Long Sales Cycles Require “Learning Paths” to Align the Buying Committee

Jamie Shanks
Jamie Shanks

Does your sales team have 6-18 months sales cycles? Is the buying committee involves 5-10 people on every customer transaction? Does it feel like your sales team needs to draw from everything they’ve learnt in The Challenger Sale, Customer Centric Selling, and Value Selling… insert sales methodology here?

Problem: your deals are stalling. Sales cycles seem to be lengthening. Your win conversion is lower than the industry benchmark of 25% of all opportunities. Why?

One of the core reasons for this is “the spinning plate theory”, popularized by CEB’s – The Challenger Customer book. The concept is simple – each member of the buying committee is focused on THEIR priorities, learning at THEIR pace, and NOT centralizing their information gathering.

Your sales team can’t make the mistake of running generic “sales plays” to these accounts – who have probably hosted a Discovery Call(s) and even reviewed a Proposal from your team. Treating the ACCOUNT as one nurturing cycle, in which the sales professional will send case studies and client testimonials to all key stakeholders in the account… is a grave mistake!

Key stakeholders are… people. These people are arming themselves with information to make informed decisions, SEPARATELY AND IN A SILO.

In an example:

  • Your champion – the Director of HR, is 100% bought in.
  • Economic decision-maker – CHRO, is only aware of the project that’s being scoped, at 33%.
  • Signing authority – CFO has no idea of the project, and was going to send an email to the company about tightening budgets, is 0% bought in.
  • Influencer #1 – The VP, Operations – has a competing initiative that she wants to position to C-level executives, is 10% bought in.
  • Influencer #2 – The VP, Marketing – really likes the idea, and is in lock-step with the champion. 80% bought in.

You have to recognize that you’re dealing with emotional humans.

Solution: Designing Learning Paths – these are helpful insights that are deployed to people, individually, focused on un-tangling their particular issues. The best-in-class sales team’s work together to think through the most logical sticking points for customers, and build Learning Paths that deal with each type of emotional human.

Here is a diagram that outlines the three most common Learning Paths our customers build stories for:

Designing learning paths

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