There’s no question about it. Timing is everything in sales and life.
In life, the importance of timing is obvious. You could miss boarding a plane by a minute, completely ruining the family vacation. You could be one second too slow at a stop light, and light up the intersection. You could even have a missed connection with your potential soulmate because the subway doors were too quick to close.
Timing is also critical in sales. You might see timing — whether good or bad — as just dumb luck or fate, depending on how you see the world (I call it fate). But did you know that you can engineer or orchestrate your sales activities in a way that maximizes opportunities in terms of timing? Don’t worry, I’ll break this down today and show you some innovative ways to start making timing work for you.
We’ll start at the highest level, which is timing the sales cycle itself. And from there we’ll zoom in to talk about timing as it relates to reaching out and communicating with prospects. We’ll then narrow things even further and discuss timing the close by remaining alert for buying signals. In the end, we want more ink on paper and fewer prospects getting filed under “closed-lost.”
Remember, B2B sales is all about timing. And believe it or not, you can control timing in sales. You have to give yourself every little edge possible. So why not start here?
All right. Let’s get right to it.
Timing the Sales Cycle
It would be more accurate to say “timing the buying cycle.” Sure, there’s a sales cycle, but your prospects’ buying patterns are really what you should be keeping a pulse on. We won’t dive too deep into this today, as this topic is so important that it deserves its own post (and will get it!). For now, just remember that the sales cycle (and the buying cycle) typically involves multiple stakeholders.
So how do you “time” this effectively? Well, you must tailor your sales approach to each specific phase of the buyer journey. For instance, during the awareness stage, you should be educating your prospect. During the decision-making phase, you should position your product or service as the best solution to their problem. And post-sale, you must consider the timing of upsells, crossells, and of course, customer service.
I see a lot of salespeople do these things in the wrong order. They over-educate during the decision-making phase. And they try to upsell and cross-sell during the awareness stage, completely distracting the prospect from the main offer. Talk about botched timing. Don’t let that be you!
Timing the Follow-up
It’s not just the follow-up, it’s ALL communications with your prospects. You have to be on top of things here. The sad truth, though, is that most people are lazy. Mediocre salespeople let opportunities fall through the cracks left and right. But thankfully this is one of the easiest weaknesses to shore up. And again, timing is everything!
When a prospect shows even the slightest interest, get them on the phone immediately. Later, when you’re going back-and-forth via email working the account, be responsive! Show them that you’re organized, quick to reply, and sharp as a tack — they need to see this from their future vendor. Also, you never know if they’re in negotiation with other competing providers, or talking with other salespeople who are quick to respond. Don’t get left in the dust.
Timing the Close
On the one hand, if you try to close the deal before your prospect is ready, you could risk losing the deal. On the other hand, if you’re too slow to close, your buyer will become impatient and lose interest. So there is a closing sweet spot. How do you find and capitalize on this sweet spot? You pay attention to buying signals.
Thankfully, there are four “buying signs” to look and listen for. These are almost foolproof signs, and some will rise up so blatant and obvious like a smoke signal in the wilderness. These signals will really help you to move the conversation along and ultimately get you closing more deals and helping more people. So what are these signs? There are several, but here are the four most salient buying signs.
They ask thoughtful questions.
These poignant questions, asked by your prospect, might include:
- Can you explain how your product has helped companies like mine in the past?
- How does the onboarding process work / what kind of lead time am I looking at?
- How do you assign your representatives or consultants to specific accounts?
- How is your approach/product better than your competitors’?
- How do you measure ROI to know when to stay the course or pivot?
They give body language cues.
Pay attention to how your prospect is holding themself. You might pick up on several obvious buying signs, including:
- Your prospect is leaning forward
- They are smiling or laughing with you
- Making lots of eye contact
- Lots of head nodding
They show interest in the particulars.
Your prospect is likely interested in buying if they are eager to discuss any of the following:
- They ask about specific product details
- They ask about pricing
- They ask about terms and conditions
- They ask you to explain or unpack a certain feature
They see you as a trusted advisor.
Finally, you know you have a buyer if they see you as a trusted advisor.
You can’t always know how you’re being perceived, but thankfully you can control how you communicate. Communicate with empathy and authenticity, and the rest will take care of itself. TRUST is key here. Once you gain their trust, they are far more likely to buy from you. Look – they want someone who can walk alongside them, not just this year but next year, the year after, and well into the future. Be that person!
The bottom line is to stay alert and look for these various buying signals. When you get them, the timing is right to move the deal along. With each passing cue, your prospect should go a little down the funnel. Whatever you do, don’t sleep on this!
Timing is tricky in sales, but it’s not impossible to master. You just have to know what to look out for.
Remember not to trip over yourself or get your wires crossed during the buying cycle. It’s critical that you do the appropriate things for each corresponding phase (see section on Timing the Sales Cycle to nail this). You should also do your best in regards to being responsive to your prospect, which certainly falls under the timing umbrella. Stay organized, respond to their emails or calls asap, follow-up right away, and really just be there for them. Finally, you can time the close by looking for the different buying signals I’ve outlined above.
And THIS is how you master timing in sales. You’ve got this.
Until next time…