It’s the end of the quarter and your sales manager keeps bugging you to close some of the deals in your pipeline. If you want to knock loose sales in your forecast, read on discover five ways you can get those deals done.
Sales people usually make forecasts with optimism; you’ll claim any deal from a customer with a pulse. Yet seasoned sales pros know that a realistic forecast serves them best. Your manager appreciates accurate forecasts and prefers to hear any bad news about forecasts changing sooner than later. Deals fall off of the forecast; it happens. Yet savvy sales pros keep deals on track and don’t forecast them until they are real deals because of the impact forecasts have on manufacturing and production planning.
What’s the Closest Deadline?
Remember, no deadline, no deal. Review your forecast looking for the customer projects with the closest deadline. It’s possible that your customer has overlooked the importance of your contribution to meeting their looming deadline. Your call could save the day.
Call your customer with the closest deadline now. Say, “I was just reviewing your project and noticed that your go-live deadline is in six weeks. We need to get your order in the system to hit your deadline. I don’t want to have a credit hold or shipping issue needlessly delay your order.”
Next call customers and check on their forecast order dates. Say, “I want to make sure that I have your spot reserved in the shipping schedule. Let me double check on when you plan to place your order.”
Do those dates match your forecast? You might be surprised to discover that some deals will speed up and others will drop off the list. In either case, you’ll likely find a deal or two shakes loose.
Create a Timeline with Milestones
A great way to speed up deals is by creating a timeline with milestones based on what the customer needs to hit their go-live date. A quick discussion can help you illustrate that they need to place an order sooner rather than later. Start with their internal deadline and work backwards.
For example, “When do you want to go-live? June 1.”
“How long will it take to do the data transfer? One week.”
“How long to train your users? Two weeks.”
“How long to test the system? One week.”
“How long to install the system? Two weeks. I suggest three weeks because I’ve seen issues getting the required power installed.”
“Right now we are at three-week delivery with shipping times.”
“And how long does it take to get the order through your purchasing process? Two weeks on a good month.”
“And we need to make sure that you’re cleared by the credit department; that takes a week.”
“That means you need to place your order by the end of February to hit your deadline.”
“Let’s get that order in now so that I can reserve your spot with manufacturing, on-site techs, and the training department.”
You get the picture. Notice that the timeline is a blend of their requirements and your requirements. You can often quickly accelerate the deal with this tactic.
Check Their Priorities
Deals get stuck because priorities change. Priority is about the order in which things get done. Sometimes the boss changes budget priorities, meaning that other things will be purchased first. Sometimes projects get rearranged and your project gets sent to the back burner.
Ask, “What’s changed around the priorities of this project? What caused that to happen?”
This question identifies the variables that you may not have known about. Perhaps you can help them understand the implications of their choice. The words you want to hear are, “We hadn’t considered that.” You will be much closer to shaking loose the deal.
Ask, “What has to happen before you launch this project?”
The answer to this question can help you identify their priorities. Look for ways to help them accomplish the tasks required. You may wish to include goods and services in your proposal to help them complete the tasks that are holding up your deal. In some cases, it’s worth it.
What’s it Worth to Proceed?
Find ways to illustrate the value of the project. Ask, “What is the value of moving forward with this project?”
Look for reductions in cash flows that add to the value of the project by cutting long-term operating expenses. Search for increases in productivity that translate into better profits, lower costs, and a more competitive position in the market. Locate ways to reduce risk, providing insurance against unwanted outcomes.
What’s it Cost to Wait?
Look for the costs of not making a decision. Ask, “What would it cost for you to delay your decision?”
Survey for waste in the current processes such as power, cooling, raw materials, inefficient processes, and so forth. These are wasted, never to be seen again. (Reminds me of a college roommate.)
Often you can calculate Return on Investment (ROI) or Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) to determine the increase in efficiency. Calculate the monthly savings for going with your proposal, which is amount of cash that being thrown away. This can be the graphic illustration your customer needs to move on your offer, fast.