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Andy Rich | BizDev3.0 | Philadelphia, PA

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Of the many daunting challenges that sales teams face in selling into complex enterprise accounts, one of the most frustrating is that of long, drawn-out sales cycles. Months can pass, even years, while pursuing a major opportunity with an enterprise account, an opportunity that may or may not be won. As that precious time passes, the doubt, the uncertainties, the risks and the costs all increase. How can selling organizations overcome this challenge?

The answer is to create and follow an effective territory, account, and opportunity planning process. Having a well-crafted and relevant process in place maximizes the likelihood of you winning those deals you do choose to pursue.

Here are three important planning steps you should take to make the most of that long sales cycle.

One: Take the time to closely align your organization's specific strengths to the relevant opportunity. If you don't have a demonstrated track record of delivering value in an area that’s important to the decision makers within a given account... notice that! Step aside from deals that don't clearly match your strength profile. Attack only the deals that align with what you do best.

Two: Streamline your path forward. Your planning should also assess the level of access you have within the account. You must be prepared to identify and engage with multiple points of contact on the buying side. If you only have one person within the account who can be counted on to return your call, you are at a significant – and unacceptable – competitive disadvantage! Broaden your network… or take a pass.

Three: Remember that the journey is the destination. As time passes in the enterprise pursuit, your team will be engaged in many, many transactions with that account. Meetings, calls, emails, request for information and clarification – the volume of touch points can be incredible. Since every interaction affects the ultimate decision, your planning should make it a clear and ongoing team priority to ensure that you leave a positive impression with each and every one of those touch points. Regardless of how capable, prepared, and sophisticated your competitors are, there is still a chance they could become just a bit forgetful is the long months go by. Perhaps they will completely miss a deadline by a day or two, or carelessly submit a boilerplate response instead of devoting the required time and effort to respond in a customized way. Stay focused… and make sure that doesn't happen to you.

Creating a practical and intuitive, territory, account, and opportunity planning process allows you to match what you do best as an organization to the opportunities you are considering pursuing. It keeps you connected and engaged over time. And it allows you to leave the kind of powerful, sustained positive impression that wins long-term business.

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