In pursuing complex enterprise accounts, a significant challenge that sales teams face is long, drawn out sales cycles. Working a major enterprise opportunity can take months or even years–and even then it may or may not be won.
As those precious hours, days, weeks and months go by, all the negative factors increase: doubts, risks, uncertainties and, of course, costs. And the costs are not just financial–copious amounts of organizational assets and energy are also expended. Personnel engaged in following up enterprise opportunities are often unavailable for other requirements. Making that decision to chase that complex deal over that lengthy timeframe incurs a huge opportunity cost, which pushes aside other initiatives.
How is such a frustrating challenge then overcome by selling organizations? It is critical for them to develop and follow effective opportunity planning, territory and account planning processes. Having such targeted processes in place increases the likelihood that the deals you pursue are the ones you’ll likely win and also streamlines your path forward. Additionally, having such practical processes allows you to map what you do best as an organization to the opportunities you’re considering pursuing. Aligning your strengths with relevant opportunities guides you to dismiss the deals that don’t match your profile, focusing on those that do, those you’re most likely to win. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Develop a clear vision of what you do best and then use 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 falls victim to the emotional fervor of charging ahead into the wrong deals, those tempting deals that bring with them that painful draining of precious organizational resources and all too often, painful, expensive losses.
So, the effective territory, account, and opportunity planning processes increase your chances of winning as you’re pursuing the deals that align to what you do best. But when you do fully commit to pursuing one of these aligned opportunities, when you go all-in, that long sales cycle still looms. What can you do over that long time period to increase your chances of winning? Think about the scenario. As time passes in the enterprise pursuit, there will be many touch points between your team and the buying team. Meetings, calls, emails, requests for information and clarification – the volume of contact points can be incredible and you can be assured that you will be evaluated by the buyers with every action you take. Actions that will showcase your responsiveness, follow-up, and attention to detail. Or lack thereof. And along the way, the buying organization gains a clear picture of what you’d be like to deal with as their chosen partner. Every impression you make, good or bad, makes their ultimate decision easier. Truly, in long enterprise pursuits, the journey is the destination. So, needless to say, leaving the most positive impressions is critical. For the judgments made by the buying organization will not be of your organization in a vacuum. Enterprise pursuits provide a direct and clear sampling group – all the firms competing for the business. And regardless of how efficient, prepared, and sophisticated your competitors are, they could become just a bit forgetful as the long months go by. They could take their eyes off the ball for just a moment, maybe missing a deadline or carelessly submitting a boilerplate response instead of devoting the time and effort to respond in a customized way. At just the right time to leave just the wrong impression.
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.
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