Don’t let end-of-the-year sales quotas send you into a panic. Use that anxiety to create a sense of urgency with your prospects and close those deals before the end of the year. Anxiety can be used appropriately to generate action in a sales cycle.

Anxiety is positive. Panic is not. Anxiety is defined as “A force or impulse that impels someone to act.” So how do we create anxiety if that is the force that may ultimately compel action?

It is important to remember that our prospects and customers are motivated by their own reasons, not ours. We must uncover the individual motivations for each of our prospects in order to create motion and closure.

As we go through our sales cycle with each prospect, we are working to uncover what their motivation is so that we can tap into it. We do this by asking specific questions about how the solution or service we are proposing  will impact them.

What happens if you are stonewalled or denied information through this questioning process? Do you walk away?

I suggest that you ask a different type of question. You want to bring to the surface conditions that your prospect may not have considered and begin a conversation, one they may not have been willing to enter into before. We do this by asking Anxiety Questions.

As we evaluate and forecast our opportunities for the balance of this year and beyond, we constantly test our prospect qualification process. Historical data demonstrates that an average of 30 percent of the deals forecasted by sales professionals will end in no decision. Are those in your pipeline and forecast?

To keep an opportunity from becoming the one out of three that end in no decision, you must objectively evaluate your sales process. Have you uncovered the business and personal issues that must be resolved by your prospect? Has the prospect confirmed that you have differentiated your offering from others? Is your prospect the person with the authority to act? Have you built trust and a rapport? Are you working on a mutual, written plan to do business together with a realistic timeline for closure?

Once you have evaluated your process and what you know to be true with your prospect, you should ask yourself — Will this person act in the time frame we have agreed? If you think that the answer would be  “no,” or would be an open-ended answer, you may want to consider creating urgency with your prospect.

You can create a sense of urgency by leading the prospect to momentarily experience the consequences of not having your product or service. Ultimately, your prospect’s urgency can and will shorten your sales cycles and have a direct impact on your success.

An effective tool to leverage when attempting to create urgency is the Anxiety Question. It opens up live dialogue, and can be valuable in getting your prospect to act. Well-placed anxiety questions can move a client from a status quo or even-keel position.

Always avoid telling your prospects the consequences they will experience; rather, ask a question in a way that leads them on their own to recognize the negative consequences of inaction. In the two seconds it takes for them to consider your anxiety question, they will likely consider their own personal motivation for taking action. Inevitably, some nagging concern will rise to the surface. The personal driver to your solution may be different for each prospect.

Specific key words or phrases will help to understand the anxiety, because if you don’t understand exactly what their anxiety is, how can you address it?

An anxiety question can look like this:

  • “Are you confident that you can eliminate the backlog of IT requests without increasing costs?”

  • “What’s the impact to you if the cost management initiative is delayed?”

  • “What would be the impact on your ability to raise capital if financial information is not readily available?”

  • “Are you confident that you will be able to support management’s 35% annual growth plan without impacting costs?”

  • “How safe will your job be if revenues do not increase?”

  • “I noticed that your return on assets is below the industry norm. If this situation continues, what will be the impact on your stock price?”

When deciding how best to formulate a question, remember that the question should relate to what you know about the prospect and/or the industry. It should require them to think about the future. You must be careful not to insult your prospect or damage the trust and rapport you have established. Being specific makes it easier to create anxiety. This can include referencing war stories about people the prospect is familiar with or leveraging third-party objective information or research.

By reshaping the prospect’s perspective of what they need and want, they will focus on an urgent future with you. Begin with the end in mind – in other words, what you believe your products or services can solve for the prospect is the way to building a successful future.

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As Founder and CEO of Visualize, Scott spearheads the company’s overall strategic direction, planning and execution. Scott has over 25 years of experience in sales and sales leadership, building profitable companies.