It’s that time of year, everyone’s focused on getting the second quarter done. The year’s half way over, managers are reviewing deals and forecasts. We’re doing all we can to get deals closed, to finish the first half on or above target.
It’s a time of great frustration to sales managers. I get in lots of conversations, “The forecast keeps slipping, there’s no predictability, and I don’t know what’s really going to close!”
It’s true, you look at the history of deals, the forecast close date keeps moving—always in the wrong direction. You talk to the sales person, they say, “This time it’s for sure, the deal will come in by the end of the quarter!” The natural follow up question from the manager is, “Why, it’s already slipped 2 times, what gives you confidence that it will happen now.”
The response is usually something like, “Trust me, it’s going to happen this time, I’ve got it under control!”
The reality is they don’t have it under control. The reason is they aren’t using the sales process, they are in pure react mode. They react to something the competition has done, they react to something that’s happened with the customer, they are always reacting and responding.
These sales people have no plan, they don’t understand the customer’s buying process, they aren’t executing their selling process. They have no idea of what comes next, they have no idea of what it takes to win. All they can do is react and respond.
It’s no wonder the forecast keep slipping, the sales person has no plan, they aren’t in control—someone else is. They have no idea what to do next.
These sales people are busy, but they don’t close deals. Look at their pipeline reports, no progress through the pipeline—or if there is, it’s a result of wishful thinking, not the result of purposefulness.
There’s another problem with this bumper car approach to selling. The sales person is providing no leadership to the customer, they are reacting only, they are responding, but they are not creating value. The odds of winning in this response only orientation drop significantly. Sales people may be chasing deals, but their win rates plummet.
The sale will happen, when it happens…… This is unacceptable, we don’t need sales people to do this!
We expect—we depend on sales people to meet their commitments to generate business, not whenever the order might come in, but when they say the order will come in.
The only way we can have any predictability to the forecast is through sharp execution of a sales process that is aligned with the customer buying process. Anything else is just a random walk.
We expect people to maximize their win rates—they need to offer the customer leadership in their buying process. To offer leadership, they must have a plan and they must be executing that plan. The selling process is the foundation for generating and executing that plan.
Managers have a responsibility in helping assure there is integrity to the dates in the forecast. Coaching opportunities, coaching the pipeline, embedding the sales process into these discussions. If managers don’t constantly reinforce the sales process, the sales people won’t use it, they won’t improve the sharpness of execution. In the press of day-to-day activities, they will slip into response mode.
Want to improve forecast integrity and target close dates, make sure you have a strong sales process in place and it is being executed. Embed the process into every discussion and review you have.
Are you and your people purposeful about your pipelines and sales strategies?
(For a free copy of our eBook: Forecasting, Moving Beyond The Crystal Ball, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org)