We’ve all been there. It’s the end of the quarter or the end of the fiscal year, and you panic looking at an empty or near-empty pipeline after closing as much business as possible. Reps, with management’s help, must be able to think longer term, plan beyond their sales quotas, and build out their pipelines over multiple years.
But planning and thinking about accounts/territories two to three years out can be difficult. While some might plan one or two years out, many struggle with planning beyond that. Most of the time, reps will say it’s too hard to plan three or more years out because they don’t know what their quotas will be. But they need to think bigger
than that, by setting their own goals and seeing beyond short-term revenue. Reps obviously need to meet or exceed their annual quota as well as continuously plan to fill their pipelines with qualified opportunities.
Here are 6 things sales reps can do to ease the pain of account/territory planning over multiple years:
- Determine all of the key stakeholders and influencers for whom your solutions can solve their problems, and construct a multi-year plan to spend time building new relationships and expanding current ones. Spend time understanding what they’re trying to accomplish in order to help you identify where there may be potential opportunities currently and down the road.
- Get in early by building the right relationships over time. Earning trust and building credibility takes time and effort. Getting to know key stakeholders before they are buying can reap dividends in the long run. You’ll have a higher probability of getting into opportunities early and even being the sole provider.
- Influence the sales cycle by asking the right questions. Plan on outcomes for each meeting and construct open-ended questions that will allow you to take each relationship to the next level.
- Provide success stories that show how you’ve solved similar issues to what your customer is trying to accomplish.
- Encourage clients to advocate these successes through speaking opportunities, articles and referrals.
- When setting multi-year goals for yourself, be specific about your goals for the account or territory. Otherwise, you will not have clear outcomes. For example, a rep might set a goal such as, “I want to be able to increase my presence among executives at my account in the next three years,” but that is not specific enough since it is not measurable. Instead, to be more specific and measurable by changing it to, “I want to increase my relationships with senior VPs and above in my account’s key lines of business (and name them) by 50% over the next three years.”
Any quarter-end or year-end doesn’t need to be a heart-stopper if sales reps have planned their accounts/territories well beyond the next known quota, set their own specific goals for themselves and their clients, and then get the most mileage as possible out of those successes.
Janice Mars, principal and founder of SalesLatitude, is a senior business and sales executive with more 30 years of experience helping companies build successful sales teams. She has parlayed that experience to help her clients to improve their sales processes, accurately forecast revenues, ensure focus on winnable opportunities, and attain consistent results.
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