Buying a brand new house from a home builder is an interesting exercise.
When I bought one years ago, I remember the process of choosing finishes, flooring, cabinets, paints, tiles, fixtures, you name it. It was both exciting and tedious at the same time.
Moving into a bigger home also created a need for new furniture. But it was also a long wait. It would take another year before the home would be finished and I was able to move into it. So during the waiting period, I went furniture shopping.
Problem was, I couldn’t have the furniture delivered until months later. And, rather than buying and storing the furniture myself (without knowing the condition until it would be too late), it made more sense to put it on layaway and have the furniture store keep it until it was time to move.
However, something strange happened.
After shopping around a few stores, I came across a store that carried what I was looking for — it had the pieces of furniture I wanted and at reasonable prices. (In fact, they were on special, which was nice but not important.)
I walked in, spoke to a salesperson (let’s call him “Gerry”), and asked if they had an extended layaway plan. I asked for an extension because the longest the store allowed to put furniture on layaway was six months. Gerry then said: “Let me check with my manager.” That’s fine.
He spoke with someone in the neighboring electronics department who obviously didn’t look like his manager. I assume he was using a common sales tactic most people are all too familiar with, which is resorting to higher authority. Car dealerships do this all the time.
Five minutes later, he returned, and said:
“Sure, but my manager said only if you buy today.”
Now, I may be naive at times. But I know sales. And I know fake urgency when I see it. I don’t mind when urgency is used on me — if it’s legitimate, authentic, and helpful. (I’ll get back to that last part because it’s important.)
What was important to me was the layaway plan. The furniture was also important, but the salesperson focused on the pricing as the reason for my extension request and used it to apply pressure. He didn’t ask why I needed it. He simply assumed I wanted to take advantage of the special pricing.
So, realizing the salesperson’s tactics, I looked at my watch, nodded, and decided to leave in order to “think about it.”
That wasn’t the end of it.
The salesperson made a valiant effort to get my money that day. He threw several offers at me — again, without asking any further questions. He never even bothered explaining why he had to have the money today if I wanted to extend the layaway plan.
There could be valid reasons: limited storage space, new shipment coming in, seasonal delivery schedule, etc. But not once did he try to explain, let alone ask me why I need the extension. And keep in mind, the special was on for a whole other week on top of all that.
But since he was pushy and not interested in my needs, the pressure only pushed me away instead of pushing me to buy. So I left the store.
However, a few days later I took another chance and made a second trip to the same store. I didn’t ask to see someone else, but apparently, it also happened to be Gerry’s day off. So this time, I met with “Jim.” And Jim’s approach was clearly the opposite of Gerry’s.
He truly empathized with me.
He asked a lot of questions. He asked me about my expectation. He went the extra mile by looking at my floor plans (which I brought with me), asked me what I envisioned, and then measured the space against the dimensions of the furniture. He even offered several tips on how to lay them out.
He processed the sale, put it all on layaway for me, and extended it without anyone else’s approval. And as a token of appreciation, he threw in free furniture shampoo, polish, delivery, and installation.
“Mr. Fortin, it’s our way of saying ‘thanks’ for giving us a second chance.” Jim added, “Others would have never returned like you did. I’ll extend your layaway without question since you’re kind enough to give us that chance.”
Thank you, indeed.
Now, I know that he was just trying to save the sale. But even if he did, this time I felt heard. And if he would have placed a limit on the offer, I would have still bought and thought it was his way to help me decide.
The lesson here it this.
This situation says a lot about good copywriting and marketing. Your marketing message has an opportunity to connect with your audience, show empathy, and communicate a willingness to help.
- You do this by researching your market so you can understand them.
- You do this by telling stories so they, in turn, can understand you.
- And above all, you do this by first building credibility and trust.
When you do this, creating a sense of urgency won’t feel like a sales pressure tactic. In fact, it will feel like an attempt to help move past indecision. As Jim Rohn once said, “Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value.” That’s because a sense of urgency doesn’t give desire value, it keeps it.
By giving a logical and understandable reason to justify the urgency will be far more believable. And if you created a relationship with your audience, using urgency will be seen as a way to prevent them from procrastinating as opposed to pushing them to buy.
There is a fundamental difference between the two.
Procrastination is a typical, “knee-jerk” reaction because we’re all afraid of making bad decisions. And we often make bad decisions when we feel pressured into making one.
But if you demonstrate authority, empathy, and a willingness to help your target audience (such as providing content or advice that’s valuable and helpful), any sense of urgency you will apply will only seem like a helpful gesture.
It goes without saying that you should never use fraudulent, deceitful, or misleading tactics. For instance, how many times have you come across a web page with an offer that had a deadline, which seemed to “magically” bump ahead each time you visited the website?
But by focusing on building credibility, creating a connection, being genuinely helpful, and explaining the reason for the sense of urgency, and you won’t appear as a snake-oil salesman trying to land a sale. You will appear as a trusted advisor who cares about serving your audience.
One final thought.
Adding a sense of urgency is often referred to as “takeaway selling.” It’s the law of supply and demand. As direct marketer Dan Kennedy often said when he taught this technique, “People don’t know how much they want something until it’s about to be taken away from them.”
So in the direct marketing sense, the goal is to add some kind of constraint, such as a time-sensitive or quantity-bound offer.
There’s nothing wrong with adding one. But always make sure to use a genuine, logical reason to justify the constraint. Or better yet, demonstrate your expertise and helpfulness first (such as through your quality content), and your constraint won’t feel like one.
For example, when I give my clients a quote for SEO consulting or custom advisory work (usually, it’s a proposal after a discovery call), I guarantee my quotes to 30 days. I often explain that my schedule changes every month and I cannot guarantee I will have the bandwidth available if they wait.
So not placing a limit on my quotes would be doing them a disservice. Look at it this way: if you give your clients a chance to procrastinate, they will.
Besides, I also try to be direct with them by saying that I want to avoid people coming back months down the road (it has happened twice in my career) expecting the same work at the same price.
Nevertheless, if you’re an authority and seen as a trusted advisor, someone who understands and cares for the people you serve, then using pressure will not only be seen to be in the best interest of the client but will also preemptively remove the potential for buyer’s remorse.