SALES

4 Ways to Nudge a Slow Customer

How to get a customer to move on a proposal that's been sitting there for days.
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You've sent a sales proposal to a customer and haven't heard back, even though there's been plenty of time to make a decision. Your challenge is to give the customer a nudge to get the purchase moving again. At the very least, you need to know whether the opportunity is still alive.

There are four basic approaches, each of which can be the core of an email, a snail mail, a voice mail, or even a live telephone call:

1. The Standard Approach

"It's been X days since our last meeting, and I'm trying to get a feel for what the team here might need to deliver. By any chance, do you have some news about the ABC project? I realize you've got a lot on your plate, but anything that you could share would be appreciated."

  • Advantage: It's businesslike and inoffensive.
  • Disadvantage: Will probably rank low on the customer's to-do list.
  • Use It: When you're too chicken to try the other three approaches.

2. The "What Gives?" Shove

"It's been X days since I prepared that preliminary proposal for you. Since then, we've been unable to connect. Now, I'm not one to push, but in most cases we'd have circled back to each other by now. Please call me or let me know when you can give this some attention."

  • Advantage: Lets the customer know your time is valuable.
  • Disadvantage: It can come off as if you're nagging.
  • Use It: When you're truly not afraid to hear a no.

3. The "You'd Be Crazy Not to Buy" Appeal

"I was reviewing your proposal and did a little math. It seems that the ROI we agreed upon breaks down to $1,500 per day, which means you could have saved $135,000 by now. What ideas do you have about how you and I could work together to ensure that you begin enjoying these productivity increases?"

  • Advantage: You're talking the universal language of ROI.
  • Disadvantage: You may be pointing out what's obvious.
  • Use It: When you're incredibly confident in the financial value of your offering.

4. The "Last Train" Gambit

"I have not heard from you in X days. While I hate to do it, I'm going to close this file. We can resubmit our ideas once you are in a better position to move forward on a solution."

  • Advantage: It definitely brings matters to a head.
  • Disadvantage: The customer knows you're probably bluffing.
  • Use It: When you're fairly certain you're not going to get the business anyway.

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Last updated: Oct 16, 2012

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James was recently named a "Top 40 Social Selling Marketing Master" by Forbes, and his blog has won awards from the Society of American Business Editors and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. His writing has appeared in publications as diverse as Wired, Brandweek, and Men's Health, and he is the author of numerous books, including The Tao of Programming, Business Wisdom of the Electronic Elite, and, most recently, Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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