Apr 02, 2013

Opportunity Cost: DON’T Let the Sale Slip Away

Opportunity Cost: DON'T Let the Sale Slip AwayPatrick Morin is a partner with The Cross Partnership, a global consultancy that is engaged by private equity groups, boards of directors, and CEOs to improve the performance of their invested companies. The Cross Partnership works with select start-ups, growth companies, and turnarounds to stabilize operations and ramp up revenue and employee performance.

It was going so well until he said it, but once it was out – the sale unraveled quickly.

Chances are, you’ve all heard a version of it at least once:

If you really want this one, grab it now, because it’s the last one left, and I’ve had a couple of folks in this week looking at it.

Gary probably didn’t realize the negative impact of his  words, but it was too late. We left the bike shop without buying and, frankly, feeling the need to shower.

In trying to create a sense of urgency to move the transaction along, he used what’s normally called the “opportunity method” of closing. Unfortunately, most buyers react very negatively to this method and would rather walk away.

Why? It creates doubt and skepticism and erodes credibility. What he said might have even been accurate, but that doesn’t matter. The “I have one left” statement has been deeply etched into buyers’ psyches as something salespeople say just to close a deal. Used in the manner that Gary did, it sounds hollow and false.

Is there a way to communicate the same thing without the negative impact? Yes.

First off, it must be absolutely true. If we’re going to say we have one left, we’d better only have ONE left. There is no jiggering this. It’s binary — we either do, or we don’t. We are truthful, or we are lying.

The risk of damaging our company’s reputation is far too great if it is untrue — so great that it has been a fireable offense in our companies.

Secondly, remove the pressure by giving the buyer options. Remind them there are other makes (models, lot numbers, colors, sizes, terms) that would serve them just as well. People want to know what their options are and know that they have the ability to choose. It settles them. “All or nothing” choices often lead to post-purchase dissonance and ill will.

Let them know that, whether they buy today or at some point in the future, we are happy to have them as customers. It demonstrates that we are in for the long-haul relationship, and it mitigates negative buyer thoughts of “you’re just trying to get this out of your inventory today.”

Lastly, remind them that the choice is always theirs. Why? Because it is. It’s their checkbook. It’s their purchase order. THEY can chose, and they now know that the salesperson knows it. The salesperson is no longer exacting pressure. The pressure of the decision is entirely theirs.

Back to the bike shop. If Gary had said something like this:

“Patrick, you seem really attached to the white Giant TCR road bike. It’s important for you to know that we don’t stock a lot of these, and this is one of only two we could get our hands on this season. They usually sell pretty fast, too.

“However, you have lots of options. You also liked the Cannondale and the Trek, and we can get those pretty easily.

“Whether you want one of those now or in six months, chances are they’ll be here — we want you as a customer regardless of the bike you pick. If your heart is set on the Giant, it’s better to move quickly — but the choice is always yours.”

I would have bought the bike from him.

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  1. Patrick, I love how you weave your daily experiences into these articles. I remember shopping for a car and the sales person was trying to close me, I just walked out and came back two weeks later and bought the same car from a different salesperson.

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