In a disrupted economy, closing deals takes more sophistication and finesse than ever before.
You might think that all you need to do is double down on all your sales methods, but stoking a sense of urgency is going to be your superpower.
How do you create a sense of urgency in B2B sales? To create urgency in B2B sales you must focus on the inherent urgency in the prospect’s situation. You need to tie your solution to their problem, and then include both against their time frame. Creating deadlines to obtain discounts or limited offers is the most common technique to embed urgency.
However, for urgency techniques to be effective all the fundamentals of a great sales strategy must already be in place. Without strong basics, none of the bells and whistles of creating urgency will make any noise.
That said, let’s look at some ways urgency can be included in B2B sales.
1. Underscore Your Prospect’s Inherent Sense of Urgency
The most vital element of creating urgency in the B2B sales process, is knowing the inherent urgency present in the prospect. This starts with understanding the any time restrictions in objectives that they are trying to meet.
If the prospect is not under any pressure to perform, nothing you can do on the sales end will light a fire under them. But this is rarely the case.
Although this falls under the category of “Sales 101,” understanding your prospect’s hopes and fears is not enough. You can take this to the next level.
Bring their pre-established sense of urgency to the front of their mind and keep it there. Your prospect may be focusing on day-to-day operations without dwelling on the big picture. Remind them about the challenges in their market and the strength of their competition.
Show that you understand their landscape, obstacles, and pressures. A good technique to use is sharing how you have personally helped similar businesses, within the timeframe the prospect is looking to achieve their goals in.
If possible, also enhance your credibility by telling them something they had not yet learned about their own niche.
Refer to whatever integral pressures exist in their landscape: seasonality of demand or supply, surging competition, shifts in consumer spending, deadline pressures, keeping up with innovations, uncertainty, and whatever else is going on in that sector as a whole and in their particular niche.
You are lighting a fire, but the kindling was already there.
The prospect’s inherent perception of urgency is the cornerstone of the entire tactic of creating a sense of urgency. You can work with this by reinforcing it at every opportunity. Go ahead, fan that flame.
What to Ask: Questions That Help the Prospect Focus on Their Problem
If you can lead your prospect toward your perspective by letting them talk themselves there, they have done the heavy lifting for you. Asking leading questions is a great method to get them there. Inspiration for these questions came from this article.
- How do you define the problem?
- What are the primary issues this causes?
- What are the secondary issues this problem causes?
- How is this problem affecting any of your key success factors?
- Is this the biggest problem you face?
- Does it make other problems worse?
- Who is affected by this problem, and how does it affect them?
- Is it an issue for you, personally?
- What are the roadblocks to solving this problem?
After each answer make them feel heard: reflect their answer back to them.
This will confirm that you understand their predicament. If appropriate, tie the answer to the calendar to keep the discussion from remaining abstract.
Keep it grounded in time, mentioning hours, days, or weeks that are wasted because of this problem, or the business’ related scheduling problems, for example.
Urgency is closely related to time, so keep including vocabulary related to time.
What to Say: Components of Underscoring Prospect Urgency
It’s important to establish your expertise in the area of their problem and also to build trust to reduce the prospect’s anxiety.
You can boost trust by being transparent about how much you know and by sharing that knowledge with them.
It’s best to do this while also keeping the prospect focused on the problem, thus adding dimensions to the urgency theme.
- Provide industry snapshots and projections to spotlight their business in the competitive landscape.
- Provide a framework for analysing the hidden costs of not solving the problem.
2. No Time to Lose: Connect Solution and Problem, and tie to Their Calendar
Draw a straight line between what you are selling and what they need to accomplish.
Show them how this will accelerate their success and help them meet their goals and objectives.
Describe how it can help them, their colleagues and superiors, their department, and their business. Help them imagine an improved reality.
Also, paint a picture of the future without your solution. Feed their FOMO (fear of missing out) by projecting two possible futures: one with your solution and one without it.
If possible, point out features that would give them immediate relief around a pain point. Some solutions take a while to bear fruit, but if yours has any instant gratification for the prospect, be sure to highlight that in any scenario you present. Be as specific as you can be; pick a date in your hypothetical timeline to help them picture a better future at that specific date
What to Ask: Questions That Help the Prospect Envision Onboarding Immediately
- Would solving this problem now help you, your department, or your company meet specific objectives?
