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How to Strengthen Your Sales Team's Ability to Forecast Opportunities and Close Deals

by Rachel Clapp Miller /

lifting weight.jpgSales is the engine that drives your revenue number. The process behind it deserves thoughtful attention. If your sales organization is struggling with delivering on the forecast, you could have some key holes in your sales qualification process. 

A well-defined sales process makes it easy for reps to execute and for managers to evaluate performance. 

Below we've outlined three areas of focus that can help you strengthen your sales team's ability to forecast opportunities and close deals. 

Enforce Qualification Processes 

Your managers need to drive accountability with the reps within the sales process. Each opportunity should be continuously qualified throughout the sales cycle to ensure the opportunity warrants your investment of time and resources. Qualification is critical because it ensures reps are spending the right time on the right opportunities. Here are four questions your managers can use to help ensure deals are being qualified throughout the sales process.

  • What is the pain?
  • What is the business impact of the pain?
  • Where is there urgency?
  • What is the cost if the customer does nothing?

Developing tools like Opportunity Qualifiers and Pre-Call Planners will help your sales team consistently manage opportunities. Inspecting and reinforcing with these tools will hold sellers accountable to their use. It will also help your managers determine when and where to apply additional selling resources.

Develop a Practical List of Customer Verifiable Outcomes

We use Customer Verifiable Outcomes (CVOs) to help build further qualification into the sales process.  CVOs are buying indicators that help provide your salespeople with the necessary information they need to advance the opportunity to the next stage of the buying process. Here are a few examples: 

  • The organization is launching a new product and needs a process to support it
  • The organization has to grow 30% in 2017 and needs a partner to support its talent needs.

Sellers that use Customer Verifiable Outcomes are able to better validate deals, where they otherwise would be guessing. The same benchmarks can also be just as effective at indicating when it’s time for the seller to walk away.

Provide a Mechanism to Test the Customer's Decision Process

High-performing sales teams, understand that the key to closing more deals lies in a critical understanding the buyer’s process. These high performers leverage that understanding to anticipate obstacles and effectively drive the process to completion. Here are six questions to help your team members gauge the strength of an opportunity.

  1. What steps are included in the customer’s decision process?
  2. Have I documented all the activities involved in validating and approving the solution?
  3. Have I developed a reverse timeline accounting for all events, responsible parties & dependent activities? Do I know who could alter this timeline?
  4. Are both my customer and myself vested in this timeline?
  5. Have I reviewed these timelines with my Champion, the Economic Buyer, finance, purchasing and/or anyone who could veto a decision that favors you?
  6. Who can change the process? Who is controlling the process? 

Efficiency and alignment are critical elements of sales productivity. An effective sales process provides a vehicle to enforce discipline, repeatability, predictability and validation of progress throughout a sale. Most importantly, it drives accurate forecasts and improves your sales teams ability to drive revenue. 

Sales Leader Action Guide: Improving your sales process



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