Skip to main content

Five Strategies for Sales Leaders to Align Sales Cycles with Client Timelines

By March 18, 2024No Comments
sales team working at a table

The adage “Time kills all deals” is a stark reminder that striking while the iron is hot and maintaining deal momentum is everything in the sales world. However, aligning deal timelines with client expectations and buying approach is an art that balances urgency with patience. When misalignment occurs, Sales Leaders often pressure teams to accelerate their efforts to meet their forecasts. This can inadvertently strain client relationships, leading to compromised negotiations, and even lost deals. It’s also the primary reason why deal slippage from quarter to quarter has become an industry norm.

Coaching your Sales Teams to properly understand client timeline drivers and helping them align their sales approach will turn time from a potential vulnerability into an asset in your sales strategy. You will also be a hero for consistently hitting your forecast

The top strategies Sales Leaders can use with their teams to align sales cycles with client timelines are as follows:

1. Understanding Client Timeline Drivers
Guide your teams to engage in early conversations with their client about their business strategy and market demands. Be clear about what drives their timeline and business case requirements for the opportunity. Properly understand the compelling case for action. Document these opportunity drivers and get the client to agree they reflect their requirements.

Then, help your teams identify the costs or risks of timeline slippage. This will test the importance of meeting this timeline and the likelihood of it slipping. You can also prompt your teams to conduct their own market research to add additional value to timing discussions.

2. Joint Bid Planning and Governance
Treat the bid with your Sales Teams like a carefully managed project. Ask them to produce a bid plan that has been jointly discussed and agreed upon with the client. The plan should also include the commitment to resources from both sides. Break it up into phases as you would a project, with clear milestones that can help you easily track and manage progress.

Then, help your teams implement a system of regular governance with the client that can prevent the deal from going off course. These regularly scheduled governance meetings are an essential proactive touchpoint for progress updates and are an excellent early warning system for potential delays. They will also help Sales Professionals avoid constantly chasing the client for their actions because they know they will have to report on their activities in the following governance meeting. Treating bids as projects can help your sales teams manage their clients to a successful timeline and outcome.

Building a timeline buffer for your sales forecasts is also a good idea. As a standard, we make a negotiating margin into our commercials, so why not also use a timeline contingency? Even the best-aligned and bid-managed opportunities usually slip a few weeks.

3. Aligning the Client Buying Journey
Ensure your teams customize their sales approach to fit the client’s buying journey, decision-making, and procurement processes. Understanding and mirroring these steps ensures that sales activities are aligned with the client’s culture and environment and will fuel bid momentum rather than create unnecessary friction. This also helps your teams build trust with the client and enhances the likelihood of deal closure.

Also, work with your teams to constantly monitor for more changes in the client’s business environment that could interfere with your opportunity timeline. This includes changes in client strategic priorities, initiatives competing for the same resources, or broader changes in market dynamics that could impact your deal timeline.

4. Client Stakeholder Coverage and Communication Plan
Work with your teams to properly map all client stakeholders in the buying process. Ensure your teams comprehensively cover all buying roles, such as approvers, decision-makers, political influencers, etc. As a result, it will be unlikely that unknown client stakeholders will suddenly surface as surprise detractors and slow progress late in the bid process. Single-threading client relationships and trying to play catch-up with unknown stakeholders when trying to close a deal are the primary factors in deal slippage.

Strategic communication plans are also vital. Confirm that your teams have an agreed-upon joint communication plan at the start of the bid and continue with regular updates to stakeholders on both sides. This ongoing dialogue ensures that everyone is aligned on the initiative’s vision, mission, and progress. These regular communications will help maintain deal momentum and accountability and are great for proactively soliciting client feedback.

It’s also a good idea to ensure your teams understand how they will collaborate with the client. Does the client prefer to collaborate via remote sessions? Will a joint team room be available to work on materials in real-time? Helping your team establish common ways of working with the client and aligning with language and culture is another great way to create greater bid traction.

5. Maintaining Momentum and What to Do if Timelines Are Slipping
Deals can lose momentum for several reasons: a weak value proposition or business case, poor alignment to the client’s strategy or broader market demands, lack of personal motivation from key sponsors, lack of client resource investment, poor bid planning and governance, political landscape interference, lack of understanding in decision making, poor alignment to the client buying process, or increasing time spent with your competition!

If your teams are losing momentum in their bid, Sales Leaders must immediately switch from cadence to coaching mode with their teams. This is the time to roll up your sleeves and help the team understand and resolve these barriers so they can progress quickly. So many Sales Leaders make the mistake of adding pressure on their teams to move more rapidly without troubleshooting the cause. This usually ends up with pressure being transferred directly onto the client. Pushing the client to move faster is one of the main reasons clients lose trust or become frustrated with sales teams.

Once you have determined where the barriers to progress are coming from, you can activate your Supporters or Partner Allies in your client relationship. A great test of the strength of your teams relationships with their clients is when they have critical stakeholders prepared to help you resolve these barriers to progress or even take on personal risk to stand up to resistance or political opposition on their side.

In the dynamic world of sales, forecasting accuracy and time are critical. To thrive, we must equip our teams with the tools to predict and adapt to the ever-changing currents of client needs and market demands. Aim for your teams to establish a timeline to synchronize your growth strategy with the client’s needs. This will ultimately lead to more consistent and reliable forecasts.

Aligning your sales cycle with your client’s timeline is not just about coordination; it’s a strategic move that shows respect for client processes and paves the way for trust. As Sales Leaders, ensuring your team is attuned to the client’s timeline can prevent the rush to close, which can lead to mistakes and deal slippage. Remember, a deal won at the cost of the client’s comfort is a poor victory unlikely to lay the foundations for future growth. The confluence of strategic alignment and client-centric timing isn’t just about closing deals; it’s about opening avenues for sustainable development and customer satisfaction that will stand the test of time.

Finally, the true measure of Sales Leadership is how we respond when timelines shift and momentum wavers. In these moments, we must demonstrate that our agility matches our foresight and be ready to coach our teams through obstacles, realign strategies, and reinvigorate stalled deals with renewed vigor.


Personal Challenge: To put these strategies into action:

  • Select a deal in progress and thoroughly review the client’s timeline.
  • Identify misalignments with your sales approach and immediately strategize with your team on realignment.
  • Document the adjustments made and monitor the deal’s progress. This hands-on approach will sharpen your skills in aligning with client timelines and provide firsthand insight into the strategies’ effectiveness.

Remember, your goal is not to speed up the client but to match their pace for a mutually beneficial outcome. Let’s turn forecasting into a precise science that respects the client’s needs and fosters enduring partnerships.



Leave a Reply

  • Reset