From 1980 to 1995, Gary Larson had a syndicated, single-panel cartoon known as The Far Side. It ran in thousands of newspapers and was pure genius in its simultaneous hilarity and simplicity.
I could always relate to the cartoon especially one captioned, “Same planet, different worlds.” The cartoon panel is divided in half. In the top frame, there is a man lying in bed staring at the ceiling with a thought bubble above his head that says, “I wonder if she knows I exist…Should I call her? Maybe she doesn’t even know I exist? Well, maybe she does…I’ll call her. No, wait…I’m not sure if she knows I exist. Dang!”
In the bottom frame, there’s a picture of a woman lying in bed staring at her ceiling with a thought bubble above her head: “You know, I think I really like vanilla.”
That cartoon cracks me up, because it’s such a metaphor for anyone who sells for a living.
As the cartoon so effectively illustrates, people have different priorities and different levels of urgency. As a sales professional, your level of urgency is often greater than that of your prospects.
Think about it. Your job depends on selling products or services. You don’t get paid until you close a deal. Because your livelihood depends on deal making, you have a vested interest in the process moving quickly and the purchase decision made promptly.
But your prospect could (and often does) have a very different timeline for a variety of reasons:
- Your prospect might have to go through multiple layers of decision making inside his or her company
- Your prospect might be considering additional options/vendors in addition to you and your offering.
- In addition to making a decision on your proposed offering, your prospect has a hundred other things to worry about, some of which are more pressing and stressful.
- Your prospect could be dealing with things in his or her personal life that take priority over a business decision, even an important business decision.
- Your prospect’s “clock” might be different from yours. Different people think and move at different speeds. What’s “fast” to one person might be “slow” to another.
- Perhaps you haven’t done a good enough job of proving that your offering creates so much value that it deserves to be the prospect’s top priority.
If you find yourself in the sales equivalent of The Far Side cartoon, what should you do?
Stick to the basics. Be persistent and focus on value-led messaging that focuses on the prospect’s outcomes.
When you discover exactly which part of your product or service most closely meets what the prospect most values at the time he or she most needs it, the prospect’s level of urgency suddenly will match and sometimes even exceed yours.