Salespeople and sales organizations are notoriously bad at forecasting. A quick glance at the pipeline will most likely present a picture of lots of opportunities at various stages of the sales process, all of which are assigned some percentage that indicates the likelihood of that opportunity closing.
Regardless of the worthlessness of some metrics, forecasting can be a valuable exercise for sales managers and even more valuable for salespeople. These two questions will do much to make sure you are where you think you are, and that you know how to move your opportunity to where it needs to go.
Have I Obtained All of the Commitments Necessary to Forecast This Opportunity?
A sales process is made up of activities that must be completed to move an opportunity from its opening to it’s eventual close; it is a roadmap. At each stage of the process there are commitments that your dream client must agree to and keep in order for you to move the opportunity through the process.
Would it be that easy? Ask this question, “Have I obtained all of the commitments necessary to forecast this opportunity?” If you have missed commitments that are earlier in the sales process, if you have missed capturing information or gaining access to individuals within your dream client’s company, you are not ready to forecast this opportunity with any accuracy.
“But wait,” you say, “I have accomplished most of what is in one stage and most of what I need in the next stage. And I already presented.” Here is the thing, by failing to obtain the crucial and critical commitments that indicate that you have successfully advanced the opportunity, you have destroyed your ability to forecast that opportunity with any accuracy.
Asking this question can help you determine with how much confidence you can accurately forecast your likelihood of winning.
And what if you missed some commitments? Not to worry, your sales process is not linear, despite its appearance as codified on paper. You can go back over some of the ground you covered to pick up what you missed.
What Commitments Must I Obtain Between Now and Closing?
Wherever your opportunity is in the sales process, you’ll still need more commitments between now and closing. If you have a solid, effective sales process, you will have these commitments at hand.
Selling is a messy game, and it’s rarely as simple as checking the boxes. Sometimes certain actions have to be taken that don’t appear in your sales process. Sometimes you’ll need additional information and additional commitments. Sales is as much an art as it is science, and part of the art is recognizing what needs to happen to advance your opportunity.
Your sales process, for example, may not include the step where your Regional Vice President make a call to your dream client’s Regional Vice President, to ask for access to someone on his team. It is equally unlikely to mention nurturing that relationship with a stakeholder three levels deep in the organization, one with no formal authority but with enough influence to derail your opportunity or destroy your solution’s chance of succeeding.
For that matter, no sales process is vast enough to contain the multitude of coffees, lunches, introductions to vendors and partners, informal phone calls, emails, and all of the other communications and commitments that grease the skids of your opportunity and move it forward.
Even so, you have to identify those commitments and take those actions if you want to win your dream client. If you are going to forecast an opportunity with any reasonable accuracy, you have to account for what needs to be done between today and the closing date you have targeted.
Look at your pipeline and your sales forecast. Are there opportunities that are missing commitments you needed to obtain in an earlier stage?
How does missing a commitment to grant access to the individuals you need to meet with, within your dream client’s company, reduce the likelihood of successfully winning your opportunity? How does missing the information you needed to propose the right solution and to ensure its success reduce your chance of winning a deal or successfully implementing your solution?
Pick your most promising opportunity. What has to happen between today and the date you have forecasted this opportunity to close? What actions do you need to take to obtain the right commitments? Which commitments will require assistance from others on your team or your dream client’s team?
What commitments do you need to obtain that don’t exist on your sales process roadmap?
Attaching our latest brief on the Modern Seller here for you as well: https://www.mattallendevelopment.com/post/m-allen-executive-brief-the-modern-sellerHappy selling!