I often debrief sales calls with my clients and hear of the great opportunities they’ve just uncovered, but the longer we discuss what happened the reality about the greatness of the opportunity changes dramatically. One particular part of a successful call tends to be missing when the salesperson shares the details of the call. That missing element more often than not is that no deadline of timeline has been agreed to or even discussed. And for my money, when you don’t have a deadline for a decision there is not much of a chance of completing a sale.
When there is no timeline there is no way to create a strategy or apply a reverse timeline tactic to help a prospect understand the urgency needed to make change. When there is no time a salesperson cannot lead the process to a final decision. No timeline allows for stalls and objections to delay and in many situations derail opportunities. When that happens the dreaded follow phase of weak salesmanship takes over and wasting time and allowing other vendors get access to the prospect.
I’ll never understand why a salesperson just won’t ask a prospect when he or she would like to have the sales process completed. Timelines seem to have acquired the same third rail reputation of talking honestly about budgets. Once you can get even a less then completely honest answer the table is set to ask the critical question about why that date is important. The most professional and effective salespeople understand how valuable those two pieces of information are in establishing the need to move the process along to a decision instead of fueling extended conversations.
Timeline discovery is valuable for both sides of the conversation. If you don’t get a timeline you are most likely stuck in the interested but not intending quagmire amateur salespeople mistake for true opportunities.