Designing Sales Productivity Datasets in CRMs for Complex Sales
How Sales Planning unlocks Accurate Forecasting

So, You Think You Know SCOTSMAN®

So you think you know SCOTSMAN

SCOTSMAN qualification - three way process

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    A lot of businesses we come into contact with already believe in the power of SCOTSMAN® and use it within sales as a checklist to qualify opportunities. But very few businesses appear to use SCOTSMAN® sales qualification to its full potential. Perhaps in some sales organisations, its purpose has become diluted over time or the original team has moved on. Perhaps unofficial training providers have been used, who may not themselves understand SCOTSMAN®’s true value.

    In this article we explain the key concepts of SCOTSMAN® and how it can be used most effectively to ensure forecasting accuracy.

    Misconceptions about Sales Qualification

    Qualification, and the associated sales behaviours, has been a major issue for many years, particularly with larger, more complex and political opportunities, bids and tenders. Poor qualification has always led (and still leads) to selling time being wasted and win rates being depressed.

    Although everyone talks of qualification, very few salespeople, to this day, actually walk away from opportunities. We suspect that many sellers don’t like the idea of sales qualification as they may believe that the process replaces an ‘instinct for selling’ and may tell them something they don’t wish to hear.

    Many sellers qualify opportunities by looking for the good things. ‘The customer has a big problem; you have a good solution to their problem; they have a budget, so let’s go!’ Six months work. What they haven’t told you is that the budget is not big enough, there is a consultant involved who has never recommended your company and your nearest competitor is 70% of your price. You are going to lose.

    We say look for the bad things. In any complex sale there are problems. These problems are real; they exist. The real way to qualify a sale is to be a pessimist. Look for the problems. It tells you what work is needed. For many in b2b sales, the idea of being negative does not sit easily on their shoulders.

    It requires superhuman courage to walk away from a sale if you have no other opportunities to work on. Many sellers may be finding themselves in a situation right now (due to pandemic volatility) where their pipeline is depleted and they want to go after everything they have sight of. This is understandable but incredibly problematic because if you are not robustly qualifying out the bad, you will never be prospecting the good. There is simply not enough time in the day.

    It is critical sellers are able to identify those they can win and quickly lose those they can’t, in order to maximise their selling time.

    Is Qualification a Yes/No? My Business is not Black and White

    As you go through some sales qualification checklists, you may get unsatisfactory answers to some of the questions. This is because in complex sales there will always be problems and things we don’t know. Rather than walk away from the sale at this point, the pragmatic way of handling qualification would be for qualification not to be a simple YES/ NO decision.

    With SCOTSMAN®, qualification is not a black and white process. The purpose is not to make a decision on whether or not to bid. It is much more subtle. It does not determine will we or won’t we. It guides how we will or should? It is in fact a three-way process; the results being: YES, I will bid; NO, I won’t bid; YES, I will bid but only IF….. This third option is the most important option because it enables you to handle obstacles to the sale early on.

    SCOTSMAN® qualification enables sellers to identify and handle obstacles to the sale, where decisions can be made about how to overcome them. This rigorous process identifies the areas of concern and helps inform salespeople about the actions needed to resolve them. It highlights the bad things, the show stoppers, the deal killers, so they don’t come back and bite later.

    Sales are scored across eight criteria:


    A true assessment on the chances of winning can only be made when all the difficulties related to each has been realistically tested. You would only walk away if you could not overcome the issues raised.

    Time Management and Win Rates

    The biggest waste of time for sellers are the deals they lose, so it stands to reason that by wasting less time losing, sellers spend more time winning. If a seller is winning one in four sales then 75% of his or her time is wasted. SCOTSMAN® qualification shortens the odds against winning considerably, by frequently testing the temperature of the sale to ensure it’s appropriate to progress. This means more time spent on selling and prospecting.

    Sellers will realise that they have done enough prospecting when they are able to turn business away so the two things almost become synonymous with each other. In this way, SCOTSMAN® is a salesperson’s most important time management tool. Spending more time chasing and winning winnable deals, means greater win rates which maximises seller productivity.

    When properly applied, the SCOTSMAN® methodology delivers a significant improvement in the effectiveness of how salespeople spend their time and subsequently the win rates they achieve. Additionally, the systematic expansion of the concept of SCOTSMAN® to include the seeking of customer commitments, has produced a multi-faceted selling process, with considerable internal structure, which doubles its power. We’ll explain how in the next section.

    Putting Structure in the Unstructured

    In complex sales, sellers need a structured and consistent way of handling sales calls and events, managing the politics and securing commitment from the most influential people. This sort of structured planning is the difference between winning and losing the winnable.

    In order to conduct sales planning in a structured way, sales teams need to be able to reduce ambiguity around decision-making and be clear on the work needed to secure a win. SCOTSMAN® qualification is not complete until it has identified the work needed, which crystalizes decision-making. In this way, it plays a pivotal role in sales planning and in bringing the opportunity under better control to avoid unwanted surprises in the final stages.

    In addition, SCOTSMAN® focusses the sales process on the quality of physical actions undertaken by the customer, to accurately forecast whether the customer will buy, when they will buy and, most importantly, whether they will buy from your business.

    The true quality of an opportunity is not what we do, it’s what the customer does. So, by tracking physical actions from the buyer, we provide evidence that backs up the forecast; the likelihood of winning the sales is determined by the accumulation of customer commitments.

    Forecasting and Reporting

    Losing deals you expect to win destroys sales productivity and has a negative impact on sales forecasting and the predictability of business results.

    The availability of good data results in sales management based on fact. This is where we believe SCOTSMAN® adds considerable value, because it produces accurate metrics to score the sale and an additional set of KPIs for leaders to inspect and be able to coach. This unlocks a forensic understanding of the pipeline and enables robust forecasting.

    Turning sales into a more of a science than an art may raise a few eyebrows among sellers, but it’s important for the eyebrow-raisers to understand that reviewing and planning deals using SCOTSMAN® is not an onerous process that takes anything away from the excellence and individuality of the sellers themselves.

    SCOTSMAN® simply sets a common language, a uniformity to processes and a clear direction to sellers (of the need to constantly measure the actions and behaviours of prospects) to make sure the opportunity still exists and is progressing on track.

    Based on years of best practice, SCOTSMAN® is a tried and tested method for not just going after the winnable, but in structuring yourself to actually win the winnable.

    Do you want to know more about what a SCOTSMAN® solution could do for your sales operations?

    Our SCOTSMAN® Pipeline Simulator Game is a powerful team-based opportunity management educational tool. Delivered virtually, with a dedicated Gamemaster, it can be deployed as a fully facilitated exercise, during various sales team initiatives to challenge existing thinking and behaviours.

    Do you already use SCOTSMAN® but would like to enhance how it is practiced internally?

    Only available through Advance and our Official Partners, SCOTSMAN Sales Pipeline Qualification Training evaluates a complex sales pipeline and explores the concepts of SCOTSMAN® and Commitment Selling in relation to generating and managing better opportunities. We coach on robust qualification and SCOTSMAN® for planning and time management purposes.

    Mike Wilkinson
    Mike Wilkinson
    Managing Director Advance - Creators of SCOTSMAN®