How to Deal with Opportunities that Push Close Dates

Have you ever had to make a really difficult life decision – “Where should I go to college?” “Should I break up with my significant other?” “Do I have to fire my underperforming direct report?” – and found yourself stuck, not sure in which direction you should go? Of course you have; that’s life! And what do some people do when they find themselves caught in a dilemma between a rock and a hard place?

Procrastinate and push the decision off to be made another day.

That’s what many B2B buyers do – stick with the status quo. That’s the easy thing to do! Your company has been running fine without having to buy this new piece of software. Once you agree to pay a large sum of money and buy, you will then have to justify the ROI of this purchase to your CEO, CFO or some other boss. Who wants to do that?

In that scenario, it’s so easy for them to just push the decision off till next month or quarter. As a buyer? Postponing a deal you had forecast to close (and counted on to hit your quota this month) leaves you in a more precarious position…but all is not lost! Here are 3 tips on how to deal with opportunities that push:

Step 1: Acceptance

Want to hear the dirty little secret about opportunities that push? Most of them don’t actually push; sales reps just didn’t set clear expectations throughout the buying process, and their mismanagement led to a miscommunication regarding close dates. If reps don’t get clear confirmation and clarification from their prospects on every step along the way – “OK so after this call, I have a commitment from you that you will look over pricing and budget ahead of our next call in a week?” “How long does it typically take your CFO to review and sign contracts?” “Will the CFO have reviewed this by Tuesday?” – breakdowns in communication are more likely to occur.

In that scenario, a vague promise to discuss budgets might be misconstrued as agreement on price. An ambiguous timeline could be misinterpreted by a Happy Eared rep as a definitive close date. It’s not enough to just set and move close dates in Salesforce; they have to actually reflect reality. Use a report like the one below to track which of your reps have close dates that push often; if it happens too often, it might reflect a massive problem (but a coachable one) on that individual reps’ part.

In short, many close date “pushes” are not actually indicative of the prospect hemming and hawing and sitting on their hands; sometimes, it’s actually the rep’s fault for not having that rapport, engagement and clear lines of communication throughout the process. Don’t let your reps strap on their Happy Ears and hear only the things they want.

Step 2: Rescue effort

Other times, opportunities actually do push for legitimate reasons – “We didn’t have enough time to get the CFO to look at the contract.” “An emergency came up that we’ve been dealing with.” “We’re still not 100% on board and need more time to think about it.” Sometimes, these reasons are real unforeseen circumstances. Other times, the opportunity might honestly be having second thoughts about buying your product and just want to push off making the decision until next month.

There are things that a sales rep can do here to make an effort to rescue the opportunity and keep the same close date. The first is to ask tough questions to make sure that the given reason is actually legit. The next thing to do is to address any lingering concerns that the opportunity might have; try and coax out the real, honest reasons they are wavering. Finally, do what you can to sweeten the pot and force a move on the opportunity’s part. Maybe offering a concession could get the CFO to stop dawdling on the contract.

Be warned, however: entering into a scenario where you are negotiating or giving up concessions from a position of weakness could cause you to lose out on the best deal possible. When the opportunity smells that you’re desperate for a deal before the end of the month, they might try and extract more concessions, even if they have in their mind already planned to buy. If their push reason is actually legit but you cave in and offer up concessions, you’re losing your leverage and giving value away for no real reason.

Step 3: Moving on

Finally, sometimes the best move is to actually move on and accept that the opportunity close date pushed, with good reason, and it’s nobody’s fault. In this scenario, instead of pouting and whining and begging them to close, you could just be a good loser and move on with grace. Say that you understand that these unforeseen circumstances happen, and of course there’s no problems, you’ll just close the deal at the beginning of next month.

However, part of being a graceful loser here is to make sure it doesn’t happen again, that this opportunity close date doesn’t just get pushed out at the end of next month. This means going back to step one – build rapport, establish clear lines of communication, be well engaged throughout the process and don’t be afraid to ask tough questions and get intimate details about the opportunity’s buying process.

Opportunities that push their close dates aren’t fun for anyone, especially at the end of the month when a rep needs it to hit their quota. It’s not the end of the world though – with the right attitude and right strategy, you can both rescue this pushed opportunity and ensure that it doesn’t happen again.