When asking a customer about their time line, you need to be a bit of a detective. Let’s imagine that you ask a customer when they will make a decision, and they answer, “I am looking to make a decision by the end of the year.” Then you need to respond by saying, “That is great. Share with me more about your evaluation process and what actions will need to occur by the end of the year.” What you are doing here is trying to find out the process that will occur before a final decision is made. You want to uncover who will be involved, how they will be making their decision, and what benchmarks they will need to meet in order to move the process forward.
As you are wrapping up the conversation about time frame, ask a final question to get information as to how high a priority this project is for the organization. Ask your customer, “On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 meaning low priority and 10 meaning the highest priority, what number would you give this project?” Whatever number they give you, ask them if they can define what that means to them. “Ok, you said this project is a 7 on a scale from 1-10 of priority. What does a 7 mean to you?” After they answer, ask them what it would take to move this project from a 7 to a 10. You want to uncover how important this project is to your customer and why it is important. If your customer has a vested interest in the project, if it could help her career or make her look good, you will know that she will be an internal champion for it to move forward. If this project is not important to your contact, you need to find someone else from the organization that does feel it is important.