Of the many daunting challenges that sales teams face in selling into complex enterprise accounts, one of the most frustrating is that of long, drawn-out sales cycles. Months can pass, even years, while pursuing a major opportunity with an enterprise account, an opportunity that may or may not be won. As that precious time passes, the doubts, the uncertainties, the risks, and the costs increase. And these costs go far beyond the financial. Organizational assets and energy dwindle as the calendar pages turn. The human resources – the people who must be applied to an enterprise pursuit – are occupied and often unavailable for other needs. And the opportunity cost is dear. Making a decision to pursue a complex deal over a long timeframe means other initiatives simply must be foregone.
So, how do selling organizations overcome this frustrating challenge of time while also increasing the likelihood of success? Fundamentally, you must develop and follow an effective territory, account, and opportunity planning process. Having a well-crafted and relevant process in place very simply maximizes the likelihood that the deals you pursue are the ones you’ll likely win, while at the same time streamlining your path forward. Additionally, having such a practical, intuitive process allows you to map what you do best as an organization to the opportunities you’re considering pursuing. This aligning of strengths with relevant opportunity guides you to forego the deals that don’t match your profile and to attack those that do, the ones you’re most likely to win. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Clearly understanding what you do best and then using that knowledge to create the most effective matches possible in the deals you pursue. It is straightforward but, unfortunately, such fundamental planning is all too often ignored. Or, it’s pushed aside by the emotional fervor of charging ahead into the wrong deals, the tantalizing deals that bring with them that painful draining of precious organizational resources and all too often, crushing and costly losses.
So, the effective territory, account, and opportunity planning process increases your chances of winning. Because, again, you are pursuing the deals that align to what you do best. But when you do fully commit to pursuing one of these aligned, profile enterprise opportunities, what can you do over the long sales cycle to improve your chances of success? Think about the scenario. As time passes in the enterprise pursuit, your team will be engaged in many, many transactions with that account. Meetings, calls, emails, requests for information and clarification – the volume of touch points can be incredible and you can be assured that you will be evaluated with every action you take. Actions that will showcase your responsiveness, follow-up, and attention to detail – or lack thereof. All along the way, the buying organization is gaining a clearer picture of what you’d be like to deal with as their chosen partner. Every impression you make, good or bad, contributes to their ultimate decision. Truly, in long enterprise pursuits, the journey is the destination. So, needless to say, leaving the most positive impressions in those many touch points is critical because the judgments made by the prospect organization will not be of your organization in a vacuum. Enterprise pursuits provide a crystal clear sampling group – all of the firms competing for the business. And regardless of how capable, prepared, and sophisticated your competitors are, they might become just a bit forgetful as the long months go by. They might take their eyes off the ball for just a moment. Perhaps they’ll completely miss a deadline or carelessly submit a boilerplate response instead of devoting the required time and effort to respond in a customized way. At just the right time to leave just the wrong impression.
So, the key is to stay focused. With your effective planning done, trust in your due diligence. You’ve earned the right to be in the pursuit, credibly competing for the business. And since you’ve established that the deal is well worth pursuing, be sure that every action you take clearly shows the prospect that the deal is worth pursuing well.