How do I pin down my customer’s time frame, when they claim to not know when they will be able to make a decision?

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.

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Paul Cherry

For over two decades, sales expert and author PAUL CHERRY has helped B2B sales professionals close more deals in all major industries. As a recognized thought leader in customer engagement strategies, Paul Cherry has been featured in more than 250 publications, including Investor’s Business Daily, Selling Power, Inc., Sales & Marketing Management, The Kiplinger Letter, and Salesforce.

Performance Based Results

Paul Cherry is the president of Performance Based Results. PBR delivers intense, customized sales team training programs and sales management coaching to companies throughout North America. Paul has worked with more than 1,200 organizations, including 175 of the Fortune 500, plus more than a thousand entrepreneurial, small to mid-sized, cutting-edge businesses looking to dominate their niche markets. Clients typically get 7 times their return-on-investment (ROI) or better.

Questions That Sell

Paul Cherry’s top-rated bestseller, Questions That Sell: The Powerful Process for Discovering What Your Customer Really Wants (AMACOM) has been listed on BookAuthority’s “100 Best Sales Books of All Time” and has been published in four languages. He is also the author of Questions That Get Results (Wiley) and The Ultimate Sales Pro (HarperCollins Leadership).