How to Create a Sense of Urgency in the Mind of Your Customer

Having a good ROI is not enough to win your customer’s business!

One of the biggest reasons your close rates and forecast accuracy might be low isn’t because your solution can’t generate a good return for your customer’s investment. It’s because you failed to create a sense of urgency. And when it comes to creating, or at least uncovering urgency, one of the most critical but subtle mistakes salespeople make is focusing too heavily on business cases for their solution and not nearly enough on their customer’s emotional motivators (i.e. the real reason they buy).

In other words, you may be unintentionally confusing the importance and priority of the problem the customer is looking to solve.

Importance is the size and magnitude of the problem the customer is looking to solve.

Priority is the customer’s sense of urgency to solve it.

Does this narrative sound familiar?

“We spoke to the customer a number of times and identified their key issues. They liked the demo and gave us the green light to help build a business case. The case was compelling and included conservative assumptions that they agreed made sense. We forecasted the deal to close but after ALL that work, they STILL didn’t move forward with us!”

Perplexed, we ponder what went wrong, confident the deal was a sure thing. After all, the prospect agreed that solving the problem was important and we even helped them quantify the value of making the purchase.

If only it were that simple.

The customer may have considered solving the problem to be important. But that doesn’t mean it was a priority. The difference is subtle but critical.

For example, you might say your health is very important to you. Yet, if I were to follow you around for a week and record what you ate, how you spent your time, and your exercise regimen, my observations might tell a different story about the priority you place on your health.

In the same way, salespeople are trained to find out how important solving a problem might be to a customer. But in the face of multiple problems, competing projects, and endless distractions, that doesn’t mean they’re ready to solve it right now.

The key to improving both your revenue attainment and forecast accuracy lies in identifying, and in many cases catalyzing, your customer’s sense of urgency to solve their important problems.


Creating a Sense of Urgency

While there are no Jedi mind tricks here, one of the simplest ways to highlight the priority of solving a problem in your discovery motion is to get your customers to consider the implications of not solving it in the near term.

For example, a manual process that your solution can automate may not be seen as a high priority to address. However, encouraging the customer to consider the complications that may arise with that manual process if they are forced to reduce the size of their workforce due to economic pressures, may tip the scales!

Tactically speaking, to identify what needs to be done eventually vs. what needs to be done now, your discovery motion might ask questions like:

  • On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most pressing and 1 being not pressing at all, where does this problem sit?
  • Suppose you don’t act to solve this problem. What might happen 6-12 months from now? (I refer to this in my objection handling course as “turning the future into the past”)
  • What would the consequences be?
  • Will the problem go away? Stick around? Get worse?
  • Have you tried dealing with it before? If so, what happened?
  • Where does this issue sit, in relation to your goals and growth plans?
  • What do you think your biggest barrier to solving this problem is?


Using Problems to Establish Priority

As part of his Nobel Prize-winning body of work, psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman describes the theory of loss aversion; a cognitive bias that explains how the pain of losing something is more psychologically powerful than the pleasure of gaining. For example, a major health transformation may occur after someone suffers a heart attack or other foreboding diagnosis, as diet and exercise instantly become a higher priority than they were a day earlier. Pulling long hours at work instead of going to the gym or preparing healthy meals might be the norm until a scare turns something they consider important into a priority.

I discuss this principle extensively in my book when I say that sometimes if you want to sell someone a Band-Aid, you need to “cut” them first. In other words, you must show them the problem and get them to internalize the loss they’re already experiencing by not solving it before they are sufficiently motivated to take action. For example, a doctor might say to a patient, “When I see middle-aged men who are 50 pounds overweight, there are typically lots of contributing factors in their life, like stress, family issues, and unreasonable work obligations. Unfortunately, this combination of health and lifestyle issues sets you up for a much higher risk of a heart attack over the next five years.”


Related Article: To Win More Deals, Lead with Problems Not Solutions. Here’s Why.


Our brains are hardwired to resist change, keeping us anchored to the status quo, even if it’s not working. The same goes for our customers. Prime them to understand the larger implications of inaction.

If you want to create a sense of urgency in the mind of your customer, win more business, and bow out of opportunities you’re bound to lose faster (just as important!), you need to uncover both the importance and priority of solving your customer’s problem. Doing so will not only help them more deeply understand its tactical value but its strategic and emotional value as well.


Bonus Training Video – How to Ask Better Questions: Importance vs. Priority


PS – Did you find this approach helpful and want to learn more like it? Or maybe that last problem statement hit home 😉 Check out the popular Cerebral Selling Sales Academy training program!

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