3 Goals Your Sales Reps Must Achieve Early in the Sales Cycle

Sales Management

As a sales manager, you have a limited amount bandwidth to go on joint sales calls with your sales reps. While going on joint calls with reps is important, if you have to be on every single meeting, you wouldn’t have time left over to be a manager.

Consider the basic math of meetings. According to recent research, it can take an average of 10-12 meetings to close a typical enterprise sales opportunity (fewer for SMB opportunities). This insight makes sense given a standard 6- to 12-month sales cycle for enterprise deals. For example, if you manage a team of 8-10 enterprise reps, and each rep has an active sales pipeline of 20-30 sales opportunities, your team participates in hundreds of meetings per month.

I recently spoke with a successful sales manager at a global technology company who shared a powerful time management technique he uses with his team to limit the number of joint sales calls. Recognizing that as a manager he can’t be everywhere, but that what happens early in the sales cycle can often determine your ultimate sales success, this manager created his “rule of 3’s.” That means during the first three meetings, reps are on their own and they must accomplish the following three goals:

1 | Build Relationships

First, sales reps must use the initial few meetings to build great relationships within the customer’s organization. The sales manager I spoke with empathized that he encourages his sales reps to think beyond the person they’re meeting with and try to establish relationships with other decision-makers and influencers.

2 | Qualify the Opportunity

Next, a sales rep in the first few meetings should begin qualifying a sales opportunity by considering whether it satisfies the basic BANT conditions:

  • Budget: Obviously, you should avoid spending time on an opportunity where there is no budget. Who controls the budget, and how big is it?
  • Authority: Talking exclusively to buyers who have little influence in the decision-making process rarely leads to closed business. How are decisions made? Does the person you’re meeting with have any influence? Zero in on how they make decisions, and whether it’s by consensus, committee, individual, and so on. Who are the decision-makers? What’s the strength of your relationship with them?
  • Need: If there is no well-defined need, it is not a real opportunity, and it will eventually stall. How can your solution address this need? What’s the problem? How does it impact the decision-makers? Who else in the organization is affected by the problem, and how? Can you meet with that person? Is solving this problem a priority?
  • Timing: Any opportunity needs an exact time frame to be qualified.

Is that enough? No. While BANT is a great starting point, here are other critical qualification criteria:

  • Business Impact: Have you identified the business impact of your solution on the buyer’s business, customers, competitive advantage, etc.? Can you quantify the impact?
  • Executive Advocacy: Do you have senior executive commitment and active support? If not, will your supporter give you access to senior executives?
  • Strategic Value: Is your solution linked to any strategic initiatives? Does it create new business opportunities for the buyer.

3 | Influence the Buying Criteria

Finally, influence the buying criteria. It’s easy to forget how much choice your buyer has and how difficult it can be for them to differentiate your solution from the next. What may be an obvious distinction to you may not be apparent to the buyer.

In many cases, buyers don’t know what they want. So, it’s your responsibility to explain why the buyer should select your solution instead of the alternatives. That means highlighting your advantages (e.g., technology, process, or people) over competitors’ by asking questions that position your differentiators.

For example, “Many of our customers are concerned about lack of integration between [X] and [Y}. Is that a concern of yours?” (Knowing that your technology seamlessly integrates [X] and [Y], while your competitors struggle here.) Or “Is JCAHO accreditation important to you?” (Knowing that your competition has yet to be accredited.)

When you follow the rule of 3’s as a sales manager, you’ll protect your time and set the stage for you to join your reps on calls later and keep the momentum going.

Learn how to transition star sales reps into high-performing sales managers

About David Jacoby

As a Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group, David helps large B2B sales organizations improve sales performance. Previously, David was a Principal at Linear Partners, a sales consulting firm providing sales strategy, sales operations, talent management, and interim management services to emerging growth companies. In the past, David has served as Vice President of Business Affairs of Xylo, Inc., where he was responsible for the Company's business development, sales operations, legal affairs, and financing activities.