Last week, I wrote about the importance of understanding your customers by always putting yourself in their shoes and looking through their lens. I decided to take this to another level when I started thinking about how many sales people are scurrying around trying to figure out how to make their numbers – whether it’s their year end, quarter end, or some other date they’re working towards. After participating in countless forecasting reviews as a consultant and as a sales leader, I often asked: Why are you pressuring customers to close deals on YOUR timeline? Is this considered looking through their lens? To illustrate my point, here is another letter from your customer. See if it rings true for you.
Dear sales person,
I realize you have an annual quota. I also have annual goals I must achieve. But why are you pushing me to close a deal when I am not ready?
You tell me that you have to close a deal by the end of your fiscal year. But why should I care? In my mind, it’s all about me – not you. Now, I like you. I really do. You continually provide me with insights, share best practices in my industry and offer new and creative ways of doing the things we have been doing for years. You have spent a lot of time understanding my business and I truly appreciate it.
But I can’t and won’t sign a deal on your timeline. Even if you gave it to me for $1 – which I know you wouldn’t. My timing is my timing. It is what I have discussed with my team and my management, and we are working towards our dates, not yours.
If you ask me to, I will share these dates IF I believe you will provide me with value and truly will be there to help me. Why wouldn’t I? I realize your success is my success and vice versa.
So, take a step back and ask yourself if you truly know the dates that make sense to me, your customer. Many of the sales people I work with ask me for dates and we work backwards from MY end date which, in many cases, is helpful to keep me on track.
Ok, I said it and I feel better. Now, if you ask, I do have some money budgeted for a priority project that went awry with your competitor.
In closing… Stop pressuring your customers to close deals on your timeline. Make sure the close dates in your pipeline are aligned to your customers’ timelines. This way, when your manager asks you to think strategically AND fill the pipeline (and, of course), close deals, you can forecast based on your customers’ dates. Otherwise, your close dates will cascade quarter to quarter since they have no meaning to your customer – only to you.