article | February 20, 2013
One Sales Aid to Avoid the Forecast Fire Drill
Your CSO – scowl on his face – says: “Set-up calls with the RVP’s now! I want to review every deal in the pipeline over $200k. They need to commit to a closing probability for each one. You’ll have to re-work the forecast and get it back to me tomorrow. It has to be rock solid”
You’re closing in on quarter end and your boss needs an updated manual pipeline forecast for the CEO. They don’t have confidence in your forecast or the data in your CRM. The process is broken.
We see this happening to sales operations leaders often. The quarterly fire-drill, the scramble or the cluster. Whatever you call it, it kills you and your team. Get in front of the scramble. You’ve wanted to break this cycle for a while.
Don’t wait till the last week of the quarter – it’s too late. Consistent use of one simple tool by sales will greatly reduce your pain.
How This Tool Will Help
The Opportunity Evaluator will answer the following questions:
Used regularly, the Opportunity Evaluator ensures a better forecast. It’s an ongoing sales aid for reps and a needed coaching tool by managers. It focuses sales on simple “yes/no” questions about the opportunity. It provides everyone with a common approach to evaluating the strength of a deal.
During the last fire-drill you went through, how much “hedging” did you hear? Regional Directors reporting a proposal on the short list that now had a small chance of winning. Reps that back-peddle on a “verbal agreement” that now has a 20% probability. Totally blows a hole in the forecast and the credibility of your pipeline.
Most sales organizations use documents with similar names. Opportunity Plans, Account Plans, etc. In our client work, we usually find that these are not regularly updated. They contain things like key personnel, sales campaign objectives, competitor information and so on. Many reps look at this as a one-and-done process. This approach won’t capture the changing dynamics of the Opportunity. And it won’t reduce your stress from the “Quarterly Forecast Scramble”.
Opportunities need to be continuously evaluated throughout the sales process. Buyers move at their own pace. This tool allows reps to capture where they are in the process and if they are aligned with the buyer.
Getting It Adopted
Any tool is only as good as how it’s used. Here are a few specific steps to help you in rolling this out to sales:
Will this stop the fire-drills? Not entirely. However, following the steps above will greatly reduce the pain you feel. You and sales leadership will gain confidence in the forecast. Sales reps will have a systematic way to really know how good their pipeline is. There’ll be less hedging and fewer deals that disappear under scrutiny.
Continuous evaluation of Opportunities – from the buyer’s point of view – leads to more accurate forecasts. Taking this step enables the sales force. You’ll be freed from much of the scrambling done every quarter.
Put this in place now – don’t wait for the next pipeline forecast fire-drill.
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