The Psychology of Urgency: Make Them Want It Now!

by : Scott Moldenhauer

“I’ll think it over and get back to you." “Sure, we’ll do that someday." “I need to check with my colleagues." “Give me a call next month, then we can set a date."

Tired of excuses? Looking for a more successful way to get others to take immediate action?

For the last century, psychologists have been studying simple persuasion tactics that can be used to motivate people and elicit a certain response from them. One such powerful technique is the creation of a sense of urgency. This article focuses on building this feeling and using it as a means of persuading your business customers.

The Psychology of Limited Resources

The first strategy for getting people to take immediate action is to present yourself or your product as “limited," “scarce," or “in demand." Why? People want what they can’t have. Repeatedly, psychologists have shown that human beings find more value in things that they have a hard time obtaining.

If you tell someone that he can’t have something, he ends up wanting it more. You may have experienced this in your own life. Have you ever found yourself interested in a home or a car and then discovered that someone else may be considering buying it first? If you’re anything like me, the item becomes even more valuable to you. You are more motivated to get it.

Do You Want It? You Can’t Have It!

This is an important point for sales and marketing purposes. Car salespeople are quick to let us know that the car they are trying to sell us is the last model of its kind and will be unavailable in the future. Newspaper and television ads constantly remind us that the “sale ends soon," that “supplies are limited" and that “time is running out."

Some retail stores create motivation by putting “sold" tags on merchandise that they have a hard time selling. When customers see the “sold" tag, they become more interested in buying the item. Infomercials place a ticking clock at the end of the advertisements. They say, “Order before the clock runs out and you will also receive a free set of knives."

Getting Immediate Results

When I first started speaking and consulting, it was hard for me to get business. I made the error of telling potential customers that I would be available whenever they were ready to hire me. Big mistake.

It wasn’t until I became so busy that I had to start turning customers away that I was able to charge what I am worth. When they felt as if they couldn’t have me, they wanted me more. When I was inaccessible, they became anxious and assigned more value to my service. This sense of urgency was really advantageous to my business.

Here are three steps that you can use to create a sense of urgency in others:

1. Set a deadline. People are natural procrastinators. Without a deadline—and the potential risk of losing something—people will wait until they collect more information, talk it over with their spouses, or save more money. By setting a deadline, you create an inner force that will help them take action.

2. Remind them that your offer is “limited." Always present your opportunity as being limited with regards to time or quantity. If someone asks you whether you have a certain product in stock, don’t say, “Oh, yeah, we have tons of them." The better approach is to say, “Yeah, we have a few, but they go quickly."

3. Play hard to get. Remember, people want what they can’t have. By sounding too available, you’re diminishing your value. By sounding somewhat unavailable, you’re greatly increasing your value. Never say, “Oh, yes, I’m available any day next week." Instead, use the more powerful and persuasive approach by saying, “Hmmm, I’m very busy next week, but I might be able to squeeze you in."