Confirm These 3 Things and Move Everyone Closer to a Sale
January 10, 2019
Editor’s Note: This guest post was contributed by Julie Thomas, CEO of VauleSelling Associates.
With the start of a new year, it seems almost anything is possible, even presenting a more accurate sales forecast.
Face it. Forecasting is stressful, and it almost always brings up uncertainty as to which deals might close by end of the month or quarter. While guess work is not a reliable strategy, building a pipeline of qualified prospects is. Having a good handle on where the deals are and what is keeping them from moving forward is a solid strategy that will improve the win rate of deals you include in your forecast.
While no one can truly predict the future, everyone can more precisely forecast where their sales will be in the future—in the next month, quarter or year. It’s quite elementary. Invest the time to do the upfront work and then continually qualify opportunities throughout the sales cycle. This strategy will lead to only qualified leads in the forecast, thereby improving the odds of winning opportunities and meeting or exceeding your target.
When reviewing prospects in your pipeline to determine their place (or not) in your forecast, ask yourself:
1. Do I understand this prospect’s business objective?
You need to understand what fundamentally drives an organization: profit or mission. While most commercial businesses are profit-driven, and most non-profit organizations are mission-driven, both are ultimately driven to make money, manage costs, and gain market share. It’s important to know going into a conversation with your prospect what objectives are most valuable to his or her organization. With this understanding, align your approach to uncovering the business issues that when solved, will achieve the prospect’s primary objectives.
To gain this insight, prepare well thought-out probing questions to find out what is ‘eating at’ the prospect. Refrain from expounding into a sales pitch and instead guide the conversation to discover a need that the prospect may not even realize exists. By asking the right questions, you will be able to reveal how your solutions address their challenges, and ultimately satisfy their business objectives.
2. Am I talking to the right person?
Too often we devote a lot of time and energy to working with someone, only to discover they are not able to purchase and, worse, lack any influence with those who do. One way to improve the odds of landing a deal and determining when that will happen, is to make sure you are dealing with the person in power who can make the buying decision.
Yes, it may time to get through gatekeepers and crammed calendars to connect with decision makers, but it beats wasting efforts that go nowhere. Do your homework not only on an organization, but also on those working within it. What are their roles in the purchasing process? Can you demonstrate enough impact to their business issue, and to them personally, to motivate them to make a change?
Make sure to keep track of executives since they may move to another company, and without much notice. One way to keep track of executives is by setting up LinkedIn monitoring in LinkedIn Sales Navigator. If you do not have LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you can still manually track executives of interest within your personal LinkedIn account.
3. Why now?
Timing is important. Here again, excellent business acumen will pay off because you may sense when there’s a market shift on the horizon and be able to discuss potential impacts with key executives. This will not only impress them, but also build your credibility. Whether publicly traded, privately owned or a not-for-profit, every organization is always preparing for possible challenges ahead. By being viewed as a trusted partner, you are well positioned to gain or maintain future business during up and down economic cycles.
Have you created a sense of urgency to reduce delays? Have you mapped out the path forward and are they comfortable with it? Have you and your prospect agreed to a timeline for implementation? If you’re nodding your head, then include this deal in your forecast.
There always will be variables we couldn’t have imagined when we set our sales projections, but these are three ways to stay on target so that by this time next quarter or next year, you are turning more opportunities into orders.
I’ve said many times that there are three options to any deal: win, lose, or draw (as in no decision is made). Review your pipeline honestly to predict to the best of your abilities where your greatest opportunities lie. This is the key to forecast accuracy. Know where you are, so you know where you are going!
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