Sometimes, all it takes is three little words. I’m serious. Sometimes, three little words – the saying, the adoption, the believing – can make all the difference in the world. I’m not talking about the classic “I love you,” or any variations thereof; nor am I speaking of anything that begins with “go” and ends with “yourself.” Although I must admit that all those phrases have their time and place.
I’ve spoken of other short phrases that are of great benefit before. “I can help,” for instance, is important because it taps into something very deep within a customer’s psyche. Offering, or asking for, help can be key in changing the trajectory of a conversation. But, these aren’t the words I’m referring to, either.
No, I’m talking about business, and the three words I’m referring to are: sense of urgency. When I look over the various winners and losers I’ve seen in the business world, those three words tend to define the difference between winning and losing. In a nutshell, winners have the sense of urgency; losers do not. When you’re analyzing your own performance or that of your salespeople, ask yourself, “do they display a sense of urgency about their jobs – or not?”
One might think that tighter economic times, such as the ones we’re in at the moment, would provoke greater sense of urgency on the part of those whose responsibility it is to make things happen. Often, however, the result is the opposite, because urgency’s enemy – fear – sets in. Salespeople who would otherwise be highly motivated to make calls get nervous and apprehensive about “the economy,” and thus calls go unmade (“I’d rather call them when the news is better.” Of course, since “the economy” is simply the cumulative effect of individual decisions to do or not to do business, every such postponement actually makes the economy a little worse.
Let’s take a look at some of the roles within (your?) company, and look at how a lack of urgency can negatively impact sales success.
The salesperson: This is fairly easy. In fact, we just discussed such an example above. However, I see a lack of urgency in many different parts of the sales process. As an example – recently, an out-of-town company prospected me to purchase a fairly innovative marketing program. Coincidentally, a local KC company contacted me the very next day, offering a similar service. I know and like the owner of the local company, and I am a buy-local guy when it makes sense. So, I met with them and discussed some possibilities. I then waited for a proposal. And waited. And waited. Meanwhile, the out of town company was calling me to follow up. When I finally received a proposal from the local company (after not one but two calls asking if they wanted my business or not), it was less targeted to my needs than the one I’d received well before from the out of town company. Reasoning that if the local outfit didn’t have a sense of urgency about winning the business, they were unlikely to have one when it came to servicing the business, I went with the out of town company. I’m pleased with my decision – but if the local company had followed up aggressively, they’d have won the deal.
The sales manager: Sales managers can lose sense of urgency in many ways; the decision to make changes in personnel, for instance, becomes a lack of urgency. The most common way for urgency to get lost at the sales management level is when changes are desired by ownership, and the sales manager is lackadaisical about pushing that message to his reps, and making sure that the right things happen. The biggest way the sales manager can reflect a lack of urgency, however, is simply by not making certain that his reps are maximizing their 40 hours per week. I call these sales managers “coast and collect” managers, and they’re not a help to you or your company.
The business owner: Business owners can be the best and worst with a sense of urgency. Sometimes, they’re the best – building a new building, adding a product line, etc. Sometimes, they can be the worst. One example that I see all the time is the business owner who waits for the ‘perfect’ time to do work to develop his/her personnel. “Well, I’d like to get the next person hired” becomes “We’re kinda busy right now” becomes “We’re not very busy right now so we’re keeping an eye on cash” becomes “I just had two people leave” becomes the never-ending cycle. Not coincidentally, the companies owned by these business owners seldom grow.
The best two questions any person can ask, when confronted with an important task, are:
If not me, who?
If not now, when?
While there are other ways “sense of urgency” can hamper companies at every management level, hopefully, you’re getting the idea. Sense of urgency means maximizing every lead, every call, every proposal, and every hour. If you’re doing it, great! If not, remember those three little words.