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Are You in The Same “Time Zone” As Your Buyer?

3 min readMarch 16, 2021

Not that type of time zone. I’m talking about a time zone for “change.”

Do you have a prospect on your target account list that seems like a perfect fit for your product but you’re not getting anywhere with them? Do you wonder why you aren’t making progress? Perhaps, you’re not in the same time zone.

There’s an interesting book titled The Anticipatory Organization: Turn Disruption and Change into Opportunity and Advantage by Daniel Burrus. In it Burrus provides a framework for creating an organization that is, in mindset and culture, future-oriented. An organization that surfs on the continuous waves of change that are altering our lives by correctly analyzing and predicting the form and impact those changes will have on it, its customers and stakeholders. An organization that positions itself to maximally exploit the future.

In his book, Burrus posits that we all sit on a spectrum with regard to our comfort level with change. And, he suggests that, in general, we fall into one of three personality types, or time zones. We possess either a past, a present or a future-oriented mindset (or time zone.)

People in a past-oriented time zone are not comfortable with change. They resist change and would prefer things stay as they were.

People in a present-oriented time zone acknowledge that the future is approaching at full speed but tend to view change as an unwelcome disruption rather than a creator of opportunity.

People in a future time zone want to jump into the future with both feet as they can’t wait to seize upon the opportunities that change offers.

Think about how these time mindsets apply to how you sell.

Taken together buying and selling are two halves of an act of change. An act that by its very nature disrupts the status quo.

When you proactively reach out to potential prospects, and they say that they’re not interested, what are they actually saying to you? Are they really not interested? Or, is the buyer just in a different time zone than you?

Perhaps the buyer knows that all their competitors have migrated to the latest industry solution, but they are in a past-oriented time zone. They know that they can’t stay where they are. But, they’re so locked into their comfort time zone that they’re turning a blind eye to the risks of standing still and putting off change as long as they can.

And, here you come with your future-mindset assuming that any rational person, any logical buyer, should be excited about the cool things your product can do and the future opportunities that your solution would enable for them. Instead they’re looking at you like you’re a stranger from another planet. So, what do you do?

When someone has what appears to be a clear need for your solution, but is frightened of change, what should you do?

Here are a few tips to help navigate that situation.

Meet them in their time zone. Exercise your curiosity and empathy muscles to understand the context within which the buyer looks at their challenges.

Confirm their time zone mindset. Ask discovery questions about whether they’ve made attempts in the past to change and what prevented those from materializing. Listen slowly to their answers to make sure you understand. Hear what they are saying instead of confirming what you want to hear.

Stay in their time zone. Instead of throwing a slide deck at them, walk the buyer through your understanding of their situation, and your solution, on a whiteboard. (Yes, there are Zoom-compatible collaborative whiteboards out there.) This is meeting them in the time-zone where they feel comfortable.

Invite the buyer to “join you at the whiteboard” to help flesh out their vision of where they want their business to go. Suddenly you’re co-creating at vision of the future. And the buyers start seeing a path into the future time-zone that might be doable for them.

If you can connect with your buyer on a human level and engage their interest within their time zone, then you’ll begin to establish a level of trust that will enable you to walk them into the future.

Follow Andy on LinkedIn.