Sales Management Blog

Sales management tips and advice on how to improve your sales team.

Long Sales Cycles, Large Transactions: Activity Plans Still Important

Posted by Gretchen Gordon on Thu, Dec 04, 2014 @07:00 AM

Of the dozens of sales teams I work with each year, there are always a few that sell large scale services or products with longer sales cycles; typically at least 6 months and as long as 18 months or more. Generally, the salespeople in these cases are paid larger base salaries because it is so long between sales and the upside variable compensation is less than it would be more transactional types of sales. In some instances, all the salesperson needs to do is close one or two deals a year and everyone is happy.

Long_sales_cycles_watch_out_for_fluffy_pipeline_syndrome

It seems that in these situations, there tends to be less of an emphasis on activity expectations. It is typical for these teams to look at their pipeline filled with deals that have been hanging around for a while and just ignore the fact that the pipeline could be wiped out at any time. The salespeople and the manager are optimistic about a few deals, with everyone believing that one of the deals will close and it will make their year.

Resolve Fluffy Pipeline Syndrome & Complacency by Holding Your Team Accountable

It is in these exact situations that activity gets lost because it is not easy to tie the activity to the end result a year or two down the road. It is critical that —as the manager— you help your salespeople stay laser-focused on exactly what activity they need to prioritize. It is very easy for the pipeline to get a little fluffy and for the activities to subside as salespeople become slightly complacent in this scenario.

It is especially easy for salespeople to hide from scrutiny when the expectation is that deals will take a very long time to close. The problem is that they may languish in terms of activity and then find the well dry when those big deals in their pipeline don’t actually close. It is the manager’s job to help the salespeople stay focused on all the right activities, week in and week out.

Weekly Sales Activity Plans Still Apply to Long Sales Cycles— Make it Work For You!

If you have read any of my previous articles you know that I am big believer in calculating how many first appointments each salesperson needs each week to produce enough opportunities to close enough business. In these specific situations of very large sales, it might be unreasonable to have first appointments every week. If that applies to you, I would encourage you to think about it differently— but apply these same principles. Be sure that everyone is focused on tangible activities that can be measured. Maybe it would be beneficial to get to know all the lead engineers at a certain prospect company, so activity goals could be created around getting to know a certain number of those. Be creative, and help your salespeople design an activity plan that will keep them tightly focused on new business generation.

Key Questions to Keep Salespeople on Track:

  • What do you need to do this week to move a deal forward in the pipeline?
  • Did you follow your activity plan last week to ensure consistent success? If not, why not and what are you going to do differently this week?

Download Our Worksheet and Build an Activity Plan that Will Boost Your Sales!

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Tags: Sales Management, For Sales Managers, By Gretchen Gordon

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