Why the Best Sales Professionals Can Time Travel

Todd Gracon
4 min readFeb 12, 2018

Do you ever wonder what it would feel like to time travel? When asked what your superhero power would be, do you ever consider mastering the ability to move both forward and backwards in time?

If you’re in sales, this question is more serious than it is silly. The truth is that the best sales professionals know how to manipulate time to their advantage.

The sales process isn’t a linear progression of carefully controlled steps. There’s no single hierarchy of power. But the sales cycle does feature patterns and achievements or milestones. These milestones range from making the first contact with a prospect to technical wins, business cases, budgets, security reviews, approvals, paper process, booking, and ultimately ensuring a successful deployment of the solution.

In a modern, technology-driven sales world, these steps are continuously changing and adapting to new applications, systems, people and workflows. Ultimately, however, the sales cycle is contingent on the prospect’s buying cycle — something that can feel entirely out of your control. But what if you could mirror your customer’s buying cycle with a sales cycle that can time travel?

Take a simple sales cycle, for example. The process usually goes like this: target a lead, get a prospect, do some discovery, do a demo, validate the budget, get paperwork to prospect, get signatures and proof of payment, and then book an order and assign a customer success team.

The vast majority of account executives simply manage the cycle from one step to the next. We’ve all seen it: the AE is so focused on getting to the demo meeting that he or she loses sight of what needs to happen afterward.

By understanding what comes after the meeting, however, you can actually accomplish some of those steps in the meeting itself. Instead of just inviting the business lead, for example, you can send an email saying, “Typically, we have three groups attend the meeting: architects, business lead, and the security team. The security team should stay an extra 30 minutes, as they usually want to review our policies.”

But time travelling involves more than just anticipating next steps and expediting them; it’s a dynamic process that should seep into every interaction with a prospect. Some of the best sales reps use time travel to own the process to guide the prospect during an interaction. They’ll ask good questions and make proactive plans such as:

  • Upon completion of the demo, who would be instrumental in the successful deployment of this solution? We should have those individuals attend.
  • Who is the executive sponsor for this project? We should have her attend the first 15 minutes of the demo so she can outline the key goals.
  • We should align your executive sponsor with our VP as soon as possible to ensure our companies are aligned for your success.

These statements don’t just make it easier for the AE to transition from step-to-step; they actively guide the prospect through the sales cycle.

Time travel is equally crucial when it comes to managing the paper process. The best reps will not only find out who the final signature is, but they’ll also start to pull in the people responsible for the solution delivery from the customer side. There are some fantastic ways of framing this; a personal favorite of mine was hearing a rep say, “I understand Susan is the final signature and that she is not traveling the next two weeks, but what I want to ensure is that Bill’s team has blocked time next Monday to begin the implementation with our customer success team.” By locking in Bill’s team there is now a stronger back stop for a paper close date.

Given its obvious benefits, why isn’t time travelling a trendier skill for AEs to pick up? The truth is that it can be difficult. It requires anticipation, planning, and a knack for asking good questions. It also requires the boldness to fearlessly forge ahead through the sales cycle.

But above all, it requires logistical planning. It’s not enough to simply find out who is involved in next steps or which signature is most important. You have to send calendar invites, carefully log your demo notes, get contract modifications approved, and follow up relentlessly. It can be a lot to juggle, and there are lots of small steps you might forget.

Technology is making it easier, though. Intelligent automation platforms are increasingly user-friendly and simple to pick up, even for salespeople. You can receive automatic Slack reminders to log your demo after it finishes, for example. And you can create a Slack-based deal desk for seamless contract modifications and approvals in Salesforce. Today, the tech tools needed for sales time travelling are more accessible than ever before. So why aren’t you doing it?



Todd Gracon

Todd Gracon is a sales executive with 20+ years of experience. He currently works as VP of Sales at Workato.