When we are talking about the sales process, we ask for the best guess of the sales person as to when the sales opportunity will close. Occasionally, we hear back “I don’t have an end date.” There are legitimate cases where this is true, but more often than not, it’s not only wrong, but is also dangerous. Forecasting will be difficult if not impossible, and the sales people won’t be following a process.
Here are some questions to think about when evaluating if you actually have an end date to your sales opportunity.
Does the Customer Have a Buying Process?
This seems obvious. Does the customer have a pain that they plan to solve? Is there any form of a formal decision making process? If yes, then they have an end date, and you have an end date.
Do you have Competition?
Do you Follow a Sales Process? Or Should You?
If you follow any form of process in sales, then there is a start to the process, and an end to the process. If you think the end of the process is some variation of “Wait to Re-Start”, then the process is over. Pick the date you think the process will end.
Are You Sure it’s a Sales Opportunity?
Often this is when you have a potential customer with interest but no timeline. Think about this – isn’t this just a lead? It’s not technically a sales opportunity if there the customer isn’t involved in a buying process.
Are You Thinking about the End in the Right Way?
Sometimes the end of the sales cycle isn’t a purchase order, it could be vendor selection in a specification. The order will come later, with potentially another selection process. The end of the sales cycle is when the customer makes a decision for one company over another. That decision can (but doesn’t have to) result in a purchase order.
Are You Pushing the Sales Process?
If so, good! You’re in the lead, and often in before your competition. You’ve potentially created the sales cycle. Do you have a plan? What is the start and end of your plan? There’s your potential end date.
Sales people follow a process. A process has a beginning and an end. The end can be an order, a loss, or the absence of a decision (maintaining status quo). You must view the sales cycle (when the Opportunity is alive) as such.