August 2, 2016
How to politely push back on arbitrary project deadlines in the sales process
What should you say during the sales process when a client asks:
“Can you have this project done by [DATE]?”
This is a common question in the sales process. And it’s understandable why a prospect would want to know when you’d be done. But that doesn’t change that fact that blurting out a date would be a very risky thing to do.
You need to push back, but how do you do so in a way that is not combative or off-putting?
You don’t want to say things like:
- “Sorry, I don’t agree to project deadlines.”
- “If you think anyone can control a software project deadline, you’re delusional.”
- “Stark says arbitrary project deadlines are bad!”
Instead, explain to the client why setting a deadline would be bad for them:
- “A deadline will put pressure on both of us to sign-off before we’re really done. This will almost certainly lead to maintenance charges after delivery.”
- “A deadline like this will create the illusion of certainty. This would be a very bad thing if you’re planning to schedule other things based on that date.”
- “There are many unknowns at this stage, but I’d be happy to draft a timeline with the known dependencies. This will be a living document that we can review and update on our weekly calls. The timeline will give you visibility into, and some control over the process. It will likely expand quickly in the early stages but over time the velocity of change will decrease and a reasonable delivery date will start to come into focus.”
While you’re at it, you could consider mentioning that anyone who promises to meet their arbitrary deadline is probably doing so out of inexperience or opportunism.
Do you think these approaches would work for you? Hit reply and lemme know.