Master Agent Featured Article
The Benefits of Timelining the Sale
August 19, 2013
Master Agent Telarus (News - Alert) recently released Part 5 of its popular video series on how agents can double their sales volume. In Part 5, XO Communications (News - Alert) regional sales manager Steve Patterson outlined an important key in good sales procedures: Timelining the sale.
For many sales reps, setting a timeline sounds like a recipe for coming across as pushy or overly assertive. But Patterson noted in the video that if done right, timelining is an invaluable tool that need not make a rep seem pushy.
There are numerous benefits to setting a sales timeline. It helps keep the sale on track, first of all. But it also helps set appropriate expectations for the sales process, and it sets the stage for interim commitments. Two other benefits are that it helps the sales rep have more confidence in the direction of the sale, and it uncovers if the rep is dealing with the right person to make the sale happen.
With a timeline, a sales rep gains an understanding of a project’s urgency, and the customer at the same time learns the requirements to get its project done in the timeframe needed. The sales rep also is better able to hold customers accountable to their agreed-upon deadlines, both the final sale and interims.
But of course the sales rep does not want to look pushy. The key is timing—there’s a right time and a wrong time to push for a sales timeline.
Laying out a timeline earlier in the process is better because trying to get a timeline in place late in the process can make a rep look too hungry to close a sale, noted Patterson, and it can make a customer feel like they are being backed into a corner.
Agents need to time it right, though—if they come in too quickly asking for a timeline, the rep may be perceived as attempting to manipulate the customer or back into the sale with an early commitment.
Once the right moment presents itself, near the beginning but not too early in the relationship, Patterson said it is important to properly set up the timeline.
This means understanding who must be involved in the decision, first and foremost. What are the titles of the people who must be involved? Is there the need for board approval? Does legal need a say?
Next it is necessary to define and understand what might cause a delay in the sale, and decide if the possible delays are acceptable. This includes defining what happens if a project slips.
Finally, it is important to discover where the project is in the company’s overall priority list, and find out if the funding is already in place for the project and when the funding will be in place if it isn’t already.
A timeline can help both the sales rep and the company, noted Patterson, and this is a key to setting a timelines without it feeing like a technique for backing the customer into a corner. If the customer knows that part of the reason for the timeline is to ensure that the rep has the order in place early enough to make it happen according to the customer’s project timeline, a timeline with the sales agent will make sense and just seem like smart business.
The full video presentation with Steve Patterson can be viewed here, along with the other four parts of the series.
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