In our current Sales process, we have experienced some customers who don’t follow the discussed plan and some even don’t respond. One of the reasons is that we do not really know the timeline of the customers. Lacking understandings about customers’ project timeline also makes it difficult for us to create authentic urgency. Thus, it’s important to collect this data.
I. What are the important milestones that we need to identify
_ Analyze Call: Identify the first call to discuss the requirements
_ Provide full solution: Identify the meeting date where we will provide a full solution.
_ Evaluation schedule + Making the decision: When will the customer will complete the evaluation process and making the decision
_ Process payment (how long): How long will the payment process take?
_ Finish Development (Testing, training, setting up): Which date the customers expect that he can start testing and prepare?
_ Go-live: When do the customers expect to use in real environment?
II. How to ask for a timeline?
Ask for a timeline directly - This method normally works when the customers already have a detailed timeline. Big organization or professional agency normally has the timeline cleared when initiate the project, since it will affect their cost as well. Then, it is a good idea that we ask and follow them directly.
_ What are the important milestones that the project must achieve?
_ When do you have to make a decision?
_ What is your expected launch date? What if you can not meet the deadline
Estimate the timeline. For smaller shops or less urgent project, customers may not have a clear timeline. They can either don’t rush at all, or have a blur idea about it timeline. In this case, we can help them to estimate the timeline together.
The simplest way to do that is start from the bottom - Go-live date. Based on the amount of workload that needs to be done, we can suggest the customers other milestones.
_ May I know when do you plan to go live:
=> Normally, our customer would need 30 days to fully set up, testing and training. The customization we discussed also take around 35 days, thus I believe we should make the decision by the end of this week.
III. How to make the customers stick to the timeline
_ Draw a timeline and include it the sum-up email. Most importantly, we must make the customers feel the stress of missing that expected timeline.
_ Calendar invitation to all meeting events.
_ Remind / Follow up if any milestone is missed.
IV. Identify possible obstacles that can change the timeline:
Take a look again the business overview to see which can likely affect the timeline. Questions we can think of include:
_ Does user has an ERP yet? Does it fully operate at the moment? With customers have a existed functional system, it can be a backup for them if they can not follow the timeline. However with other startup with a fixed launch date, it’s very hard to change the schedule
_ Are there any upcoming plans or events of the customers? What might take a higher priority?
V. Timeline trust
Based on the answer of the customers, we may evaluate of the credit in the timeline, whether it’s
_ Answer immediately the timeline or need to think or hesitate? 20%
_ Involve many people in the process or not? 30%
_ Able to define consequences of missing the timeline? 50%