How to Use Deadlines to Achieve Sales Goals Blog Feature
Steve Bookbinder

By: Steve Bookbinder on August 22nd, 2016

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How to Use Deadlines to Achieve Sales Goals

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Deadlines. It’s a powerful word that strongly suggests we must meet the time limit that’s been set, otherwise we’re dead if we miss it.

Most people have a love-hate relationship with deadlines. In most cases, deadlines are set for us by other people and can make us do crazy things. Things we don’t normally want to do like: get up extra early, work outside our comfort zone, or stay up extra late. All because we have to meet the deadline.

The ironic thing is that nothing provides more focus on our priorities and time management skills better than setting a deadline. We are usually at our best when we are racing to meet the timeline that’s been set because we are determined and focused on completing the assignment or project at hand.

With this in mind, imagine what we could accomplish by not waiting for someone else to assign a deadline, and instead give ourselves deadlines for everything we need to get done. But how do you assign yourself a deadline that will actually stick?

We’ve outlined 3 simple, but not easy, steps to help you use deadlines to achieve your sales goals:


Step 1: Commit

The first thing you must do is identify your goal and then commit to achieving it by a certain date.

Whether we are talking about a big or small goal, the best way to fully commit is by breaking down your goal into smaller steps that you can work on each day or week.

As a general example, let’s say you’ve just set yourself the goal of landing a new account with a large revenue opportunity.

In your experience as a seller, you understand there are a lot of internal and external factors that must be taken into consideration when mapping out your goal. And depending on your process and sales cycle, closing a large deal may take anywhere from a few months to a year.

That’s why we must break the larger goal down into smaller goals by creating a backwards timetable, like this:


When you look at your goal this way, it helps you think about what sales meetings need to be scheduled and what activities you should focus on during the months leading up to your target close date.

Let’s break this down:

If you need to close a sale in August of next year, then you need the verbal agreement by Q2, let’s say June.

Before that, you need to present a proposal that outlines the right solution for the client. Keep in mind this is the time when negotiations may happen, which could possibly delay this step. But on average, let’s say this will take about 1 to 3 months.

Now, that brings us backwards to Q4 of this year when you want the prospective client to express their interest, timetable, and confirm they have a budget for your product or service.

Even before the prospective client can express interest, we must get a better understanding of their business goals and challenges by launching a discovery process to gather more information. That will take about 1 to 3 months.

Naturally, we had to have a number of first meetings and conversations with a variety of stakeholders throughout the organization before we could get to the discovery phase. And depending upon the number of decision-makers involved, getting these meetings scheduled could span anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

That brings us to now. It all starts with your outreach efforts and making the first contact. So, when is your deadline to get started? Today!  

Get committed and start thinking about: What do I have to do to make sure I hit the goal?

Step 2: Be Realistic & Honest

When it comes to setting and achieving an audacious goal, it’s important to consider timing.

Be realistic about your process and sales cycle in terms of knowing how long each part of the sale will actually take. If you started today, how long would it take to secure a qualified first appointment with a large sized account? And then once you’ve conducted the first appointment, how long after that would you get to the proposal stage?

Be honest with yourself about your time and priorities. Are you already working on a long-term project that requires a lot of your attention? Do you have anything going on in your personal life that could interfere?

More often than not, everything takes longer than initially anticipated due to the inevitable “things” creeping up and stealing your time. However, it's amazing to see how much harder people work when they are running out of time, as opposed to when they have plenty of hours to burn.

This is why the most successful salespeople set deadlines for themselves. It creates a sense of urgency and helps push you forward to completion.  Deadlines create determination and focus while discouraging you from delaying steps or becoming sidetracked on something else.

Step 3: Use the Power of Negative Thinking

Yes, you read that right. The power of negative thinking.

The idea here is that when things go well we seldom assess or analyze how we achieved the end result. On the other hand, when things go badly we suddenly have 20-20 insight into what we should have done.

Thinking about what might go badly, while you still have time to do something to change the outcome, will help you create a solid action plan outlining the right activities and behaviors to focus on.

So, leverage negative thinking by imagining it is August of next year and you missed your goal and didn’t close that big sale. What should we have done?

You should have filled your pipeline with similar opportunities. When you create parallel initiatives with several other potentially large deals, you put yourself in a much better position to reach your goal.

Remember, today is the last day to get that big sale you want to close next year. Today is your deadline. Don’t miss it, or you will push out the close date – possibly to 2018 unless you hurry. So now is the time to get committed, be realistic and honest with yourself about timing, and use the power of negative thinking to ensure you reach your goal.

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About Steve Bookbinder

Steve Bookbinder is the CEO and sales expert at DMTraining. He has delivered more than 5,000 workshops and speeches to clients all over the world and has trained, coached, and managed more than 50,000 salespeople and managers. Steve continuously refreshes his training content to reflect his latest first-hand observations of salespeople across industries and regions. Through him, participants in his workshops and coaching sessions learn the best practices of today’s most successful sellers and managers across industries. Steve understands that sales is a competitive game. To outperform competitors and our own personal best results, we need to out-prospect, out-qualify, out-present and out-negotiate everyone else, not merely know how to sell. Through his specialty programs in Pipeline Management, Personal Marketing, Great First Meetings, 2nd-level Questioning, Sales Negotiating, and Sales Coaching, Steve trains sales teams to master the skills they need to overcome the challenges they face in today’s world… and keep improving results year over year.

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