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Improving Sales Productivity of Team Pursuing Very Large Deals


The clients of this corporation's business unit were primarily the Fortune 500 companies. Deals ranged in size from $500 Million to $2 Billion and up to 10 years in term. Complex in nature, deals involved selling at multiple levels including at times the Board of Directors.

The business unit was struggling with long sales cycle-time (an average of 18 months) and low close-ratio. Turn-over rate among the highly experienced group of sales professional (15 years of average work experience) was high, in spite of the potential for significant earnings.

Solution Approach

1. Unearth the techniques employed by the successful sales reps
2. Evaluate if the unsuccessful sales reps were employing the successful techniques
3. Incorporate the successful techniques into the selling process
4. Measure and track the use of the successful techniques

Solution and Results

Interviewing sales management and the successful sales reps brought up several ideas and factors - approaching the right level (C-level executive), focusing on solution-selling, leveraging existing relationships, demonstrating value in concrete terms, listening to the client and many others. However, the unsuccessful sales reps also quoted the same factors and professed to use them. It was not immediately clear what made the successful sales reps succeed.

After more analysis the answer became clear. Successful sales reps developed an executive-level champion in the client organization - one with “skin in the game”. What did “skin in the game” mean? It meant an executive who had stuck their neck out and said they were going to see this deal through; or had committed to their board 1 to 2 cents additional earnings per share (through savings) due to this deal.

On evaluating the opportunities in the pipeline, it was found that only 15% of the opportunities had champions identified and the sales reps were working actively towards empowering the champions. This metric was an eye-opener. It was now clear what the successful reps were doing to win opportunities.

The sale process was modified to include “champion development” as one of the main litmus tests during opportunity reviews. Metrics were setup to track and measure the % of opportunities with champions and the quality of the champions developed. Opportunities where it was difficult to develop a champion began to be eliminated earlier in the sales process, focusing sales rep efforts on only the most promising deals. Win-ratio and sales cycle-time began to improve as more sales reps developed champions.