Outsourced Sales – Managing a Sales Team and their Cycle

It always makes me wonder when a salesperson tells me in an interview “I prefer the shorter sales cycles so that I can get from start to close faster” or the counterpoint “I like longer cycles where I can get to know the company and their needs better and really firm up my relationship with them.” Why do I wonder? Why do I laugh? Because to me, it makes no difference in the world. I currently manage some clients that have a sales cycle of less than a day all the way to where there is a 12 month+ cold call to close. In my mind, the ramp up period is the only difference. Managing each client and the dollar amount of the sale, the period to close, whether it is consultative or a price based sale is not the challenge or mystery that everyone believes. There is one tool, one place that I can quickly assess and decide where a strategy or team needs some tweak or attention. The linchpin that ties them all together is the health and consistency of your pipeline.

I don’t want to say that keeping everything on multiple accounts together is easy or to over simplify the situation and say I look at only one factor when making decisions, but it can be a powerful tool. A good sales pipeline should have deals in all stages of completion, no matter how long the cycle. After ramping up, a good team is generating, maturing and closing deals each day and week. When there are holes in one of those activities, a red flag shoots up and makes you re-evaluate how your bandwidth is deployed. It can also indicate where there are personnel issues, when someone is dissatisfied and not focused or disenfranchised with the opportunity presented to them. When you find the hole, make sure that the sales person has the right tools, training and guidance to get the sale and then work with them to plug the hole and move on to the next team. Using this method, you can efficiently and effectively keep track of accounts no matter their size, product position or price or sales cycle. Schedule weekly meetings with your teams to do pipeline review and defense sessions and see where you stand. It is important in this process that you challenge your sales people and make them defend why someone is at a 50% chance to close or why they are not projected until Q3 of 2010. As you refine and improve their ability to forecast the status of their deals, the more accurate your pipeline tool becomes in managing and monitoring their path towards success. After awhile and building a level of trust, this snapshot can become your daily touch on each account and open your schedule to work with the less experienced and developed sales people and help them more in their careers.

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