Predicting Sales Success: As SIMPLE as 1-2-3-4-5-6-7

Originally posted on Eyesonsales.com by: Anthony Cole

Predicting sales success is something that many companies attempt to do, but they still struggle with forecasting accuracy. Over the last 10+ years, tools like SalesForce.com, ACT, SalesLogic and Base have been developed that provide capabilities for sales management and finance to gather data, gain insight, manage sales opportunities and predicit future sales success.

So, why isn’t the ROI as good as it ought to be given the investment of time, money and resources put into obtaining this technology? Unfortunately, technology is only as good as the effort put into using it. To get consistent and accurate results, companies must have consistently and accurate information. Companies get inconsistent results when data is missing or inconsistently entered.

Why is it that I continue to hear about sales people not putting data into the software? Why are sales people not updating opportunities, not putting information in until the sale is made? I continue to hear complaints that predicting future sales success has not significantly improved since they implemented a sales enhancement application. Is it wasted effort?

Here are several answers to these questions (the following list is not meant to be all-inclusive):

Sales people won’t enter data because the applications are more cumbersome than helpful.
Sales people do not see that they are getting any meaningful information out of the effort.
Sales people do not see the connection between data input and sales success – so they see no value in the exercise.
Sales people see sales software as something only for management and finance.
Sales people are given the option to put data in, and there are no consequences if they don’t input data at all or they delay input until after the sale is made.
Sales managers let sales people make excuses for not putting in data or updating information.
Sales managers fail to provide meaningful feedback to the sales people.
The selected system was created for finance instead of sales people.
The “coaching”, as a result of a pipeline report, is “Your pipeline doesn’t have enough in it – you need to see more people.
“The system wasn’t set up with enough of the right metrics and standards for performance.
What sales enhancement applications ought to do for you, as a sales manager, is provide information that is relevant to what your sales people are doing in real time, that reflects effort and execution, and is predictive in a meaningful way.

What sales enhancement applications ought to do for your sales people is provide them an EASY way to enter data about an opportunity and the contacts involved in that opportunity. It ought to provide an easy way to identify what sales stage the opportunity is currently in. It ought to have an easy way to provide a place for notes, for interaction with the prospect and include a task creation functionality that emails them when the next task is due. It ought to provide them with a weekly report so that they can see if they did what they were supposed to do to be successful.

Here’s what you should do if you want to better predict future sales success:

Establish your sales process in stages (we call this mapping) – probably no more than 6 to 8.

Use each of the stages as a metric to measure and work with each individual sales person to set a standard for success.(We call this an individual success formula)
Establish a method to gather that data. It doesn’t have to be an application. It can be an excel spreadsheet where the data is gathered via a “huddle”.
Track and measure the data against the goals established in each individual success formula.
Catch them early – get real time information so that you can provide real time coaching. Depending on the velocity of your sales, you may have to do this weekly. The point is you CANNOT report data against goal performance once every 90 days! It’s too late! In many sales situations, if a sales person misses the activity target for 90 days, there isn’t enough time left in the year to make up lost ground.
Gain insight from the data so that you can identify sales blocker/choke points. Is there an effort or an execution problem?
Make sure that you can identify two measures of predictability from the pipeline information:
Credibility – What percentage of pipeline volume was actually sold over the predicted sales cycle vs. what was reported in the pipeline?
Validity – What number of accounts were actually sold over the predicted sales cycle vs. the number of accounts reported in the pipeline?
There is more that you can do to enhance your ROI from your sales enhancement applications, but the above items will give you a good start. And an added bonus is that these steps will help you develop and fine-tune your coaching skills so that you will be able to say more than, “See more people.”

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