The second habit in Stephen Covey’s classic, The Seven Habit Of Highly Effective People, is “Begin with the end in mind.” It’s extraordinarily powerful in so many ways.

Today, I was participating in a number of deal reviews. They weren’t remarkably different from the 1000’s of other deal reviews I participate in. The sales people, outlined the deal, where they were and the next steps. As usual, all of the deal were significantly behind where the sales people wanted them to be. They were slipping from quarter to quarter. Some, which had been sure things, were now at risk.

As the sales people presented their strategies, the sales people kept focusing on the next steps. Often, these next steps kept slipping because the customer kept getting diverted and pushing things off. Alternatively, the customer didn’t have the same sense of urgency the sales people had.

One of the reviewers asked, “At the end of each meeting with the customer, do you agree on next steps and target dates?” Most of the time, the sales person responded affirmatively, but then the follow up meetings would be cancelled or postponed.

And deals slip and slip and slip and….. then they disappear.

Each of the sales people recognized this pattern. Next steps would not happen when they were planned. Things would come up. Too often, next steps weren’t defined, waiting for the customer to take action.

Deal after deal, the stories are similar. Deals slip and slip and slip……

Yet sales people keep doing the same things, knowing the same things are likely to happen.

Part of the problem is, we always focus on “what’s next?” We and the customer look at “what are the next activities, what should be be doing next.”

But those next steps always fall victim to the next crisis, or attention/priorities getting diverted, or just plain forgetting or blowing something off.

But we and our customers keep doing the same thing.

What if we took Covey’s advice and applied it to working with our customers in their buying journey?

What is we started with the end in mind? Perhaps we would talk to the customer about what they wanted to achieve, why it’s important to them, when they need to have something in place, what would happen if they don’t have things in place by the date they had determined?

Once this “end” is cemented in the customer’s and our minds, then everything we do is oriented around achieving that end goal–not just the next step.

We start to think about all the things we need to accomplish, not just the next thing. We start to have time sensitivity to accomplishing those things. When we encounter something unexpected, we don’t just slip our schedule, we adjust everything we do to achieve our shared goal.

Covey’s habit helps us become more purposeful and intentional in achieving goals we set for ourselves.

Applying this principle to our deal strategies and supporting the customer in their buying journey keeps us aligned, purposeful, and intentional about that we want to help our customers accomplish.

Begin every buying journey, every deal strategy with the end in mind. What is the customer trying to achieve, by when, why is it important for them to do this?