The Lay of the Land
As humans, we're bound by a few things...gravity, taxes and time. When it comes to Time we're pretty much stuck moving forward and only talking about what's behind us or in front of us. Like you, I've learnt some simple sales tricks or methods to increase my chances of controlling my situation for the better. In this scenario, I'm going to talk about the use of Hot Dates. If this seems mundane to you, no problem, sometimes I find a little refresher doesn't hurt. With any situation you have to make a few assumptions. In this case, I'm going to assume that you are thorough when it comes to laying down or asking for timelines and have a decent relationship with your clients or burgeoning prospect. Right? Right.
Numbers are Your Friend
I really try to use dates politely in order to set an expectation of when I should receive their order, or schedule a meeting or receive payment. I phrase it in such a way as to let the client know that I'm simply making sure I've set aside the time to focus on accomplishing whatever it is I have to do for them. I always look to pull a date in which they need my actionable item to be complete so they can move on to their next task or meet their deadline. By asking them when they need to have "X" complete enables me to work backwards from their End goal. Or...goal End their from backwards work to me...
Client Deadline - Realistic Time to Fulfill Client Request = Necessary Engagement Date
Simple Client Conversation, All Mathematic Like
"You need to have those orders filled by February 29th so your new, very important project isn't delayed?
Right, got it. Just so I have this straight, I think we'd agree that on average it takes us 4 weeks to find, interview and hire that many resources of that specific kind? You need them in place for the end of February, then to meet this deadline comfortably I'll need to receive the orders from you by January 25th.
Does that make sense? Great."
We Did it Together
When a conversation like this takes place both parties have been involved in putting their stakes in the ground at the front and backend of the project, offering more clarity. We now have a beginning, a middle and an end. We now share ownership of these dates and the milestones in between. Both of us are now more capable of calling on the other side in order to see where things are at. Prior to using Hot Dates I found myself unable to answer my boss accurately about the current situation or closing dates and more importantly I didn't feel I had the shared ownership with my client contacts. I'm not a control freak but it feels good to be on top of things. It's the type of good habit that becomes second nature and gives you some piece of mind, not to mention a better pay cheque.
So don't be afraid to ask your client contacts about their Hot Dates. They'll thank you for it later.