- Would solving this problem now help them get ahead of a deadline, a competitor, or a budget goal?
- Without a solution, six months from now, how will this problem affect you, your colleagues, your department, and the business as a whole?
Again, reflect their answers back to confirm that you have heard and understood their situation. Reinforce the parts where they see the path toward adopting your solution quickly.
What to Say: Support for Immediate Action
- Tie the problem to their business cycle and make the case for fast-tracking this decision.
- If possible, run an analysis with the prospect’s figures to show an improvement scenario.
- Offer testimonials to reduce anxiety about taking action.
- Offer to track down the answers to any questions they have that you cannot answer in that moment – and then follow through immediately after the meeting.
3. Countdown: Embed Urgency in the Offer by Limiting Time
You can construct scarcity by having special offers last for a restricted time period.
Giving people a deadline provides focus for their decision-making processes. When they know an offer will expire, they have great incentive to give it serious consideration quickly.
Elements that might be included in a time-sensitive pitch include:
- Special discounts for orders or pre-orders received by a specified date.
- Special bundles available until a specified date, including extras such as:
- trainings – or extra seats at trainings
- access to videos and webinars
- a discounted support plan
- extra capacity
- an extended support plan
- an extended warranty
- Tiered bundles, with more benefits available in a shorter timeframe and fewer benefits available in later timeframes.
- An upcoming price increase and the date it becomes effective.
- Flash sales.
- Periodic Availability:
- This has the advantage of maintaining consistent pricing with no discounts or extras. You can add urgency by asking, “Do you really want to wait six months until this becomes available again and miss out on having all these benefits for that time?” A disadvantage is that you cannot continue to sell this product or service in the interim. This may not work for many businesses, but it is an option for some.
All of these tactics can be underscored with the use of a countdown timer. This reminder that time is running out can recruit FOMO to work for you as it escalates the sense of urgency.
Another time-related factor that can promote a sense of urgency relates to any seasonal variation in the prospect’s operations. It can be a great incentive to be well-prepared for a crunch time or comfortably ready to take full advantage of a slow time.
In addition, you can boost urgency by compressing the follow-up schedule.
Whatever the regular pace of follow-up might be, you can turn up the pressure by accelerating it.
This gives you more frequent opportunities to keep reminding the prospect of the problem that needs to be solved and the benefits of using your product or service. You can also remind them of the limited availability of the top tier offer. This tactic is especially compatible with a time-limited offer, but you can drop this into any sales program.
4. Scarcity: Embed Urgency in the Offer by Limiting Quantity
Scarcity is your friend if you are trying to accelerate demand. If there is true scarcity anywhere in your supply line, pump that up as a sales tactic. There’s nothing like a shortage to raise a sense of urgency.
Alternatively, you can construct scarcity by designing a tiered sales approach. You can:
- Make the first release available only to a restricted number of customers.
- Offer a limited-edition bundle to the first X purchasers.
- Give a special discount to the first few buyers.
- Give smaller and smaller bundles or discounts to the next Y and Z purchasers.
You may want to include a capacity counter that shows how many spots are left. This can have the same FOMO-triggering effect as a countdown timer.
However, you must be careful to avoid deploying false scarcity sloppily, as will be discussed in the Post Sale section below.
5. Creating Urgency in Cold Email
The tone of the cold email can convey a sense of urgency by using words and phrases like:
- Start now!
- Limited time!
- Limited quantity!
- Last chance!
Be sparing when including these words into email content because you don’t want to come across as spammy. Plant these in the subject line or small areas in email copy for a better impact.
In addition, the copy can remind prospects of the cost of delay or the consequences of not buying at all. You can enumerate the hidden costs of not solving the targeted problem, the effects on the workforce or resource allocation, and the ultimate impact on the business’ goals. And you can remind prospects of the decaying incentives, the benefits that disappear as delays prolong a decision.
Graphic design can also promote a sense of urgency. According to this HubSpot research, the colors red, yellow, and orange reinforce a call to action more effectively than blues and greens. Make sure the action button is a warm color, not a cool color.
