Behold the Summer Vacation
No I am not fooled by the unusually warm weather we are having in Toronto, I am just acutely aware that we are only about six weeks away from the moment that many people’s minds, including our buyers’, turn to summer, cottage and summer vacation. As soon as it is Victoria Day in Canada or Memorial Day in the States, it is summer time – and summer minds. Still you ask, “Why is Shanto hung up on this on the first Monday in April.”
The reason is simple, if your sales cycle is longer than six weeks, which for a vast majority of B2B sales people it is, you need to start considering this now. Unless what you are selling is truly mission critical, that is mission critical from the buyer’s perspective, not your marketing department’s view, chances are that when their ‘mind’ turns to summer, what you are selling drops on the priority list. However, if you prepare and manage things now, it can also be used to your advantage. Once they enter ‘summer mode’ things just slow down, and it could be too late.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know we focus a lot on time and its impact on sales, as you know we refer to time as the currency of sales. In sales there is always talk of either compelling events, critical moments in time. These can help and accelerate a sale or kill it depending on how you prepare and use it.
If you know your decision maker is planning a holiday for mid June, two months or eight weeks, less than a complete cycle if yours is 90 days, then you need to manage that as much as anything else in the process, and manage it now! You need to quickly assess how things need to unfold, where the barriers may be, where the short cuts are, when to use a “call a friend” card. The best thing to do, in this and in all sales is to work backwards from the end. “If I am to be at this specific point at this specific date, what are all the things that have to happen or be in place for that to be a fact?” Further, for that to happen, what is the optimal amount of time between each of the events or steps in the series? If you know that D will not happen unless C happens first; the questions becomes “what do I have to do to put C in place”, without which D will never happen. Once you make, or in order for those things happen, is there a minimum amount of time that needs to lapse between D and C? Assuming the sales happens at F, you need to go through the same process for F > E, E > D, D > C, etc. By doing that you can be confident that a given deal can properly be done in the shortest specific amount of time. (Here properly usually means without discount, the usual means of combating lost time).
While you are doing this exercise, you should also figure out the maximum amount of time that can elapse between critical points of the sale, and by extension the entire sales. The reality is that if you exceed that maximum at any stage or the entire sale, it becomes stale and needs to be salvaged in a different way or redone.
With this knowledge, you can begin to work with the buyer to ensure that each step is executed in time. Of course, it would be a good idea to share this with the buyer, a good idea for two reasons. First and simplest you will find out if you truly have a motivated counterpart in the process. Once they know what is at stake they will either make it clear that it is not the priority that you may have thought it was, disappointing, but better than finding out later after investing time resources, emotion and energy. Second, if they are indeed intent on moving forward, they will work with you to ensure that your selling process fits with the internal buying process. This is important since a disconnect between these two time lines is one of the most common reasons for sales being way too slow, or not happening at all. Sometime this problem ends up looking to the buyer that the seller does not understand their requirements, when it is just a question of synching two processes/timelines/expectations, usually the seller’s with the buyer’s rather than the other way around, which is what most sellers hope but fail to do.
One other benefit of this process alignment is becoming aware of who else is needed for the decision, a good thing to avoid surprises. But once you have awareness of who, don’t forget they too may want take vacation, so while you may successfully navigate one obstacle course, ask when the others are off, so you don’t get stalled by that. When you know, you can have contingencies or reorder steps to keeps things moving without having to wait for someone. So ask, be aware, and act accordingly. Now is the time to make sure your pipeline does not go on vacation when you need it most.
What’s in Your Pipeline?