At some point in their lives, everyone has said, "Now's just not a good time." Whether that was indeed the truth is a different story.
There are many reasons prospects raise timing objections to salespeople. Maybe it's really because taking on the implementation of a new product or service would make more sense in six months, or a year.
But often, a timing objection masks other problems. It's possible the prospect doesn't think the product is a good fit, and instead of saying so they blame their hesitance on the timeframe. And pulling the trigger on a new purchase -- especially a big ticket item -- can sometimes be so stressful that putting it off until an unspecified date in the future feels like a safer choice.
Timing objections can be prevented by creating urgency throughout the sales process. Sellers should make the cost of inaction clear, and stress why it's important to make a decision now. However, despite a salesperson's best efforts, all reps will run into a timeframe objection with a prospect at one point or another.
So what can they say in the moment to get around this issue? Here are five tactics to skirt the issue and bring the conversation back on track, as well as tips for when to ultimately disqualify the prospect if the objection can't be overcome.
1) "You told me that business as usual will not get you to where you need to be. Are you okay not taking action, then?"
This line reminds the buyer of the cost of inaction -- a cost that they likely discussed with the salesperson earlier in the process. With this question, the rep reminds the prospect that if the status quo is unacceptable, they need to do something about it sooner rather than later.
Disqualify this prospect if: They have realized since starting the sales process that the status quo is actually fine, and not hurting their business. It's unlikely that the salesperson can salvage the engagement if the buyer has come to terms with the way things are currently.
2) "When do you need to see results by?"
You can use this question if you know for certain the prospect sees the value in your product or service, and understands it will give them the results they're seeking. Working backward is a fantastic approach to handling a timing objection in this case because prospects often don't know how long it will take to implement a new product. If they'd like to be up and running by a certain month, for instance, flesh out the critical dates that dot the path to the go-live, such as the implementation or installation start date, and the contract signed date. Then you'll have a concrete day that they'll need to make a decision by -- and it might just be next week. Suddenly putting off the decision doesn't seem so feasible anymore.
Disqualify this prospect if: They don't have a date they need to see results by, because it turns out they don't need the product or service you're selling.
3) "What do you think would be a better timeframe?"
Maybe something has happened within the company that's impacting the timeline of this project. Asking this question can help the salespeople uncover what that event might be so they can speak to the prospect's concerns with full knowledge.
Disqualify/recycle this prospect if: They respond that they just flat-out cannot have a conversation about timeframe right now, and they give no indication as to the reason.
4) "One of two things is happening here: Either I haven't addressed a need or a question you have, or you don't believe the information that we've discussed. Which is it?
By asking this question, the salesperson guides the conversation back to value, and discovers if the buyer is using timeframe to cover up other concerns they have about the offering. The seller invites the prospect to air any other objections they might have, which allows the rep to address them properly.
Disqualify this prospect if: Their timeframe concern was actually a front for a problem with a core feature of the offering, and they ultimately don't see the value in the product or service.
5) "You were so excited about this last time we talked. Has there been any internal pushback?"
Today, deals aren't just struck between one prospect and one seller -- there are often upwards of five stakeholders at the buyer's organization who need to give their approval. If a timeframe concern comes up from a prospect who was previously very gung ho about the project, it could be because a colleague dislikes the idea, or is dragging their heels. Once a rep discovers who is slowing the deal down, they can talk to this person to hash out their worries directly.
Disqualify this prospect if: It turns out that your primary contact doesn't carry much sway and is the only one on board with the project. If all other stakeholders are staunchly opposed and possess far more internal leverage, it's probably a no-go.
Originally published Dec 8, 2014 10:30:00 AM, updated February 01 2017