Sales is all about timing. The first viable vendor in front of a hot prospect is five times more likely to win the sale.
The challenge is how can a salesperson identify who’s ready to talk solutions? Short of openly communicating dissatisfaction with their current provider (and by this time, they’re probably already considering alternatives), prospects don’t generally broadcast when they’re prepared to make a change.
But after years of studying trigger events and buyer behavior, I’ve come up with a simple framework that can reliably help you tell when you are the first seller in front of a hot prospect instead of second or third in with a time waster.
The key is learning to spot the signs that a prospect is in a window of dissatisfaction.
What is a Window of Dissatisfaction?
It doesn’t matter who you’re selling to or what you’re selling. People are always in one of three buying stages:
1) Status Quo
Here a prospect is happy with the status quo and sees no reason to change.
Note that the status quo doesn’t necessarily mean the prospect is using a product or service that directly competes with yours. Instead of a competitor, they could be using your competition -- something entirely different than your product or service that solves the same problem. Here’s an example: A jewelry store’s competitors are other jewelry stores, but its competition are gifts people give their loved ones in lieu of jewelry, such as flowers or chocolate. The difference is not slight -- while it’s often difficult to differentiate your product against competitors, it’s much easier to gain traction against your competition.
2) Searching for Alternatives
Here a prospect has already worked with the vendor who was first in to define their problem and design a solution. They're now simply searching for alternative vendors to give them a quote.
According to CEB, 57% of the buying process is complete once prospects start independent research. And according to Aberdeen’s research a salesperson has a 17% chance of winning the business when they engage at this stage.
3) Window of Dissatisfaction
In between the two commonly known buying states described above is a time when buyers are unhappy with the status quo and are thinking of changing but are so busy searching for alternatives for other problems that they haven’t gotten around to working on this particular one yet.
When salespeople are first in with decision makers during this window of dissatisfaction their chances of winning the business jump to 74%, according to Forrester Research.
Why? Because they’re the first seller on the scene, they have the chance to define the buying vision and design the solution before the competition even knows there is an opportunity.
And this has a psychological impact. If a salesperson can present a solution to a buyer while they’re in a window of dissatisfaction, selective perception causes the buyer to notice your company’s ads, whitepapers, and social posts more than ever before. As their brains keenly tune into your channel, your competitors grow blurry and fade away.
How to Recognize the Window of Dissatisfaction
Now you understand why it’s so important to find and reach out to the different types of buyers when they’re in a window of dissatisfaction. But how can you tell the difference between a hot prospect in the window of dissatisfaction and a time waster who is just searching for alternatives?
Here are my two favorite ways:
1) “Call me back in six months when we’ll be looking at this.”
Have you ever thrown a lead back into a nurturing campaign due to a timeline objection? The prospect expressed interest in your offering, but since they’re busy with other things at the moment, they’d like you to reach out again a few months down the line.
Okay, no problem. But when you follow up … they’ve already bought a competitive product. This is because they were in the window of dissatisfaction during your first call, and you didn’t even know it.
The next time you hear a prospect say they want to buy in a few months’ or years’ time, all the bells and whistles should go off in your head. You have a hot prospect on your hands, and you’re the first seller on the scene. Don’t wait -- forge ahead now by compelling the buyer to take a small step today, such as reading a piece of content or having an initial chat. One step leads to another and another until they’re all the way at your doorstep.
2) “I’m looking to do this." Vs. "I’m looking to buy this.”
If a buyer uses verbs to describe the outcomes they want to accomplish instead of nouns to describe the product or service they want to buy, you’ve found a hot prospect who is in a window of dissatisfaction.
For example, consider the difference between the following two statements.
“I want to enable my fleet of trucks to reach their destinations faster.”
“I want new tires for my trucks.”
In the first sentence, the buyer hasn’t yet begun to formulate a solution to their problem. The second makes it clear that they’re already designing the fix in their heads, and have probably already researched specific vendors. Ditch the second opportunity, and follow up with the first.
Recognizing which prospects are in the window of dissatisfaction will help you spend less time with time wasters. And this gives you more time to spend with your existing hot prospects or go out and find more.
Be sure to read my next blog post where I will show you a really simple way to find more hot prospects -- those who recently became dissatisfied with the status quo and are now in the window of dissatisfaction.
Originally published Feb 4, 2015 7:00:00 AM, updated October 30 2019