Time is money – and Time Drivers are golden
“When would you like this solution installed?” asked Patrick. “Well,” said the buyer, “ideally within a month.” So begins the process of finding time drivers, to create buyer urgency for a B2B solution sale.
And what comes next? That is the tricky part. How do we get a timetable that is compelling to your champion, and just as compelling to others in the approval chain?
Start early – Searching for ways to accelerate the sale is part of our jobs in every opportunity, and must start before the first call. A website review, and LinkedIn study of your prospect is essential – generating ideas on points of conversation about the company and the person/people who will be involved in a decision. If your solution is typically sold to a certain department head (let’s say Manufacturing), it comes naturally to look into how many plants they have, how many cites/countries host those plants, and how many people work in manufacturing (note earlier blog on finding all things you can “count”, for scoping benefits…). What takes more effort is to look into all the other departments of that company, since they all are impacted by what happens in Manufacturing – typical other departments are sales, marketing, engineering/design, customer service, finance and administration. If you were their CEO, what would you be looking at in a week of meetings with all these major functions? Look across the whole company for goals and gaps – all companies have a number of funded programs, already with timetables.
Time Drivers and Timetables; not the same thing – As you move from research to customer conversations, ask about existing timelines for things that are already funded. You may get tempted to take an easy way out, especially if the prospect tries to short cut directly to a proposal. Sales work can get discouraging, we know that, and you have to hold the dangers of a stalled deal at the top of your mind. Have you every had a months-long sales effort/proposal lead to a buyer declaration that “We decided to look at it in the next fiscal year.” So as you are digging and probing for important things with existing timelines and existing budgets – don’t give up! Moreover, especially don’t give up if your champion says “Let’s leave that, I have more questions about your product features and prices.” Have the confidence to remind her/him that your role is to prepare a proposal that will be a credit to everyone involved – and these connections to other areas of the company are important to a successful proposal. Keep digging.
Dig deeper, then widen the search – Learn all you can about the main department involved – e.g. manufacturing growth, new locations, consolidation, new automation, HR issues such as turnover and training. Any and all internal reasons for action and buyer urgency. Then spread your net wider – at least three other departments depend on manufacturing – sales, customer service and marketing. What are the these folks doing to improve performance during the current fiscal year, and what funds have they already committed to do that? Can you draw a strategic link between their current plan,and how your offer will make that plan stronger, perhaps even help get it done on time? A “time driver” is an existing resource and expense of the company, which can be connected to your proposal, and drive the time when your proposal must be signed and the P/O placed. Watch for positive facial expressions when you help your buyer find these linkages. And don’t be surprised if you get offers to be introduced to other department heads.
Find the waves, then ride them – In Patrick’s case, he found that his buyer’s customer support, operations and sales were having a big management meeting in 30 days. There was an interest in putting an initial “proof of concept” in place prior to that meeting – a communication system that could help run the meeting, and stimulate thinking about other use cases. This is like surfing, and Patrick had found a series of waves intersecting at a point in time, generating a time driver – and buyer urgency for his proposal.
Oh, and there’s more – after the initial extra effort to find time drivers on 2 or 3 opportunities, you will see patterns in your industry of where time drivers are typically found, and get a real kick out of showing leadership to your prospects as you help them happily buy what you sell.