Timing. It’s All About Timing.
One of my favorite jokes to play on an audience is to ask someone to ask me what I do for a living. Someone bites. “What do you do for a living?” I reply, “I’m a comedian. Now, someone ask me why I’m so successful.” Someone bites. “Why are you…” but I interrupt them and say “Timing.” The joke works because it appears I have terrible timing. That’s irony, and irony is funny. But my point in today’s post isn’t to be funny. It just seems like the time is right to talk about timing.
Timing matters. When a person is focused on a task, and someone comes and wants to hang out, it’s possible that the timing couldn’t be worse. When a person is busy, has too much going on and can’t think straight, that’s a lousy time to raise a big issue or a difficult subject. When a person is down in the dumps and needs a friend, that’s not the time to be making plans or demands. There has to be a better time for these interactions, and there almost always is.
In life timing matters. Ask your kid to clean the room when they’re doing something they enjoy, and the unconscious contrast that occurs in the back of the brain will make the inconvenient into the downright unpleasant. Better to find the right time. Flirt with your exhausted spouse, and what you think sounds like pleasurable fun may sound like more work to be done. Better to find the right time. If you can’t find the time, set a time aside, make some time, make a date, and romance blooms again. Whether it’s making a meal or cooking up a plan, a watched clock never boils, and if you let the dish cook too long, you ruin it.
In finance, timing matters. “Buy low, sell high!” Successful investments leverage the timing element, but as we all have learned from the inside out upside down rollercoaster economic ride we’re on, you can’t time the market. Well, I know several people who think they can, and one of them is downright amazing (Looking at you, R.H.) But when it comes to sea changes in the economy, the rule these days is ‘expect the unexpected.’ Fact is, sometimes, the market is ready but you’re not. Sometimes you’re ready, but the market is not.
Same is true in sales. In sales, timing matters. Sometimes the prospect is ready to become your customer. Sometimes, the prospect isn’t. And if you push the river or send the wrong signal, what might have been a timing issue could become a bigger problem.
Consider this example. I know a young man, we’ll call him Dave, just starting out in business. He and his wife Adelle leased a building, bought their inventory, stocked their shelves, trained two employees and opened their doors. A horde of sales people came calling. Signage. Insurance. Advertising. Office supplies. Suppliers. Distributors. Janitorial. Landscaping. There seemed to be no end to the number of people seeing opportunity in the opening of this new store. Of course, the sole focus for Dave and Adelle was getting their business off the ground, getting customers in the door, and getting their product mix just right. Almost all of the services being offered to them weren’t essential at such an early stage of their enterprise. Dave and Adelle wanted to be making sales, not buying services. They were polite but insistent, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
S0me salespeople have a hard time with “No.” They hear it as rejection, and have all kinds of reactions to it. They miss the obvious fact that it’s all about timing. About half way through the onslaught, Dave asked Adelle to handle the problem of unsolicited salespeople, while he focused on making sales. Most the salespeople were cordial, but left when they realized there was no sale possible. Several of them changed in their demeanor once they realized they weren’t going to close a deal. A couple of them were annoying and distracting, and one of them may have driven away a customer with his loud insistence on the value of his product line.
But one salesperson, Bernadina, had a different response. “Oh, gosh, here you are trying to do business and I’m taking your attention away from what matters most. Obviously, this is the wrong time. Let me get out of your way. If it’s okay with you, can I come back and see you in 3 months, when you’re more established? I’m sure I can be of benefit to you when you’re ready.” Adelle was delighted that someone understood. “Yes, do come back in a couple of months, and leave me your card. Thanks for understanding.” Bernadina understood the timing element, and her positive behavior had a longer lasting effect. And two months later, Adelle called her and said, “Now’s a good time!”
That’s why relationship building is so important in life and in business. Build a relationship and you may be in the right place at the right time. And every contact with someone is an opportunity to build (or destroy!)
Just today, a new coaching client called to tell me he’s swamped, 10 meetings scheduled today that weren’t scheduled when he made his first appointment with me, and he needed to cancel his first appointment. The issue wasn’t interest or desire. It was timing. We rebooked, but more importantly, we had a positive first conversation about his predicament. That’s how timing works.
Think of it this way. There’s a time and a place for everything. But it isn’t all the time or every place. In persuasive communication, you must take timing into account, by asking yourself, “When is the best time for that person to talk about this?” And if you’ve already picked a time, then “Is this the best time?”
Of course, I’d love it if now was a good time for you to talk about this! Your comments are welcome!