A sure-fire method to extend the sales cycle, add confusion to the forecast, and lose more deals is to have an informal sales process. Having a B2B sales process that’s too simplistic leads to inconsistency and confusion. Imagine if a recipe just listed “add ingredients, mix, then heat”. Or a football running play, like the counter, was described as “run, fake, handoff”. You would not have much success in the outcome of either of those scenarios. So, don’t expect much sales growth when you have a few general sales stages that leaves a lot to the imagination. Your reps will be all over the place when they strategize on next steps, report deal status or provide a forecast. Your sales process has to be well aligned with the activity that goes into a successful sale - that is based on how your customers buy. It should also help in making decisions on next steps and be consistently understood by the entire sales team (sales rep, sales ops, sales management).
According to CSO Insight’s 2015 Sales Enablement Optimization Study, those companies with “unaligned sales processes” deliver conversion rates as low as 8%. There is also a significant negative impact on quota attainment. The difference in quota attainment between being unaligned and being mostly or fully aligned is 13%.”
The most successful sales organizations have a process that fits well with the activity required to sell more deals. The entire sales team should understand the critical sales stages to move a deal through the pipeline and the exit criteria required to move to the next stage. But what happens when we get new sales people? Isn’t it hard to keep everyone informed on definitions of the sales process? When to commit a deal to the forecast? And considering that customer behaviors change, doesn’t that just exacerbate the problem?
Enter the new modern automation of machine learning algorithms and predictive analytics to simplify alignment and improvement of your best sales activity and give your organization the edge it needs to continue sales growth. So, before you lose any more deals, waste good leads or opportunities, extend the sales cycle or on-boarding time of a new rep - let’s give your sales process a health check. (Or, download the full Guidebook (plus bonus Workbook) here.)
1: Define Rigor for Your Sales Process
- 1. Does the entire team (Management, Sales Ops and Reps) know the definition of each stage? And when to move the deal to the following stage?
- 2. How much subjectivity and/or emotion goes into the judgement of what stage a deal belongs?
- 3. Does any level of “Happy Ears” or “Sandbagging” occur in your sales process?
- 4. How do you communicate these definitions to new sales reps?
- 5. How does your management of deals/opportunities affect the sales forecast? Is it easy to translate this information to help predict the forecast? How effective is it?
2: Sales Process Assessment
- 1. Does the sales team know everything that happens in each sales stage? (Ex. Activity, questions, objections, negative responses)
- 2. Do you have pre-emptive responses for negative activity or objections?
- 3. How do you rank your opportunities?
- 4. Do you use any of the data from what happens to the opportunities to help coach the sales reps? To get them performing better?
- 5. How well does your current process support your sales forecast? Prevent surprises at the end of the sales process? Do you rely only on the “happy stories” around a deal to rank it?
3: Sales Stages
Define Stages - but stick with them so analytics can be applied. Change milestones (exit criteria) within the stages - but don’t change the Stages.
- 1. What stages do your leads move through?
- 2. When do you promote them to an opportunity?
- 3. How do they move through the sales process post opportunity promotion?
4: Exit Criteria (Milestones)
- 1. How do you keep management, sales operations and sales reps all aligned on the sales process?
- 2. How do you know to advance? Or regress an opportunity?
- 3. How do you enforce the same consistent work flow for opportunity management? Have you tried and failed before?
5: Deal HealthScore
- 1. Do you weigh stages? How do you deal with large opportunities falling out vs. small ones? How accurate is your % weighing (what is the source)?
- 2. How do deals fall out? Do you put a time limit on how long a deal can stay in a certain stage? How do you manage that?
- 3. What is your ideal customer profile? Are there certain roles and company characteristics that you track in order to close more deals?
6: Sales Forecasting
- 1. How do you apply Forecast categories or commit deals from the opportunities that you’re working to the forecast?
- 2. How do you know which deals deserve your time?
- 3. How many of your later stage deals fall out?
- 4. Do you just apply all later stage deals to the forecast? Or do you scrutinize them more before you commit them? If so, what rules do you use?
7: Metric Driven Coaching
- 1. How do you coach sales performance so reps can get better? Or, if you’re a rep, what metrics do you look at and try and beat in order to close more business each sales period?
- 2. What metrics drive win rates?
- 3. Can you rely on the metrics you look at?
- 4. Do you only set bookings goals - or do you look at conversions, how long you hang onto deals and pipeline metrics?
I encourage you to dive deeper using this Guidebook for tips to create, tweak, or overhaul your sales process. If you’d like to learn how TopOPPS automates rigorous sales processes with guided rep behavior and predictive analytics, reach out to us!