Numbers grab attention, especially when they are partnered with social proof. Using data from beta testers or case studies with prior clients or customers, include some data analyses about the impact of your product or service:
- their productivity increases – hours reallocated away from coping with this problem
- a forecast of where they’ll be if they do not make this purchase
Add any other quantifiable metric attributable to your product or service.
If you can monetise their pain points, so much the better. If possible, provide figures that show:
- their potential savings
- their payback period
Other numbers that could reinforce your call to action through social proof around this specific offer:
- Number of businesses that have already taken advantage of this offer
- Number of limited quantity packages still available
Cautionary Points: Before, During, and After the Sale
All of these approaches to generating urgency can be powerful and should not be used recklessly. Here are some caveats that will make a difference in both the short run and the long run.
Prerequisites: Have Foundational Sales Elements in Place
All of the tactics discussed above will be fruitless if the essential components of a great sales program are not in place.
In these uncertain times, doing your homework on the sales fundamentals has never been more important. You cannot build a case for urgency unless all the sales program best practices are in place. As outlined in this article and this article:
- Strengthen the value proposition: Be sure your solution is something people want or need.
- Emphasise the aspects that are going to directly address the prospect’s problem that needs to be solved.
- Maintain focus: remove ads and links from promotional copy, remove peripheral discussions from pitches. Send prospects to FAQs and contact pages, not away into tangential discussions.
- Refine the offer: Conduct market research, run A/B tests on emails, and beta test the pitch.
- Focus on a narrowly defined body of prospects. Know that niche well, and tailor your approach to them. Perhaps people who have been through the sales cycle before, but timing was not right.
- Customise the offer to specific prospects when possible.
- Clarify and reclarify the offer as discussions continue: Revisit details to be sure all data is current and that you are tailoring the offer to up-to-date specifics. This will help to avoid a competitor swooping in with a laser-focused offer that makes your proposal look out of date after you have already softened the ground.
- Sweeten the deal: include more options, bonuses, support, or other bells and whistles.
- Lower the barrier to entry: offer payment plans, add support options as freebies.
- Reduce risk: add a guarantee or warranty.
- Help prospects address milestones in the procurement process and persuade decision makers (if your prospect is not the decision maker).
Notice that none of these elements relate to urgency. They are just solid components of a strong sales program.
If there are weaknesses in these essentials, adding urgency is going to fall flat.
Prospects will not feel they are in good hands, no matter how much they would benefit from your product or service.
Throughout the Sales Process: Be Transparent About Urgency… But Not Too Pushy
Be transparent about urgency and the whole sales process, as discussed here. Integrate urgency throughout your sales message.
Do not make a routine sales pitch and then end with a pivot into urgency. That could be received as a breach of trust or a bait-and-switch, at least in tone.
You want your prospect to maintain a sense of urgency the whole time while you build and maintain trust and lower anxiety about moving forward.
At the same time, most prospects do not respond well to pushy, “salesy,” high-pressure tactics. This article has some advice on what to avoid and what to do instead to avoid pushiness.
Post-Sale: Keeping Your Word
Scarcity can be a great driver of purchasing decisions, but according to this study, this is only true if the company does not have a reputation for fabricating scarcity as a manipulative tactic.
A company can acquire a reputation for sleaziness if it comes up with a flimsy reason to extend a sale window. That drop in reputation is a hidden cost that must be measured against the short-term gains in sales revenue.
In addition, those who bought within the deadline period may be resentful that they were made to jump through hoops on a timeline that turned out to be false.
If you make a claim to drive action, you have to follow through or else sacrifice credibility. That lost trust can come back to haunt you the next time a sale window is announced.
The best practice is to plan the deadline and then sell to the deadline.
Urgency in B2B sales can be driven from several directions, starting with the urgency that exists inherently in the prospect’s own goals and objectives.
Building up the prospect’s pre-existing sense of urgency while also presenting your product or service as the solution to a problem is the key.
Illustrating the impact of your solution and tying projections to specific dates to enhance their eagerness to get started is also an integral part. Lastly, constructing tiered offers with time limits is a very common strategy.