Suppose you came into work bright and early on a Monday morning, just four days before the end of the quarter. You glided to your desk with that quiet confidence of a sales leader who was going to blow away their quarterly target. As usual, one of your first tasks is to fire up your CRM and check the status of your team’s sales pipeline and forecast. To your shock, you see 1/4 of the deals your team forecasted to close this quarter have pushed to the next quarter. Now what?
For one thing, this is the start of a no good, terrible, rotten, very bad day. It’s bad enough it seems likely your team will miss it’s forecast and quarterly target. But even worse is the panic and sales hysteria that follows to artificially accelerate deals to close in just four days by short-term actions like discounting (with severe long-term effects) or other costly concessions. And it’s obviously not a great reflection on your insight on your team’s business for 25% of your pipeline to evaporate at quarter end.
If any of this sounds uncomfortably familiar, you might have a sales process problem. With over two decades consulting with some of the world’s leading sales organizations on their sales process, I’ve found three very common sales process problems which lead to these unpredictable sales pipelines:
- Sales process progression is determined by sales activity completion with little thought the buyer’s decision-making stages. Instead set customer driven criteria to determine sales process progression and have everyone in your organization agree on how to objectively judge the customer’s progress towards a decision.
- Your sales process reads like a checklist of complicated activities or tasks that are required by your salespeople to complete, with little thought given to what the customer actually needs to move towards the next step in their decision. Sales process activities are meant to provide guidance and direction to your team on how and when actions should happen to strengthen alignment with your customer’s decision process, guiding them towards the best option they’re considering.
- The last stage of your sales process is closing the deal, not following the customer through their implementation and assessment of if the solution met their needs. If the customer senses your sales process is more about closing the deal than providing them the best solution, you’ll always be out of sync leading to win-lose negotiations and unpredictable decision-timeframes.
To prevent the shock and dismay of seeing forecasts go awry, I urge you to assess your sales process to avoid these three common problems. It’ll make your pipelines and sales forecasts a whole lot more predictable and reduce the number of horrible, rotten, no good, very bad days you’ll have to endure!
In partnership with the Sales Management Association, we’re delivering a four-part series of webinars titled Building a Sales Dynasty. Establishing a buyer-aligned, seller friendly sales process is core to building a high-performing sales organization that consistently exceeds targets while strengthening customer loyalty.
Join us on April 5 for part 4 of Building a Sales Dynasty: Get & Grow the Right People for Your Sales Process.
Or contact us if you’d like a complimentary assessment of your sales process to see if there’s areas you could improve.
For 24 years, Andy Smith has been helping some of the world’s leading sales organizations, including Honeywell, MasterCard, ExxonMobil, Microsoft, and others increase their effectiveness through improved sales process execution, better sales coaching, consultative sales skill development, and higher CRM adoption. Andy holds a degree from Baylor University and prior to joining AXIOM he served in senior sales leadership roles for Sales Performance International, AchieveGlobal, and Acclivus Corporation. He started his career in sales with Xerox before joining ExxonMobil where he discovered his passion for the sales performance improvement profession. Andy lives in Denton, Texas. Ask Andy about his very average golf game, radio broadcasting of high school sports, or his three adorable grand babies.