Call Me Back Next Month! Putting an End to the End-of-Quarter Blues
Seeing as this is the end of another calendar quarter, I suspect many of you may be feeling what I like to call the "end-of-quarter blues."
On the one side, you've got pressure from your manager to close deals NOW! On the other, you're getting the brush off from clients who want to call you back next month or next quarter instead.
Stuck right in the middle? Yup, you guessed it - its lucky old you!
The end of a period is a time when your prospects have other fires burning bright. Often, they use those other priorities as an excuse to put buying decisions on hold - especially if you're selling to publicly traded companies.
"I need some more time," "let me think about it" and "call me back next (month, quarter or year)" are three of the most frustrating phrases you'll ever hear in sales. The worst part is, these aren't even valid objections you can deal with. They're stalls. And stalling is twice as frustrating because it almost always masks a real objection. When you get a stall, you have to figure out how to dance around it, find the real objection, handle it - and then get the deal back on track.
So what can you do to stop your prospects from stalling - and put an end to the end-of-quarter blues? An ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure
The best solution if you suspect a stall may be coming is to do something about it BEFORE it happens.
Preventing stalls and objections is the single most powerful - and least used - sales technique I know. If you have a client who regularly seems to get cold feet around this time every three months, try some of the following patented stall prevention cures:
- Bring up the stall first and have an answer ready. Say: "Mr. Customer, you may be thinking that it's best to wait until after the year-end to buy. I'm concerned that if you do that, we won't be able to guarantee you these prices."
- Keep your pipeline full. If you have a pipeline with at least 3-4 times as many prospects as you need in order to meet your goals, you (and your manager!) will feel far less pressure. When you feel less pressure, you'll close more deals. Ironic? Yes. True? You bet.
- Start calling customers early on in the period to create a greater sense of urgency.
- Set price increases in September to take effect January 1st. This four-month window of opportunity will encourage your customers to buy now.
- Create a unique holiday special. Hold a sale at the beginning of December or on Labour Day to boost sales in Q3.
- Have a "closing blitz day" at the office or, better yet, arrange a longer contest to see who can close the most deals.
- Hold a series of seminars on issues that are important to your prospects and customers. Start it first thing in the morning at a desirable location, schedule the best session just before the end of the period - and make sure to serve great food!
- Build relationships all year long by staying in touch with your customers on at least a monthly basis. Send them a "thank you" or "thinking of you" card, take them out for coffee, or just give them a call. Try to stay away from email, as it's not the most effective relationship-building tool.
7 surefire ways to get the deal done
If you've done everything you can think of to be proactive and are still getting stalled, try these 7 great ideas to help overcome any unwarranted delays:
- Make the customer be specific. "Thanks for letting me know that next month is better for you. What date would you want to place the order?" Or: "I would be happy to call you back next month. Would Tuesday, July 11th at 10:00 a.m. work for you?"
- Control the call back. Don't take "don't worry - I'll call you!" as an answer. You need to stay in control of the follow-up. I suggest you say: "Thanks for wanting to stay on top of this, Bob. How about, if I don't hear from you by the 15th, I'll call you on the 16th at 10:00 a.m.?"
- Offer alternatives. Once when I was selling software, we offered to split an invoice in two, charging the customer for the software in March and the maintenance in April. Because the payments were split, the order fit better into her quarterly budgets, and the customer was able to make the deal right away. Can you think of a creative way to help your customers say yes right now?
- Question them into a corner - and close them when they get there. Tell your clients: "I would be happy to call you back next month. Do you mind if I ask, what will have to be different in May to make you want to buy from me then?" Or take the opposite approach, and ask: "Will anything change over the next few weeks that will cause you not to buy?" Once the prospect assures you that they do want to do business with you, you can respond with: "Great! Let's get your order into production now so your project won't be delayed, and we'll deliver it after July 1st." One Engage client offers to ship his product in advance and the invoice later, so that his customers can benefit from having the product on site while paying for it later. Of course, he only does this with clients who have excellent credit. But it works great - and he never has to discount his prices!
- "Use the "F" word. Agree with your clients, and then disagree, by offering an alternative: "I know how you feel. Other clients of mine have told me that they felt the same way. What they have found is that they can save up to 20% if they buy now. Are you sure you don't want to save this money now?"
- Get a testimonial letter. Testimonials are the most powerful tool in your arsenal. They're also a sales person's best friend (next to my dog Conrad of course!). Ask someone who bought before the quarter end, or any client who accelerated their purchase and was glad they did so, to write you a two-paragraph letter. The first paragraph should state how they originally wanted to wait, and the value they received by not putting it off - for example, did they save money? Time? The second paragraph should detail how happy they are with your after-sales service.
- Get scarce! Remind your customers (if it's true!) that the price will be going up after a specified date or that there might be a product or delivery back-up after the 1st of the month, and advise them to schedule delivery now. If your business tends to be seasonal, encourage clients to buy during off-peak periods in order to get priority shipping and production.
The success with which you handle stalls is directly related to the quality of the relationship you've built with your prospect or customer. A good relationship gives you more freedom to press for immediate action. A weak relationship may mean you end up having to wait until the next quarter to make the sale - or longer.
One last thing - under the considerable pressure the end of a quarter can bring, many sales people give in to the temptation to hold a "slash and burn" sale to get their prospects to buy. I urge you to avoid this at all costs.
In the long term, slash and burn sales are rarely effective, because all they do is set a precedent that your prices will drop whenever you're desperate. Once word gets around, who will ever buy from you at full price again?
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Make sure you check out Colleen's latest book, Nonstop Sales Boom for powerful strategies to drive consistent sales growth quarter after quarter, year after year.
Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.
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