It’s hard to play the long game in sales. Especially since it takes many contact points before you may ever sell to a customer or prospect. And, the long game requires you to do many different things, which at times may seem counterintuitive to making your annual quota.
Your management is always asking where you stand against your quota, how much is in your pipeline, how you rank the risk of the deals in your current pipeline, and other important questions to understand the accuracy of your forecast. But even before you sell anything, you need to understand your customers’ or prospects’ short-, medium- and long-term business priorities in order to align your pipeline to the timeframes that matter to them. This is where the long game in sales ensures you not only have a pipeline, but a quality pipeline − one in which you have a higher percentage close rate because you’re aligned with your customer or prospect.
So, how do you play (and win) the long game in sales? Here are three tips.
1. Know your Territory
Whether you have one account, a few accounts or hundreds of accounts in your territory, be sure you know who needs your products and services now and in the future. Get to know your customer/prospect better than they know themselves: their priority initiatives and timeframes, how they help achieve their executive KPIs or MBOs, where they’re spending their time, money and resources with an eye towards their short-, medium- and long-term goals.
Most top performers create a calling rotation plan to ensure they regularly stay in touch with key stakeholders (weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually). The decision on how often to call each key stakeholder is based on their knowledge of their customer’s/prospect’s short-, medium- and long-term priorities. In addition, the information they accumulate is captured in a document. These details typically include which of your products or services (or your competitors’) are used by each customer/prospect, the known renewal dates, level of satisfaction, etc. to assist in increasing the knowledge of their territory.
2. Build Your Pipeline Over Time
Based on the data you gather about your territory, go beyond just filling your pipeline for the current year. Look towards projects that your customers or prospects are contemplating 1 to 2 years out. Remember, key stakeholders and executives typically plan strategies 3 to 5 years in order to accomplish certain priority initiatives.
With this knowledge, you’ll be able to work with your customer/prospect to build a multi-year roadmap and get to an agreement on how you can help them with these priority initiatives. Doing this collaboratively is not technically selling, but is a proven way to engage with customers/prospects and demonstrate your value in helping them achieve what is important to their success.
3. Make or Exceed your Quota
This one does not need too much explanation. We all know what we need to do. Keep an eye on your pipeline to ensure it’s tightly aligned to your customers’ or prospects’ current-year priorities and initiatives. Talk to all key stakeholders to ensure you’re aware of any changes in priorities or initiatives due to delays. Always be validating that the deals in your pipeline have a high percentage chance to close in that quota year.
Use an executive-level “sequence of events” document to collaborate with your customer/prospect on the critical activities, timelines and responsibilities to keep key milestones on track. This will ensure that your customer or prospect has a higher percentage chance of accomplishing their desired business or financial KPIs in the timeframe they promised to their management team. And, it ensures the quality of your forecast since it is based on dates your customer is driving towards.
As you can see, these three tips are all connected. If you know your territory well enough, then you can build a pipeline over a few years – giving you confidence that your annual pipeline will be solid enough to make or exceed your quota.
It’s not easy playing the long game in sales. It takes focus, tenacity and perseverance to realize that the long game is what will help you make or exceed your quota every year. It makes you look at the bigger picture, understand early on what your customers and prospects need to be successful by looking through their lens, and always position yourself a step or two ahead. What do you struggle with most when playing the long game in sales?