In opportunity and pipeline management, sales leaders can inadvertently place a great deal of stress on the activity levels of their sales people. They may be targeted by the number of calls or meetings they generate or the number of opportunities assigned to their name in the pipeline, impacting quality. Importance is placed on account management and becoming trusted advisors but frequently, as forecasts play out, sales people come under great pressure to shore up the quarter and bring sales forward, often at great cost to the customer relationship not to mention the margin.
Many sales organisations have a ‘process for sales’ but few have a framework for robust ‘sales process management’. If there is poor sales process management, sales leaders are unable to make informed decisions as they are unable to gain a forensic understanding of the pipeline or the quality of individual opportunities at each stage of sale. Without the data sets to problem solve, they cannot operate as effective coaches and stress ensues.
Efficiency expects more output for the same input. Doing more of the same, with the same – or less. In opportunity and pipeline management, we typically see that efficiency measures at each stage of sale relate to the efficiency of the process not the effectiveness of the outcome. How many new prospects have been identified? How many new opportunities have been added? Or how many proposals have been submitted? This paints a picture of a very busy sales team and looks pretty on a dashboard, but it is important to avoid the trap of having very busy teams working on deals they will lose. Their valuable efforts should be focused on well qualified opportunities; winning the winnable.
Robust sales process management inspects qualitative data related to client contact and the effectiveness of this activity. This adds value and leads to better outcomes across four levers of sales excellence; selling hours, win ratios, sales velocities and transaction value.
Robust qualification provides rich qualitative data on each individual opportunity identifying the work needed to progress the deal. This prevents sales people going after the wrong opportunities and will increase available selling hours for the right ones. Data on the commitments gained from the customer will provide vital information about whether they are likely to buy from you, improving hit rates. Measuring timetable commitments, key milestones that the customer has defined for progressing the sale, is a powerful way of shortening the selling cycle which increases velocities. Objections can become deal killers. Qualifying opportunity robustly flushes out objections sooner, shifting the balance of power as the deal progresses, preventing real objections being raised at the end of the process. This drives up transaction values and prevents unexpected showstoppers near quarter ends.
The qualitative measures we have outlined provide the data sets needed to manage the sales process and intervene accordingly as an effective coach – ultimately driving the right behaviours within the sales team. The forensic understanding of the pipeline, achieved through these richer datasets, results in more accurate forecasts leading to predictable sales performance.
Sales processes based on quantitative data points also prevent best practices being shared. Sellers lack a clear understand of what good looks like. The first step to making a change is reviewing what works well in your organisation today and mapping the best practices of your top sales performers. The next is to document a roadmap of your sales process, reflecting enhanced data points based on qualitative measures and your current best practices, with playbooks that can be implemented by your entire sales team.
The final stage is to think through the best way of executing this enhanced process throughout the sales organisation. This may require the acquisition of new skills and behaviours, enhanced training resources and new tools for measurement and reporting to drive adoption and sustainability.
It is possible to create a sales team and process that are incredibly efficient. However, if they are ineffective and management is inspecting the wrong data, it will never lead to business success. Just quarterly cycles of the wrong behaviours and lost margin. The key is a top down approach and infrastructure for sales process management.
If this resonates with you, we’d love to hear your views.
Advance is an expert in Opportunity Management, using SCOTSMAN® at its core. We propose structure through a best-of-breed framework for managing the pipeline that drives robust qualification aligned with existing sales processes and a common language for understanding the quality of opportunities based on customer contact and commitments. We support the delivery of improved datasets, giving leaders forensic insight, for more accurate forecasting. SCOTSMAN® and Commitments redefine robust qualification and bring science to the art of selling. As well as our own training to equip for success, we offer a ‘train the trainer’ programme to other providers and a series of sustain initiatives, such as CRM integration, ongoing eLearning, coaching and reviews.