Great salespeople master time management to get the best results from their time. Sometimes the choices get tricky when you consider what you should do. You might waste your time when your prospect’s view of a deadline is different than yours. Here’s what you can consider to get the most out of your selling time.
What does a deadline time mean?
Just because you have a sense of urgency doesn’t mean that your prospect does. Even when a prospect tells you that he wants to complete a task by a certain day and time doesn’t mean that he actually will. I learned this one recently.
I met with a new prospect. I prepared for the sales call with the work that I thought would demonstrate my understanding of this prospect’s issue. His clients had an inability to complete a task and I outlined the components that they would need to learn to be successful at the task. We met on a Friday. I presented the report I prepared and we had an extensive conversation about how I could implement what was included in the report. He commented that my report showed a lot of work and my insight was accurate and on target.
I asked him what the next steps would be. He said that he wanted to submit a proposal for approval by Monday. He wanted my input for the proposal. I told him that it would not be a problem as I often worked for clients with deadlines on the weekend. He said he would email me the first draft over the weekend so I could add to it. I hadn’t received it by Sunday so emailed him. I got a reply that it was coming. It never came. I emailed back. Still nothing.
Where did I go wrong?
My mistake during the meeting was not to clarify how strong his intention was to meet the deadline. Was Monday a hard or soft deadline? I tend to take people at their word. After all, why would someone state their intention and not mean it? Because people do it all the time. You just have to figure out which people view time as an elastic commodity and which ones actually do mean what they say.
I now have the job of following up to see what happened. Had I known that his interpretation of time was more flexible than his statement, I would not have followed up with him as closely as I did.
Be careful how you ask questions.
So how do you find out how serious your prospect is about a proposed deadline? The simple answer is carefully. Your tone of voice is especially important. You might ask, “Is Monday a hard or soft deadline?” Just be sure it’s not in a too assertive which would be a louder, faster paced voice. You might also ask if there’s anything that might prevent your prospect from meeting that deadline. Either way you will learn just how serious he is about meeting the deadline.
I’m still working on finding out if and when this project will move forward. I now have to focus on balancing a meaningful follow-up without becoming a pest. I also don’t want to presume that the project is dead. You might avoid being in my situation when you learn how your prospects view their deadlines before you leave the sales call.