As salespeople, we live and die by our pipelines – always trying to fill them with deals that have a high percentage chance of closing. And, we tend to look at our pipelines year by year with the goal of making or exceeding quota. But this proverbial, annual rinse-and-repeat pipeline exercise is a bad habit that can lead to missed opportunities for future sales.
How you manage your time is directly correlated to your success: making sure you’re not wasting your time (or your customers’), building a quality pipeline, meeting with key stakeholders to best understand their goals and priorities, managing key sales activities and close dates – and so much more that’s tied to the clock and the calendar. Here are 5 tips to ensure you’re spending your precious time working and closing deals the right way, while also setting a solid foundation for future deals.
1. Ask the Tough Questions
By asking the tough questions early on, you can find out if your products and services help solve the priority business outcome the customer is trying to achieve and who cares about it – I mean really cares. And you can understand the customer’s timeline and why that timeline is important to them.
2. Find the Compelling Event
How many times have you forecasted a deal on your quarterly or annual timeline (not the customers’ or prospects’ timeline) where you were frantically trying to close it without any compelling event tied to it? You could probably give it away and they still wouldn’t buy now. Why? There could be many reasons, but it’s more likely that they have other priority or competing projects to work on, which is where their time, money and resources are going right now.
3. Qualify Out of Deals Early
Try to figure out EARLY if you can actually win the deals in your pipeline. If you ask the tough questions and find the compelling event early on – versus rushing to a demo or providing a proposal too quickly – then it’s true that you may lose early. However, qualifying out of deals early is not a bad thing. It ensures that you maximize your time, and your precious internal resources’ time, on the deals you have a better chance of closing.
4. Sell Strategically, Plan Proactively
Proactively plan how you are going to strategically spend your time on your accounts or territories by looking 3 years down the road. By adopting a strategic sales planning approach, you’ll be able to maximize your time and continue to build/validate your pipeline with quality deals based on where your customers/prospects are spending their time, money and resources.
5. Get Management Involved Early
The earlier sales management gets involved with potential deals, the better. Sales managers involved early on can be an additional resource to help you get out of the weeds. If you can get your management connected with your customer’s or prospect’s management team early, gaps in your knowledge about executive priorities, compelling events and critical timelines can be shored up and confirmed. Getting management involved early also enables you and your sales team to get additional support when dealing with any risks, barriers or limitations you are experiencing, addressing them sooner rather than later, and maximizing everyone’s time.
Why Top Sales Performers Do It Better
Top sales performers have this down pat. They don’t look at their pipelines linearly by focusing only on a single year. They fill their pipelines based on their customers’ needs and priorities, and know where their customers are spending their time, money and resources. Their view of their pipeline is bigger than them or their quota. So, what do these top performers do exactly? They:
- Reach people higher in the customer’s organization, enabling them to identify and help achieve larger, more enterprise-level business outcomes
- Talk to every key stakeholder in their territory/account on a regular basis
- Continually validate each key stakeholder’s priorities, risk tolerances, business outcomes, compelling events and timelines
- Talk to everyone they can to share industry trends and customer peer data to provoke discussion about business outcomes the customer may not even be thinking about
- Understand their impact on each and every key decision maker’s objectives – and they make it personal
- Truly understand the benefits and value of getting things done on the customer’s timeline
- Ensure their pipelines are determined solely on the priorities of their customers and what they are trying to achieve – not on a single year’s quota
As a sales professional, your job is to stay focused on quota and manage your time wisely. But it’s just as important to understand that your customers are likely experiencing the exact same craziness. Remember to cut through the bull, think strategically and stay focused on the customer to build and protect your short-, medium- and long-term deals.