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With closing deals and managing pipelines on the minds of every sales person, sales manager and sales leader on the planet, what are you doing to achieve predictable sales growth? When you look at your pipeline, does it put a smile on your face? Are you resigned to the fact that you are not going to make quota? Or are you just plain scared to death?
If you’re in the latter two categories, then let’s see what we can do about it.
Before we get into the four steps to predictable sales growth, you must first do this one thing: Take the focus off of you, your products and services and your company and shift it firmly to your potential buyer – their needs, their priorities, their business. With that fundamental change in perspective, aligning your pipeline based on your buyer’s engagement level, you’ll be in a much better position to dive into these four steps at every stage of your sales process and measure the results.
For each opportunity, at minimum, look at your pipeline to determine the velocity as you go through your sales stages, the number of days in each stage and your close ratios. Are your current metrics getting you to predictable sales growth? Or do you require improvement in one or more area? If your sales cycle tends to be a longer one, then it may take time to see the results. But, be patient. It will be worth it.
To help you on your way towards predictable sales growth, here are four easy steps to ensure you get you to quota and well beyond.
By being curious, you will always be asking questions and not making potentially incorrect assumptions that will come back to haunt you. You’ll want to know, as early in the sales process as possible, what each buyer is trying to achieve, why they want to achieve it, and their specific timelines.
Find out if you are aiming too low in the buyer’s organization and who you need to talk to at the executive level to truly understand where their investments will make the biggest impacts to their business over the next two to three years. Use your curiosity to understand their industry and be prepared to share information that may be new to them or helps to validate their business decisions. Beware of those times you hear yourself say, “I think.” Be curious and ensure you know for sure.
Now that you have all this information, validate it with different people in the organization before presenting or discussing it with the executive buyer. Why the executive buyer? Because they typically have the budget and the understanding of how products and services will specifically help their businesses make money, save money or minimize their business risk.
Here is the good news: You don’t have to be 100% right about everything, but your validation should allow you to have a meaningful and relevant conversation that shows you have done your homework and care about their success.
Once you have confirmed from the executive buyer how your products and services can help them achieve their priority business goal(s) within a two- to three-year horizon, then collaborate. Use tools like a Sequence of Events document to specify executive-level activities, timelines, responsibilities and the target date to get your product and/or service implemented and begin showing business results. Look at your pipeline with the long game in mind. Although the deal may not close this year due to a long sales cycle, you may add it to a future year pipeline.
The validation and collaboration you’ve done up until now should enable you to “test” the buyer’s level of engagement in order to align your pipeline to each stage of your sales process. Most formal sales processes now include verifiable outcomes which show the buyer’s engagement level at each sales stage. Your own executive team can coach you on how to best align to the buyer’s perspective and ensure you’re on a good path to predictable sales growth.
In fact, I always brought my executive team together with the buyer’s executives as early in the process as possible. It ensured that if a deal stalled and I could not get any more information, engaging the buyer on an executive-to-executive level would compel a discussion of the real situation and help us get back on course – or lose early so no one’s time was wasted.
Why is this so critical? Think about it. If you forecasted opportunities based on your buyer’s engagement level versus your sales activities, would it look different?
You may have known for some time that you were not going to make quota this year. Your pipeline for next year also may be looking a bit anemic. But what have you been doing up until now? Hopefully, you have asked your manager or others for help. We can all use some objective third-party help to get us out of the weeds. And sometimes, a little tweak can make a big difference.
However, if my four steps to predictable sales growth are not making sense to you, then please ask for help now. There is nothing worse than perpetuating potential failure when all you need to do is change your perspective on how to build your pipeline.
Be curious, validate, collaborate, and continuously “test” the buyer’s engagement level, and align with them every step of the way to achieve predictable sales growth. Your pipeline will be more in sync with those who need your products and services based on their timeline (not your quarter-end). You’ll see that your percentage to make your quota, and even exceed it, will increase dramatically.