Delayed Gratification: The “Marshmallow” in Sales
Flash back to the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
Walter Mischel, a professor and psychologist at Stanford University, decides to set up an experiment involving children and marshmallows to test the long-term benefits of delaying gratification. The children are seated at a table with a giant marshmallow placed directly in front of each of them. The researcher tells them that if they can wait 15 minutes without touching the marshmallow, they will receive an additional one. The results? Follow up studies showed that the children who were able to wait for the second marshmallow experienced significantly better life outcomes.
Pretty interesting, right? Well, what if we put delayed gratification into the context of sales?
As a sales person, you suddenly find yourself with two opportunities that are competing for your attention. “Opportunity A” is worth $100,000 and has just inquired about pricing. They know what they want and they’re ready to close quick. “Opportunity B” has just entered your pipeline and they are still trying to figure out what type of solution they need to solve their specific business issues. They’re far from closing, but the company is large, the buyer seems eager, and revenue potential could be huge.
What do you do?
Nearsighted Johnny sees the light at the end of the pipeline. He doesn’t want to waste his valuable time educating the buyers at “Opportunity B”. He’s got a quota to meet and can’t be bothered with tire kickers. He blows off “Opportunity B” – they’ll come back when they’re really serious about buying. Instead he puts together a detailed pricing document for “Opportunity A”. He sends it out and immediately follows up with a call. He spends all of his time calling and emailing them again and again every day until the contract is signed and he’s won that $100,000 deal. In the meantime, “Opportunity B” has been captured by a competitor.
Well done Johnny, enjoy your single marshmallow.
Foresighted Jane knows that making a good impression on “Opportunity B” now while they’re still testing the waters can make a huge difference down the line. Sure, she sends the pricing information to “Opportunity A”, but she gives them time to digest it while she focuses her attention on “Opportunity B”. She offers the lone buyer her guidance and expertise, establishing herself as a partner, not just a pushy sales rep. Fast-forward three months, Jane has won “Opportunity A”, who was a sure thing anyways after the hard work she had already put into the opportunity before the pricing inquiry. Unlike Nearsighted Johnny though, Jane has also won “Opportunity B”, which turns out to be a $500,000 deal. That’s $600,000 of new revenue to the organization. That’s success.
Jane prioritized effectively, delayed her gratification, and experienced more positive outcomes as a result.
Now, Nearsighted Johnny is jealous because as we all know, two marshmallows are better than one.
In sales, the second marshmallow might not always come in 15 minutes. However, sales enablement solutions can facilitate this process, prioritize and identify the second marshmallow, and give the rep confidence that it will arrive.