Salespeople have an interesting relationship with time. In sales, it helps to be optimistic, so at the start of every new month and quarter, when you’ve got a pipeline full of prospects it can feel pretty awesome to be in sales.
Every salesperson has targets, of course. Your job is to hit those targets within an agreed timescale.
But then, as the clock runs down towards that target, time can work against you. Time can feel like an enemy. When your manager asks for updates on the progress with leads, it can make you want to duck and hide.
Consultative selling takes time. Focusing on a handful of leads where you’ve crafted solutions, made presentations or demos, sent over proposals, is an investment of time and resources. Following up with those leads takes more time. So when, after weeks or months of follow-ups, trying to get a yes, a lead turns around and says “Now isn’t a great time”, it can be pretty frustrating.
Why a sales lead says “Now isn’t a great time”?
It could be the simple truth.
Now isn’t a great time, for one or more internal reasons, but they do want to go ahead in the future.
If that is the case, your job is to lock down the specifics: When? And why? Finding out the answer to those questions means you can take this lead out of the pipeline for this month or quarter and push it into the future.
In that scenario, using low-touch methods to keep in contact is an essential part of the sales process. Keeping in touch with the prospect without being too obtrusive or over-eager is a useful skill in sales. It requires persistence and it’s always useful to have things to send them that might be of interest, such as blog articles, case studies, videos, even social media content (memes or GIFs), depending on the sort of relationship you’ve built with the prospect.
However, in many other cases, a “now isn’t a good time” is an objection. A roadblock that you need to overcome. It isn’t always easy, but it can be done.
Here is what “now isn’t a good time” could mean:
- We don’t have the budget right now (but will in the future)
- We don’t have the internal bandwidth (time, resources, people) to implement
- Other priorities have overtaken this one, so come back once those projects are complete
- Senior leadership need to sign-off and they’re more invested in other goals
- We can’t fully see the value in what you are proposing
Often this feels like the end of the road with a particular prospect, which means a deal you might have been confident about – one that was in the pipeline – vanishes overnight. Taking with it your hopes for it landing in the month or quarter you wanted; plus the impact of the time spent cultivating a prospect who wasn’t willing or able to buy.
It can be frustrating, to say the least!
Is this the end of the road, or are there ways to overcome a time-based objection?
7 ways to overcome “Now isn’t a great time”
1 “When would be a good time?”
Assuming you’ve not already asked them this, start with the most logical question to get the answers you need.
Find out exactly under what circumstances, internal or external, including budgets and resources, when they can go ahead. If they simply need more time, then it’s worth keeping them in the pipeline and maintaining contact.
2 “What is preventing you from going ahead as planned?”
Again, find out specifics. If something is stopping them, maybe you can help them overcome it. Providing this is related to what you are offering, this information puts you in a better position to address the problem.
3 “Is this no longer a priority?”
Assuming there is a goal or pain point related to the solution you are offering, there might have been an internal priority shift that is preventing this from going ahead. Finding out what that is paves the way for moving forward on a future date when what your company can help them achieve is a higher priority.
4 “How can I help you sell this to senior managers?”
It could be that someone higher up doesn’t see or understand the benefits. Or they’ve understood enough to encourage further conversations, but not enough to see why they should invest resources in this right now.
Find out why your decision maker/budget holder or influencer is struggling to sell this internally, then provide them with new arguments to gain senior buy-in. It could make all of the difference for pushing the deal over the line this quarter instead of next.
5 “What are you hoping will have changed next month/quarter?”
If a lead says that they want to go ahead, just not yet. Next month or quarter, you need to be sure that they’re going to be in a position to say yes when they hope.
However, if nothing is likely to change – meaning the internal roadblocks (e.g. lack of support, resources, time, etc.) – are still in place then keeping them in the pipeline is almost certainly a waste of time.
Use this question to find out what they’re hoping will have changed to make it a useful conversation and worth staying in contact with them.
6 “Do you understand the value of what I am proposing?”
One of the roadblocks could be that they’re not confident of the value or return on investment they can expect. Listen to how well they understand the value and use this to reframe the message and benefits. Be clearer on what they are and the ROI they can expect.
7 “What happens if you don’t achieve the goals we talked about in the timescale outlined?”
Leverage the downsides of not going ahead sooner. Let your prospect see what could happen if they don’t achieve the goals they’ve set, or solve the problems that are getting in the way of other objectives.
Asking the right questions can create a route forward when it looks like it doesn’t exist. One or more of these questions should help you identify and move past the time roadblock. Or to see that time is only a temporary barrier.
If unfortunately, the answers to these questions demonstrate that the prospect clearly isn’t viable, then at least you will identify that quickly which will let you move on to other prospects.
In sales, there are times when a simple “How can I help?” is all that is needed to move someone from a no or not now, to a yes.