People generally have one of two relationships with deadlines, they either love them, and use them to be more productive. Or they hate them, ignore them, avoid them, or are terrified by them. The former is usually the more productive group. While productivity is normally defined as more units of output with the same or less units of input, the only thing we’ll mess with or alter in this post, is we will look at the units of input as being time.
I have spoken about time in the past, time being the only non-renewable resource we have in sales, squeezing more out of each second, leads to more sales success. The other things I have spoken a lot about here is the importance of next steps, real next steps, not wishful planning. Think of these two critical elements as the two lines you want to paint your sales between.
While there are the obvious deadlines that sellers deal with, month, quarter or year ends. I think it is important that sellers set more immediate and shorter deadlines. Many will worry about the whole sale, which often prevents them doing all the things or key things that need to today, now (as soon as you’ve read this). Break down your sales to specific points that have to be accomplished along the way, things without which there will be no sale, not big things, but things that have to be in place.
This is where next steps are key. They allow you to break down big steps, into much more bite sized, read doable steps, without the distraction of what’s looming beyond the next step, because let’s be real, if you don’t achieve this immediate next step, there ain’t no sale beyond. While there should always be an overarching strategy and plan for the opportunity/account, there should also be one for each step along the way. Most sales people find it easier to articulate their big plan, but find it difficult to articulate what HAS to be done next, and how the will actually do to make that happen.
Deadlines force you to focus. Setting deadlines for small incremental steps, lead to not only an action plan, but an execution plan; and we all know that success in sales is all about execution, everything else is just talk, and in the absence of action, there is always a lot of talk. The ticking of a clock does amazing job of either turning talk in to action, or missing the deadline when time rolls over you.
Once you master self-imposed deadlines, you will see that they not only are effective for the driving success in individual sales meetings, but you’ll begin to actually set deadlines within meetings. If you know you need to have three things in place with a prospect for them to agree on your next step, and you have a 60-minute meeting scheduled, set deadlines for that within the meeting. You’ll find that this will help you focus on only those things that drive that point, and usually makes your prospect much more engaged because you are focused forward looking, and forward moving.
Deadlines drown out distractions. It is amazing the clarity of thought many experience when they set specific timeline and deadlines. While deadlines imposed by others are not always pleasant, self-imposed deadlines, will make you more productive in the way outlined at the top of this post.