Building Quality Pipeline for Complex Sales

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Companies that have complex sales solutions have additional challenges in meeting their revenue targets because it is even harder to predict if a deal will close.  Anything can go wrong to delay or even stop the deal from closing. This is a major problem that many of our clients struggle with. SOMAmetrics specializes in helping clients address a number of issues related to complex sales and this article discusses some important points executives should think through.

For discussion purposes, we will define a complex sale as one that typically targets large organizations (fortune 2000 companies and government entities); poses significant risk and cost for the customer; involves at the very least a handful of key stake holders besides the final economic decision maker; many times involves a CEO, CFO, or CIO (a CXO); where decision making process is complex; and is usually the result of a company or division-wide initiative.

To complicate things further, even among similar companies, different tiles may be in charge of the same initiative or drive, making it difficult to determine where to begin the prospecting process. Hence, a complex sale involves significant research time to uncover the many moving parts and weave together a coherent sales opportunity assessment:

  1. What is the driving issue/initiative behind all this?
  2. Who are the key stakeholders that must be involved? What are the key pain points and concerns of each?
  3. Who has the most urgent pain and therefore wants to see this taken care of sooner than later?
  4. From where is the funding going to come for this? Is it all in one place (department or division), or will it be shared, and how?
  5. When all is said and done, who is the final decision maker?

These are only some of the early questions that must be answered to even understand if there is a viable sales opportunity or not.

Using Sales Reps to Prospect is NOT a Good Idea

Often, we find that companies rely on their field sales reps to prospect and find viable opportunities in complex organizations from scratch.

We don't think this is a good idea. This task is very different from what sales reps are very good at--calling on prospects who have agreed to see the sales rep. It requires making 10-15 dials just to reach John Doe who may or may not even be the right person to start with. Then, John only has time for a quick conversation and suggests the rep call Jane Smith. Another 20 dials later, the rep finally reaches Jane, who adds more to the story and suggests that the rep also give Maggie and Mike a call. And so on.

And this is only the first round of calls. There will be follow up calls to one or more of these stake holders to find out more about one or more issues.

It is not unreasonable to expect that 500 or more dials might be made into a single account to determine whether or not there is a viable opportunity to move forward.

The question here is: who is better at quickly and cost effectively uncovering viable sales opportunities? A field rep that will, on average, make 10-20 dials a day, or a professional Teleprospector who regularly makes 70-80 dials a day?

Our experience repeatedly shows that field sales reps engage in early prospecting ONLY when their pipeline dries up. This in turn makes it very difficult for companies to reliably forecast what their revenues look like more than 3-4 months out.  Since the sales cycle for most complex sales products tend to be six months or more, this means that a company cannot reliably predict revenues outside of the current quarter.

Our recommendation is to use Teleprospecting to build the sales pipeline for the field sales. This avoids the yo-yo effect and makes revenue target more reliable. In this scenario, a senior Teleprospector will do all of the initial research to gather the coherent sales opportunity story and pass it on as a Sales Qualified Lead. This opportunity story is a synopsis of what the key initiatives are; which departments or divisions are directly involved; who the key stake holders are, which CXO is driving this initiative; what the individual pains, concerns, and desires of the various stake holders are; and what a reasonable timeframe looks like for making a final decision on the solution to this set of challenges.

Choosing the Right Person for the Job

The right type of Teleprospector to successfully perform this would have the following qualities:

  • Was quota-bearing field or inside sales professional who understand sales and particularly complex sales into enterprise account
  • Is very comfortable and successful at accessing and selling to CXO’s
  • Has the right temperament to work alone as well as to enjoy interacting with others
  • Is an avid learner, always trying to learn more about his/her industry and what the pain-points and new concerns for the targeted CXO’s are
  • Understands that this is painstaking work that will require hundreds of dials and many dozens of conversations that may or may not lead anywhere, and still enjoys the hunt
  • And finally, the right senior Teleprospector is results driven and has a strong sense of urgency

This is a specialty area and the right person must be matched to the job.

SOMAmetrics helps clients build quality pipeline for their complex sales by assembling all of the various components necessary to deliver the desired amount and quality of pipeline including: project management; best practices; marketing and sales automation; expert Teleprospecting; and clearly defined metrics against which performance is measured each month.

Alicia Assefa is intimately familiar with building quality sales pipeline for complex sales. As VP of Global Teleprospecting for a global software company, her team of 35 Teleprospectors supported five Business Units: Enterprise Management Solutions (EPM; Workload Automation; Project Portfolio Management Security; and Mainframe).  Each Teleprospector carried a SQL to Sales Funnel Quota of $10M and a SQL to Closed Deal Quota of $4M. One division with eight sales reps generated $80M in Sales Funnel and $32M in revenue from the SQLs provided by Alicia’s team.  The same resulted for the other business units.

As General Manager of the SOMAmetrics Sales and Inside Sales Practice, Alicia brings her expertise in helping clients design end-to-end solutions for building quality sales pipelines for complex sales.

Read Alicia's latest book on the topic, "Teleprospecting for Executives who Sell Complex Solutions", detailing Alicia's experience, knowledge, and philosophy on building highly effective Inside Sales and Teleprospecting Organizations.

Please contact Alicia Assefa today at 510 206 9263 or email her at Alicia@somametrics.com