We all recognize how important forecasting calls are. Without them, how can we successfully call the number? The challenge is that most often, the time spent on forecasting calls is “weighing the pig” or “priming the sunshine pump.” We spend a tremendous amount of time scrubbing the numbers and estimating the likely revenue number based on a weighted average, how much time is left in the month/quarter, and whether or not a given team is overly optimistic or a sand bagger.
Worse, we burn cycles inquiring about the deal and next steps. Many managers use this inquiry to assess whether or not the sales team truly has a clear understanding of what has yet to be done on both our side and the prospect side. Lest we forget, the same questions are being asked of other leaders and other sales teams, who themselves are in fact great sellers. What I mean is they are great at responding and producing answers and sound as though they have a very effective command-and-control. Okay, most of the time. Sometimes, we do start to see cracks in the boat. That said, with no offense intended to anyone:
Why should we let the sales team tell us whether or not a deal is coming in?
Wouldn’t it be far more accurate to have the customer/prospect tell us whether or not the deal is coming in? Also, it’s exaggerated by the fact that more often than not, the sales teams are describing their interpretation of why the client will or will not purchase. We SHOULD actually be looking through the customer’s EYES and reviewing their feedback to determine if they’re going to purchase.
Please don’t hold it against me if I sound too Pollyannish. But, if we really think about the time spent in assessing the forecast we are burning minutes. If we truly have systemic usage of mutual success plans validated with the customer and are able to roll up key elements from within it, we could actually more accurately call the number. Our customers would be telling us, if and when the deal is coming in.
In ValueSelling terms we would have a series of events that demonstrate how we’ve proven our ability to deliver, and the events that will get them to the resolution of their key objective, aka, Business Issue. The contract would be a minor speedbump in a series and sequence of events. We would clearly see it. Even more insightful would be the mutual success plan which articulates the key reasons and motivation for the ultimate decision-maker or power person. We would have validated their number one objective (Business Issue) and the key Challenges they face that will help solve their Problems. We would have something that validates the Value in order to justify the spend. If we could systematically roll up these key elements in our forecast, we could literally begin to gain insight on which deals are likely to close and which have a high level of risk associated with them.
So keep this in mind the next time you see leaders inspecting, during a forecast call, a reps’ understanding of where we are and what needs to happen next. Instead, ask the question, “has the Power Person validated what their Business Issue is and how we address Problems which justify the Value for the spend? Look for the documentation in correspondence, be it email, PowerPoint, Word document, or an executive summary of a proposal. If the customers provided positive feedback on the elements of the timing, odds are you can commit that deal and move on to another opportunity in forecast.
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I agree to a point. But perhaps the real answer lies in us no longer thinking of sales as an art and instead thinking of it as a science.
If we have a selling system with a well defined series of steps (a process) from prospect to sale, and if each step is a decision point for the customer (a 50/50 decision point) we can accurately predict results through the process.
The reality is that at every step the customer is in control. The customer determines whether to proceed to the next step or not. The next step reveals another decision point and therefore another 50/50 event.
That is the reality of forecasting, but instead sales people are asked to apply art rather than science and we end up with unpredictable outcomes..
I welcome the commentary and agree what you are saying to be true, the customer is the arbiter on when and if a deal is coming. I would add a refinement to the construct. It is both an art and a science. What is qualified today, passed a gate, can tomorrow be reset because of a change in circumstance outside of the contact’s control (not us in sales). I have seen organizations who move too far towards using “gates” as the arbiter. Only to be surprised at the 11th hour even though all stages and gates were met. The reality is, it’s the customer who is going to tell us when it’s going to happen.
So how do we get to a real defensible 90% committed forecasted opportunity? As you say let the customer tell you. We must define the individual(s) (Power). These are individuals who can both make the decision or veto the decision. The person who is telling us the deal is coming is not always the one who has the ultimate authority. We must get the person who is the ultimate Power, who owns the P&L for this initiative, to say to us or through their proxy; “this is happening on this timeline to help “Power” achieve their Business Issue.”
Hope that helps. Always happy to clarify more and appreciate the conversation.