Are you a dictator about sales deadlines?

Everyone who manages a company, a workgroup or a sales force wants to write as many new deals as possible and is usually wary about doing anything that might threaten the positive outcome of a pending sale.

We hesitate to enforce our own rules.

So, it is common practice to leave an offer containing a discount open, following up periodically to attempt to nudge a prospect into signing.  But without a firm, meaningful deadline, many of these bid-in-hand prospects will want to shop around, or delay the “yes” for budgetary reasons, or just ignore the offer for the short run.

Reasons your customer might hesitate.

If a potential customer’s cash is tight, or if the relationship between the customer and sales rep is not close enough to move the customer to at least respond, then an offer can sit for months or longer with no acceptance.

Deadlines: your best tool to force a decision

There is a proven way to cause enough discomfort to move a potential customer to act, but it carries a degree of risk.  Place a firm deadline for any discount, and make it clear that the date is real, after which the discount will no longer be available.  Do so within the offer document and with a personal comment with delivery of the offer.

Will you enforce a deadline if you could lose the sale?

[Email readers, continue here…]    Plan to enforce this deadline, even at the peril of losing the deal.  Creating a line in the sand and sticking to it will ensure that your prospect takes the discount seriously.   If the deadline expires and the potential customer finally acts, expecting the discount, a significant degree of sales power returns to you.  From a simple, “Well, we’ll extend it for a week” to “Our board is firm, and the best I can do now is (something less.)”

The most powerful tool you have in a sales environment is a deadline.  If your prospect continually misses a deadline for no good reason, you have an earlier reason than usual to reduce the percentage of close to near zero in your sales prospect system, and that is a good move in making sales forecasts more realistic, if nothing else.

Yes, it takes a little extra gut to pull the plug on an offer or discount.  Ask yourself: “How many long-open offers are actually accepted?”  You’ll have your answer and a tool to enforce change.

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