If you are not in a new sales role, you can benefit from this article too! In my many years of engaging global sales teams, I am now seeing the most fluid market of sales talent I have ever seen. Great sellers are being attracted elsewhere with promises of more opportunity, compensation, and impact of their success. Others are moving to new roles in their own company for much of the same reason.
Many people I have spoken to recently have only been in their new role for a short time. Yet, they are woefully underprepared and are potentially staring failure in the face. But that is not how it felt in the first week or two in the new role. The sense of anticipation was palpable!
Whether your market is taking over large, established strategic accounts, conquering a new vertical market that needs to be developed, or leading business development to find and close new accounts, your “speed to revenue” will now depend on how you plan and execute the first 60 days. The following steps will provide the best chance of early success.
1. Start to Build Your Timeline for Success
Begin by quickly getting a sense for the expectation as to when you need to deliver your first order/booking/contract – whatever it is called at your organization. This should drive your initial strategy. Ask what success would look like in six months and by year one as well. You do not need to assess whether this is a reasonable expectation or not yet, the other steps will help you make this determination.
Create a timeline and write down “first sale achieved” on the middle of the timeline, so you can then plot the milestones to securing the first sale, as well as other important milestones beyond the first sale. This timeline will likely be six months or even a full year but you can break it down into more detail as you go. It is reasonable for the first two to four weeks to be focused on step two.
2. Perform Research and Gather Internal Intelligence
This is probably the most critical step and more important than many salespeople think. Great research and leveraging your curiosity will turn up gems of information that will become very valuable. Your initial month in a role allows you to ask all sorts of questions others may not be as open to later. If there are existing salespeople or account support people who are leaving the accounts or territory you have inherited, they are a great source.
Use this time to dig deep…
- What client case studies can you leverage?
- What are the most recent client successes? What was their challenge?
- What are the buying personas that buy the fastest and what are their typical business issues that drive the purchase?
- What buying roles typically sign off on the purchase and what are they looking for in their decision-making?
- Who do we compete with typically and why do we win or lose?
- What do our customers say as to why they chose us in the first place?
- How is our customers satisfaction? What do they like most or least about us post sale?
- What is the average client tenure with us? What is our average renewal rate?
- Do we have any current delivery challenges I should be aware of?
Make sure to reach out to your internal sources quickly. Do a preliminary review of the CRM system for their opportunities sold and proposed, so you are worthy of their time investment with you, and then demonstrate your appreciation for what you have seen or read. Remember, they may have emotionally checked out and be moving on to a new role too, so you will be the driver.
Ask them to send you all important client related emails for the past 30 days, any significant issues, contact information for the key players (vCards in Outlook), major sales presentations they made in the last six months, existing contracts, and any open proposals. The more contact information you get, the better… even if they have not spoken to them for the last year. Treat every contact that you can get as an opportunity. If you can get them to provide some sort of profile of the contact, this will accelerate your progress. A personal introduction email can be a nice start, but just remember, their strength of their business relationship may not be great, so you will have to be ready for potential damage control to create a new start.
Whatever information you gather, don’t worry about asking them to filter the information – the goal is to get as much as possible in the shortest time with the least effort from the people you are asking. Do not expect your manager to make that happen… they likely expect you to navigate the water on your own.
3. Look for Low Hanging Fruit
In the first 30 days, listen and look for any past or existing sales opportunities, as you can often re-ignite them and possibly close them for an early win. Looking at the prior sales proposals and presentations, evaluate it as the buyer – was it compelling, differentiated from the competition, etc.? What would you do differently? Then, following up with the contacts can give you some perspective on how they viewed the situation – so you can go back with a stronger value proposition from your consultative and collaborative conversation.
Looking at the offerings sold in this space to date, are there any add-on products or services your new clients would benefit from? It is human nature for many salespeople to sell the same offerings to different clients or upsell more of the same, rather than positioning other offerings as it takes extra effort to get good at the messaging and positioning. This may be the case here. Being new to the client, look at those offerings to create a fast start.
In any case, the low hanging fruit (those easiest to harvest) can build your early pipeline.
4. Size Your Funnel
Now is the time to gain a perspective on the activity you will have to undertake to create the rest of your pipeline. I recommend you determine some basic sales metrics for your success: your targeted average deal size, a typical sales cycle duration, and funnel to close progression metrics. This includes what percentage of sales discussions will move from prospect to a qualified opportunity, and how many proposals you will have to make to convert to a win.
With these targets, you can calculate how many people you need to meet every week and how many proposals in a month you need to achieve your goals. The number will be scary; it always is when starting new. Yet, the plan is important! Note your contact plan below your timeline, including the metrics above to keep it top of mind and show your new leader the depth of your thinking. Set aside time every week on the same two days to make your calls, write introductory emails, and leverage LinkedIn. The discipline around this element of the plan is one that will give you guaranteed results.
5. Gain Management Support for Your Plan
After you have created your plan and timeline, present it to your manager for their input and support. By demonstrating you have a plan, it puts you in great stead for their support.
By following the steps above, you will give yourself the very best chance of success in your new role. I wish you every success!
Whether in a new role or not, try writing down a timeline to improve your territory coverage, then position times to advance your research. Is there any low hanging fruit you have missed? What new doors could you potentially open? Document an activity plan.