Pipeline reviews often reveal a salesperson’s optimism and their strong desire to make their number. Many pipeline reviews show a salesperson with opportunities that will close by the end of the existing quarter and allow them to make their number. It’s not just good luck that they have opportunities that will close on their schedule; it’s their own selection of the closing dates.
If you want closing dates that are better aligned to reality, there are a couple factors that, if discovered, can get you closer.
Who Chose the Date?
The first question you need to ask is who chose the closing date. If you are a salesperson, and you chose the closing date, you are going to need to be able to defend both the how and the why of choosing the date you chose.
Have you had conversations with the client that indicated their agreement to proceed on this time table? Have you scheduled activities that once successfully completed will move you to the point that you can confidently forecast a date? Have you been fortunate enough to have your client choose the date by which they want an implementation to begin?
It’s okay to chose a closing date based on what you believe you can accomplish. It’s problematic to forecast that date. There are other people that are depending on you hitting that date, and there are no rewards for missing forecasts.
Is There a Compelling Event
Far better than an educated guess is a compelling event. If your dream client is faced with an event after which the making of the decision will be too late, there is a great rationale for forecasting that closing date.
There can be financial repercussions that provide a compelling event, or it might be something as simple as the date their contract ends with their present provider.
But for many of us that sell services, there is no compelling event unless we create one by illustrating the costs of not making a change. Even when we can make this case, unless it is made to the right group of power sponsors within the account, it’s still mostly guesswork.
How To Ask
If you are working closely on a deal and you have the right relationships in place, you cask directly, “I see us progressing on these issues with a potential implementation date about seven weeks from now. How do you see it?” This is a tougher question to ask early in the sales process, when you haven’t established the trust and relationships. It can come across as selfishly looking for your future commissions. It can sound self-oriented.
In a competitive situation, there has likely been some date already determined. You can ask directly here, too, “Since you have assembled your team and began a competitive process, can you share with me what date you have in mind for an implementation?”
When it comes down to it, asking the for a date doesn’t guarantee anything either. But it will give you a forecast date that is far more accurate than your best guess. If the dates don’t do much to give you the pipeline that you need, the real issue isn’t your ability to close in a reasonable time; the real issue is that you have too few prospects to make your number.
Who chooses the closing date you enter into your forecast?
What rationale do you use to choose that date?
What are the factors that weigh into a good forecasted closing date?
Why is uncomfortable to ask your prospective client when they believe they will make a decision?