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How the Right Message at the Wrong Time Loses the Sale

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When my friend Heather landed herself in the hospital with an appendectomy and subsequent complications, she ended up reconsidering her 26-year teaching career. Heather's medical care team made such an impression on her that she decided to pursue nursing.

First, she called a major university close to her home. The representative focused on the scholarship program they offer for untraditional (older) students, but never asked Heather what field she'd be pursuing. After beginning her program at another university, she learned that the original school had a stronger reputation for its medical program. It was also closer to her home. That university lost the chance to provide her an education. They also lost three years' tuition because they gave the right message to the wrong person.

This mistake happens in sales. When we misidentify where customers are in their buying process, we risk giving them a message that isn't relevant…yet. You could give them all the info about why buying with you is the best decision—and lose them because what they really needed to know first is why they should buy now.

Related: Why Customers Buy

The three main messages your clients need to hear are why they should buy now, why they should buy here and why they should buy from you. Which message is most relevant to them in that moment depends on where they are in their sales process.

One category of buyer is truly just looking. They aren't convinced yet that they want to make a change. While they're toying with the idea, they might be comfortable where they are or unsure about the market. Or they may be hesitating because of uncertainty in their financial situation. Don't jump to why they should buy now (they're not even sure they should buy at all). Instead, focus on why changing their situation will improve their lives.

The next category of buyer knows they're going to make a change but they're not sure what the change will be. They need to know why they should buy your product or solution. These buyers need to be convinced that only one change will best fit their needs.

Finally, the category of buyer we get most excited about is that one that is definitely buying, knows what they want, and is just trying to determine who they'll buy from. They need to hear why you are their best option.

Related: 6 Tips for Turning Shoppers Into Buyers

Understand your buyer and where they are in the above categories so that you can give them the right message, before you move on to the next point. Don't tell them why they need to buy now, here and from you before they're even sure they are in the market for your product. Make sure the message is correct and allow them to resolve the problem or concern at each step. Don't jump ahead.

Meet buys where they're at by asking questions that allow you to identify which category they're in, and therefore, which message they need. Ask yourself what message you gave them and whether or not it was the appropriate one to move them to the next buyer category. Finally, consider what category you need to get them to and what message will get them there.

Heather lost an opportunity for the best education. Don't allow your customers to lose the opportunity that will most benefit them. Instead, give the right message to the right person. Then your customer wins the best solution and you win the sale.

Related: Match the Right Communication Type to the Occasion

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