The search for the perfect balance between what your sales people say and what the data in your CRM reflects reminds me of reading about Ponce de Leon’s 16th century search for the Fountain of Youth. Expeditions were provisioned and ships set sail for the new world, but despite great effort and expense, the fountain remained elusive and ultimately undiscovered.
Sales people are interesting, complex and highly differentiated. Like snowflakes, no two are perfectly alike, and generalizations can be unwise. That said, for the purposes of this discussion, it serves my purpose to discuss two “personas” whose attributes you may recognize in some of your salespeople. I will call them Harry “Happy Ears” and Sally “Sandbagger”.
When you look at your pipeline and opportunity management process – collectively known as your sales process – you are often balancing what the forecast and opportunity notes reflect against either Harry “Happy Ears” tendency to be unrealistically optimistic or Sally “Sandbagger”’s proclivity to never commit a deal to the forecast until the day it closes.
In the many, many forecast and business reviews I have conducted, there are some Harry and Sally moments that will be forever etched in my mind. For example:
Q. Harry, why do you think this deal will close by the end of the month?
A. Because they like me!
Q. Anything else, for instance do you know what steps remain to getting the deal done?
A. Nah, but don’t worry, I’m taking my contact to an expensive lunch and a ballgame this week. And they really like me!
Q. Sally, you have made your number 12 straight quarters in a row, but you are forecasting to be at 20% this quarter, should I be concerned?
A. No, I always make my number
Q. Then why aren’t you forecasting any deals for this quarter?
A. Because I don’t have the PO’s yet.
While these conversations may be humorous in retrospect, when you are trying to make your number and understand your deals, there is nothing funny about not being able to discern which deals are real and which are not.
So what do you do? The “black art” way is to handicap and arbitrage without having the necessary underlying information. For Sally, you take the bet that she can be counted on for 13 deals this quarter and hope that 13 is not her (and your) unlucky number. For Harry, you adjust his forecast down and then tell your manager to jump in and micromanage the sales process in the hopes that you can find the bedrock of his forecast and rebuild from there.
The state-of-the-art method today is to define and then track the discrete and necessary checkpoints for opportunity advancement. For example, if there is no budget, or identified compelling need, then your opportunity likely has an empirically lower measurable probability of closing in your timeframe. If an opportunity has little or no activity and has sat in a stage for two or three times longer than similar deals in your wheelhouse, then the opportunity is stale and this points to trouble.
If you can capture the important attributes of your opportunities without sentencing your salespeople to the land of a thousand clicks and at the same time, remove from their purview the ability to color their deals with their subjective Harry or Sally bias, then you have the foundation for a more accurate, predictable and controllable sales process.
For more on this, please check out my 0n-demand webinar with my sales VP friend, John True on “How to Supercharge Your Sales Process”.
In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about how TopOPPS addresses this problem, by giving you the right tools to define, manage and control your sales process, please contact us at 800.222.2323 or let us give you a demo.