Even when what we're selling is perfect for our customer, they will often delay the purchase to "think it over" or "sleep on it." The reality is that people who don't buy now often won't buy later, either. Buyers who delay purchases create longer sales cycles, reduced sales volume, and higher cost of sales. When we let customers assume that our product will always be available when needed, a sale is rarely the reward.

Gasoline is almost always in plentiful supply, yet even a rumor of a shortage creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. People run out and wait in long lines to top off their tanks and create the very shortage they fear. The fear of scarcity creates a buying frenzy.

You can develop your own marketing strategy to leverage this basic human nature and create a buying frenzy for your products or services. The key to intensifying desire is to take away something folks believe they already have.

Know Your Limits
The first approach is to limit availability of the offering. After your prospect has sold themselves emotionally, you need to help them understand that you may not be able to deliver if they don't buy now. Likewise, if you sell a service instead of a product, your customers can't expect to enjoy your service until your people are available to deliver them.

The Apple iPhone was heavily promoted before it was released. Because availability was limited, people were willing to get to stores early and stand in long lines to make sure they got theirs before the supply ran out. Likewise, retail stores routinely offer specials in limited supply on the Friday after Thanksgiving to get people lined up outside their doors at ridiculous hours of the early morning.

Whether you're selling a product or a service, it's important to first make sure the customer does indeed want to buy what you're offering. The next step is to "take away" the offer by explaining why you may not be able to deliver in a timely fashion if they delay their decision. Intense desire and commitment is often the result.

The End is Near
Another approach is to take away a special price or promotion. For example, perhaps you can include a special promotional item to the first 100 people who buy. Or, you could have a sale that ends at the end of the week. While sales and promotions do erode profit margins, they can successfully move some buyers to action as the popularity of this method attests.

A third approach may prove especially useful in this age of Internet shopping. If online shoppers discover that your product is in short supply, they can easily keep looking for a merchant who can deliver. Likewise, if your special promotion ended yesterday, they can keep looking for someone who's having a sale today. Procrastination continues. To capture these buyers, it's important that you not only sell them on your core product or service, but also on one other thing.

Create a special bonus that you can readily provide that they can't get anywhere else. Perhaps it's a free training video, or access to insider information, or a promotional item you had custom-made to go with the core offer. With a special hook like this, they can't afford to buy anywhere else unless they really don't want your special bonus.

One thing YOU can't afford to do is lie. Make sure your product supply or service availability is indeed limited; could you "sell out" if a big order came in tomorrow? Stick to the ending dates on your sales and promotions. Ensure that your special bonus is unique to you. While it's OK to leverage human nature, it wrong to make stuff up to manipulate your customers.

Tomorrow Never Comes
The "take-away" technique has been a selling standard for decades. You can increase the power of this technique and further leverage human nature by designing your take-aways into your product marketing plan. Make sure you're supporting your salespeople with everything they need to help buyers sell themselves. Then, before prospects have a chance to say, "Let me think it over," prepare to take away your product or service, your price or promotion, or your special bonus. Or, better yet, all three.

It's foolhardy to assume that just because you can solve a customer's problem today means they'll actually buy today. Remember that point the next time your cable goes out and you discover an unquenchable lust for that 24-hour Three Stooges marathon. You can't fight human nature. Fortunately, neither can your customers.

© 2008 Paul Johnson. All rights reserved.

About The Author:
Paul Johnson is Founder of Consultative Selling. He works with organizations like ADP, Nortel Networks and AutoNation. Discover the application and definition of Consultative Selling at Learn about public sales training courses at

Note: This article is available for reprint at no charge. We only ask that you include our copyright notice in your reprint, along with the About the Author information we provide at the end of the article.

A Question for your Comments: When has one of your close advisers pushed you to make a decision you knew you should make?

Posted: under Gaining Commitment (Sales).

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