Most of us use some sort of production timeline in manufacturing our wood products. If the finished product is to be done in 8 weeks, the raw material must arrive in 2 weeks, the basic cutting done in 4 weeks, the assembly in 6 weeks and the finishing in 7 weeks. (If we only had that much time, right?)
The point is that by using a timeline, we can see that any delay in any stage adds weeks to the final ship date.
Timelines work great in making sales too. By building a basic flow chart, consumers can also see how their decisions (or lack thereof) affect the final product ship date.
Our good friend Rose is a product manager for a large cheese company. She showed me how she uses the same technique to inform the customer of their critical choices and how the timing of the decision keeps their product on track.
On her flow charts, color highlights create eye-catching key decision markers. These colored markers are the timelines to when each consumer decision must be made if the customer wants their product in time. By sharing the flow chart with her customer, Rose takes the pressure off of the sales team and focuses the customer on his own project.
Your shop can use the same technique. If you are making cabinets, hand the customer a flow chart showing key decisions they must make and by when. Door selection, stain color, accessories, lighting, cabinet placement, final cutting, and ship date are all examples of what you could include. As each decision is reached, the product gets closer to completion. If any are delayed, the chart becomes an excellent reason to move them forward in the process.
Timelines keep the customer on track and take the pressure off you when they can't decide.
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