If you want to get your sales teams working smarter, you need a well-defined sales process and qualification approach. Why do so many organizations struggle with consistently qualifying and progressing the right opportunities?
In our experience, sales teams are too focused on the short-term, specifically the current forecasts. Teams are so caught up in driving the number that they don't ask the important qualification questions or ensure they’re progressing each deal in the most efficient way. As a result, they're having qualification conversations much too late, spending time on the wrong deals, and getting stuck often. Having this problem in one deal creates one problem, a deal problem. Having this problem across your sales organization creates an ongoing problem.
You can't depend on the number if there’s inconsistency in how your sales team qualifies, progresses and closes opportunities. Elite sales organizations enable salespeople to spend as much time as possible on revenue-driving activities and opportunities. Here’s how to build a sales process and qualification approach that work together to ensure predictable revenue growth.
Elite sales organizations build a voracious sales process that enforces discipline, predictability and validation of progress throughout a sale. These companies have a process that delineates sales roles and responsibilities, meaning everyone knows their job and who does what when. This type of rigorous sales process also provides timely support for sellers as they progress their deals, typically with customized tools, coaching and collateral. Most importantly, successful companies have implemented a sales process that allows for inspection and planning — in advance. As a result, they create voracious qualifiers that prioritize the highest value opportunities and drive repeatable, revenue outcomes.
Define where the gaps may be in your sales process and qualification criteria that are resulting in poor outcomes, instead of voracious qualification and results. Start by generating executive alignment around the critical sales process questions below. Use these questions as you consider a broader, strategic shift in your sales approach:
How aligned are the selling and buying processes?
How do you ensure opportunities are qualified?
What customer outcomes progress a deal?
What inspection questions should be asked?
What qualification criteria are used to validate deals?
2. Get everyone speaking the same language:
When your account teams speak the same language, everyone understands how to qualify a deal and what it takes to move it to the next stage. As a result, it’s easier for leadership to determine where deals are in the process and predict the business with certainty.
However, we often see that when companies work to define why they’re struggling with inaccurate forecasts, they find that there is misalignment in how they’re communicating about pipeline opportunities and sales stages. Usually, this misalignment is around how the organization defines what qualifies a “good opportunity” and how they’re communicating the progress of each deal. When there’s no common language or consistency in deal qualification language, no one is truly clear on the terms they need to be using, which drives a lack of clarity around what’s qualified and what’s not.
In these organizations, account leaders and reps may be saying one thing, while managers are saying another and the leadership team is using a third language. If your definition is different from your colleague’s, neither of you will know if the forecast number is accurate or not. If you suspect misalignment in how your organization is qualifying and progressing deals, you may want to consider the best way to implement common and consistent qualification criteria.
3. Drive alignment with the buyer:
Is there a comprehensive understanding across your sales organization around how sales activities align with your buyer’s complicated buying processes?
Aligning your sales process with the customer’s buying process is key to enabling your salespeople to spend as much time as possible on revenue-driving activities. An effective sales processmaps to and facilitates your customers’ buying processes. Consider this, are your sellers leveraging your sales process to guide their buyers through the steps they need to take to make a decision? Or are they dragging buyers through your sales process? Give your salespeople a competitive edge by enabling them to be valuable consultants to their buyers, rather than just another vendor with a sales proposition.
Remember, there is as much differentiation in how you sell as there is in what you sell. If your sales team can act as a strategic consultant to their buyer, they’re one step closer to earning that trust and access to key decision makers. When you successfully enable your salespeopleto align their sales process to their customer’s buying process, your sellers can repeatedly facilitate the advancement of the sale and win more.
4. Keep the focus on Customer Verifiable Outcomes:
We talk a lot about using Customer Verifiable Outcomes (CVOs) to build qualification and accountability into the sales process. These buying indicators help provide your salespeople with the necessary information to advance the opportunity to the next stage of the buying process. Sellers that use CVOs are able to better validate deals, where they otherwise would be guessing. Using Customer Verifiable Outcomes as part of your qualification criteria helps your sellers ensure they’re accurately advancing their opportunity to the next stage of the buying process.
Having defined CVOs by sales stage also provides sales leaders and managers with a consistent way to enforce and improve qualification. Sales leaders and managers can work with sellers to verify the CVOs they’ve uncovered in their accounts, meaning they will be able to hold reps accountable for correctly qualifying and progressing their deals. As a result, the process provides you with a systematic way to improve deal qualification and forecast accuracy.
5. Help managers make a positive impact on every deal:
This topic is a big one. Consider, how well does your sales process enable front-line managers to diagnose every deal, assess for gaps and coach reps to fix them to progress the deal correctly? Do your managers know how to rip a deal apart with the intent of helping the rep put it back together?
When you’re talking about improving pipeline health, one of the first things you can do to make an impact is to work with your managers. They’re on the front lines and have access to every deal. When they’re equipped to make an impact, you will see it in their territory/team’s numbers. Managers need to be enabled with a consistent way to assess deals and communicate “the how” to fill in critical gaps. Ensure they have the processes, content and tools to consistently coach reps and help them correctly progress their deals.
Here is an example of what good looks like when managers stay in sync with their reps and teach critical skills in opportunity coaching sessions. Take the time to enable your managers to execute in this way and you will see a return on your investment. We have a variety of manager coaching resources you can use to enable your managers to make a bigger impact on front-line productivity, qualification and results.
Get Your Sales Organization Working Smarter and Faster:
Whether you want to improve the reliability of your forecast or increase deal velocity – your sales process needs to align with your buyer, be consumable for your sales team and drive repeatable results. If you’re considering a change to your sales process, we have an entire guide with insights and resources to help you define how to improve sales qualification in your organization. You can find them all here.