5 Questions to Reset your Sales Timeline Expectations

Maybe this sounds familiar: you’re working with a great prospect. You know you can serve them in a way no one else can. You’re sure can help them achieve outcomes far beyond their expectations and you’re pretty darn sure they’re committed to working with you, but they haven’t pulled the trigger on signing the contract or placing the order you’re working toward.

Maybe you have a verbal commitment. Maybe you’ve followed up a few times. Maybe you’re considering moving on to a new prospect because you just can’t seem to get through. It seems they’re just not that interested.

Let me stop you there. If they’re truly a good fit and you believe you can serve them in a way no one else can, the only thing standing in your way is you. If the prospect isn’t interested yet, it’s because you’re not interesting yet. Chances are, this isn’t the time to bail. It’s the time to re-evaluate your approach and your timeline expectations, trust the process, and lean in.

To rethink your timeline and expectations and retool your approach, I suggest you ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I being realistic about the length of my sales cycle?

If you’ve worked in sales longer than ten minutes, you know that some sales take  longer than others. Some potential customers are going to understand your solution immediately and hand you a PO before you even get a chance to ask. For others, it could be months of calls, emails, white papers, meetings, and committees before they decide to move forward.

  • Am I expending too many resources on a prospect who won’t become a customer?

How do you make the call to walk away when you’re spending too much time and effort on a prospect that will not become a customer? How do you decide to keep going? In addition to evaluating your prospect’s level of interest, it’s also important to be honest about your role in any delays. Is the prospect unresponsive because you haven’t followed up in a meaningful way? Is your approach making it difficult to nail down next steps? Trusting the process is important for success, but success also requires that you have a thoughtful process in place.

  • Am I doing the right thing for the right reasons?

Do you truly have your prospect’s best interest in mind when you follow up or are you just “checking in” to push your own interests forward? Your answer to that question will be telling.

If you can confirm that the prospect is willfully moving through the sales process (however slowly), and that you have their best interests in mind, you’re right to press on. If they’re stuck, and you don’t have anything further of value to offer, it’s time to walk away.

  • Am I forcing the process?

Trying to force the process is never the best option. When you do that, you either blow the whole deal and wreck the connection, or you’re forced to make concessions because of your urgency. (See: discounts; unnecessary). The key here is to stop thinking about the end of the month and start thinking about the end of time. Never force a sale at the expense of nurturing a connection. It simply isn’t sustainable for the long haul, and you have a number to hit next quarter too, right? Don’t become the kind of belligerent sales person that we’ve all come to despise. If you think you can speed things up, then you’re going to take shortcuts. You won’t do the things you need to do to really connect these prospects and ultimately win their business. I promise that your urgency will not be reflected in their actions.

  • Do I have enough active sales cycles in the pipeline?

You don’t need to speed things up, you need to have more sales conversations. If you really think about it, your urgency is directly correlated to your pipeline. The more robust it is, the less concerned you are. When you have more deals in the works, you don’t need to press so much. Not pressing leads to better connections, and better connections lead to a higher close rate.

Sell more, with more consistency, less stress, and more fun. You can get behind that idea, can’t you? A wise man once told me, “There aren’t inappropriate goals, just inappropriate timelines.” Revisit your timelines, adjust your expectations accordingly, and gain a better perspective about how you need to sell.

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