When? That one-word question makes the difference between landing a sale and a pipeline full of unqualified buyers who cannot or will not buy.

  • When can we meet?
  • When will you decide?
  • When will you be ready to sign a contract?
  • When will this project get started?
  • When do you want our services delivered or installed?

A buyer's level of urgency tells you how serious he or she is about making a decision. If a buyer cannot give you a firm date to deliver your product or service, investigate what's really driving the person's apprehension.

If the prospect is ready to buy but cannot commit to a date for installation or delivery, then you give the person one. Typically, in B2B sales, there is a period of time between getting the contract signed and delivery or installation of your product or service. Here's how the pros do it:

1. Start at the end of the sales process and work backward
Start with the installation date and work backward to provide the buyer with a time-frame reference. Tell the person what your turnaround time is and, if necessary, how your delivery or installation process works. Your goal is to establish a firm date for delivery, and then, working backward, to determine when the buyer will need to sign a contract.

2. Assess and accommodate the buyer's personality style
You may have a naturally indecisive buyer, who will require more personal assurance from you that your solution will work. On the other hand, decisive buyers want facts to substantiate their decision that your solution will deliver as promised and not create more work for them. Emotional buyers want to know a relationship with you and your company is reliable and trustworthy. Analytical buyers want objective details to evaluate your solution according to their standards.

3. Set a definitive contract-signing appointment
Once you solidify the install/delivery date, set and confirm a contract-signing date. Be clear that this is not another presentation. You are meeting to get the contract signed. Ensure that all parties required to sign will be there.

Sales Rep: "To get this installed by the end of next month, I'll need a signature from you by no later than next Wednesday to get you in the cue. When is a good time for you next week--Tuesday or Wednesday?"

Notice the sales rep is moving the process forward without being pushy. She knows she has a qualified buyer, so she moves toward a closing appointment. The prospect wants your services and you want the prospect's business. To make the sale is a function of urgency. You must define the date for delivery. That's your reference point for getting the contract signed.

Quick Tip: Email the prospect 24 hours prior to the closing appointment to remind the person when and why you're coming by. People get busy, and it helps to send someone a reminder.

Defining a buyer's urgency to buy is critical to qualifying and closing sales. If the prospect is unsure about his or her time frame for signing a contract, simply reverse the process. Start from the end and work backward to help the prospect understand your process for delivering the right solution on time.