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Why is Sales Planning Today’s no.1 Selling Skill?


How often have you heard business & sales leaders vocalising their frustration of poor sales forecasts that are not accurate, let alone predictable? Clearly delayed & lost deals impact sales productivity and in turn increase cost to the business. Yet, many businesses have made very significant investments in CRM systems, believing they will improve sales forecasting, yet they fail to address the core of the root cause of the issues!

Forecasting with probability factors does not address the problem, because you need both quantitative as well as qualitative data, which CRM systems do not provide.

Excellent preparation and strong planning skills are the key to unlocking these issues and therefore crucial to sales success and driving predictable outcomes, that deliver improved forecasts. Planning is the core skill which enables business leaders, sales leaders and sales professionals to be in control & manage outcomes consistently.

Don’t just take our word for it…

“Using SCOTSMAN® has revolutionised sales and sales management here at LINKFRESH. It is quick to use and gives far better visibility of every deal we are working. Fundamentally, it changes the sales team’s behaviour, making them prepare for meetings, where they ask the right questions, listen to the answers, and know what commitments they are going to ask for. The result is a shared plan with the prospect that in turn leads to great improvements in our ability to forecast deals.”
– Andy Makeham – CEOLINKFRESH Software Ltd

Companies of all sizes take steps to plan the implementation of any solution. Why is the same detailed rigour not applied for winning a sale? Winning sales needs to be a structured process, focused on the seller and buyer relationship, which means that both the sales team and the customer need to undertake activities to move the sale forward. Only then can one truly gauge how committed a customer is to the process and their intent to buy.

The act and proficiency level of action planning is the single biggest differentiator between high performers and low performers – whether it’s creating meeting plans, campaign plans or account plans.

However, it’s very important not to just create plans, since this is just half the story. Sales leaders need to review and measure them to determine the right outcomes. What about measuring the customer commitments? How many CRMs enable that? We know that winning sales is the accumulation of customer commitments and is crucial to having a meaningful pursuit that puts the customer at its core!

Measure what the customer actually does and not what they say – that is the true measure and quality of the opportunity!

My personal experience

During my time with Xerox, I learned a great deal from my mentor – Dermot Bradley – inventor of the SCOTSMAN® qualification and planning tool, plus Commitment Selling: the underlying sales methodology that has since been tried and tested by some of the biggest B2B organisations worldwide.

Dermot worked for IBM – moved from being a systems engineer into sales, sales management and then into sales training, initially for IBM and then Xerox.

He could not understand why salespeople did not qualify sales, or plan to sell timetables, just as he did in all post sales implementation activities. He completely changed how we viewed and approached qualification and planning.

He seeded a simple thought – be first past the winning post or first out of the race!

As a result of Dermot’s tools, concepts and thinking, we could review individual deal plans in 121s, plan customer commitments prior to meetings and track the outcomes and follow up actions. As a Sales Leader, it made forecasting so much easier and much more predictable. In terms of team productivity, it doubled their effective selling time and win rates, the real measure of success.

His approach had been used so effectively to accurately forecast and drive predictable revenue growth, that when I left Xerox, I bought his company and founded what is now Advance – Creators of SCOTSMAN®.

Advance and SCOTSMAN®

We are experts in pipeline management. This discipline depends on well-honed planning skills. Productivity improves when all the necessary planning and selling skills interoperate with a structured sales process, to create & win sales as well as developing account plans and relationships.

World class institutions, such as Harvard Business School, believe that today’s sales professionals need four key disciplines:

• Planning skills: Sales campaigns, qualification, negotiation
• Commercial skills: Understanding your customer’s business and the impacts of technology
• Relationship skills: Managing people and politics
• Analytical skills: Problem-solving, root cause analysis

Experienced sales professionals know that there are only two reasons why a sale was lost. Either you were outsold or shouldn’t have been there in the first place. So, aim to win first and if you cannot, qualify yourself out quickly!

SCOTSMAN® qualification and Commitment Selling draw on these skills, particularly sales planning. There is a lot of research that shows that even in today’s high-tech environment, opportunity planning is badly executed, leading to poor sales productivity and inaccurate forecasting.

Planning skills are critical. Whether using Salesforce or MS Dynamics 365 CRMs, customers tell us that SCOTSMAN® Commitment Manager is the best opportunity planning and time management tool on the market. Proven to support continuous qualification and planning, it provides data sets for forensic understanding of opportunities and their progress. This enables greater forecasting accuracy – Will they act? Will they act now? Will they act with us?

The average B2B sales professional spends 70% of their time losing, at a significant cost to your business. How does this compare to your teams?

Please call me for an informal chat on +44 7816 874 590. You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain!


Read more about how Advance can help you plan and win.

How to Achieve Predictable Consistent and Reliable Sales Forecasts

The New Science of Enabling Sales Excellence – implementation at Xerox showing how practical leadership, people and process improvements doubled revenue within 3 years.

Why Advance? Sales Enablement Model – How we deliver sales excellence by enhancing leadership, people and processes and the infrastructure to drive predictable forecasting and support profitable revenue growth.

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