The Negotiation Tactic Sabotaging You Every Time You Close

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Jeff Hoffman
Jeff Hoffman





There's one month left in the quarter. I guarantee almost every salesperson who sends out a contract today will use the last day of the year as the expiration date.

It might seem logical to give your prospect several weeks to review and sign your proposal, but this is a huge mistake.

The Problem With Giving Prospects a Long Time to Sign

Salespeople typically opt for expiration dates several weeks in the future because they don’t want to put too much pressure on buyers. Even if the rep has gotten buy-in from every stakeholder and worked with her prospect to navigate the internal buying process, she still may need several weeks to actually fulfill a purchase.

So why am I telling you to shorten your timeline? Although the buyer might be eager to get his hands on your product so he can benefit as soon as possible, it’s human nature to delay decisions until they’re immediate.

In other words, if it’s March 1 and your proposal doesn’t expire until March 31, your prospect won’t seriously consider it until March 25. You’ll spend the next few weeks twiddling your thumbs. When the end of the month rolls around, you’ll have to nag the buyer to get his signature. That means kindling urgency all over again.

The Expiration Date Reps Should Use Instead

Next time you send a proposal, choose an expiration date six days out. If your average sales price is relatively low, your prospect probably won’t balk at this timeframe. Salespeople offering complex solutions, on the other hand, will typically encounter some resistance from the prospect.

That’s not worrisome. In fact, reps can play this reaction to their advantage by doing one simple thing: Making their request smaller.

Here’s some sample dialogue to show you how it’s done.

Rep: “This contract expires on December 4."

Prospect: “That’s too soon. I still need to write the implementation plan.”

Rep: “Okay, I understand. Thanks for telling me. What can you accomplish by December 4?”

Prospect: “I can probably come up with a draft of the plan.”

Rep: “I’ve got some ideas that’ll make the transition faster, smoother, and cheaper. If you shoot me your draft on December 4, I can look it over and add my suggestions.”

Prospect: “I’d really appreciate that.”

Now this salesperson has a commitment from her prospect on the original date she wanted. The buyer is far likelier to make progress on the purchase in the next week than if the rep had chosen an expiration date one month away. Ultimately, she’ll close far more quickly.

Make sure you’re using this technique with the proper intent: Accelerating the overall speed of the deal. The goal isn’t closing within six days (unless that’s how long it normally takes prospects to review your proposals). If you’re closing a complex deal, go into this conversation anticipating you’ll need to alter your request to fit the six-day timeline.

That’s also why you shouldn’t extend the expiration date when prospects say six days isn’t enough time. This response defeats the purpose: You might as well have given them more time in the first place. The idea is that you stick with your deadline but downsize your request.

If you’d rather make a specific request than ask what your prospect can get done by a certain date, that’s fine too. For instance, you might say, “How about you send the contract to legal by that date?”

Because you started with a bigger ask, this alternative will seem more reasonable to your prospect than if it had been the first one you’d put on the table.

Using this technique makes you appear more confident and shortens your closing time, and it helps your prospects reap the benefits of your product more quickly.

Want more sales advice? Check out Jeff's Your SalesMBA™ blog.

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