How to Hold to Your Committed Forecast
Categories: Sales Planning
One of the greatest aspects of my job is the ability to speak to sales leaders / CROs / VPs on a regular basis and learn what their sellers do well and where they need to improve. One common theme that often comes from these conversations is the need to improve forecasting accuracy and eliminate “slipped deals”.
There are many reasons why opportunities don’t close on time. Spend 20-30 minutes reviewing any “slipping” opportunity using MEDDICC and you will likely identify red flags. The reasoning behind the red flags can differ. What I’ve seen many times is, sellers are either facing roadblocks that are out of their control or they’re uncertain about what to execute on to close that deal and how long those activities will take.
Consider "Backwards Planning"
If you are nearing the end of a quarter, you may have several open opportunities on the forecast. Opportunities that are labeled must win, new logo, cats and dogs, over 100K, etc. Call it what you want, but will it close or slip into the next quarter? At PTC in 1997, I learned in new hire training that slipped deals never close.
I often use a concept called “Backwards Planning” to minimize slipped deals. Backwards Planning is a process that enables you to start at the desired result (closed opportunity) and incrementally plan each step of the successful achievement, including all resource requirements and outcomes, back to the present.
Backwards Planning is a team effort, both internally and with your customer. There are essential sales activities you will need to execute (demo, reference, contract, SOW, etc.). There are also critical tasks for your prospect to execute as well (confirm budget, call the reference, review, modify and approve the contract, participate in demo, internal meetings, etc.). The idea is to build out a timeline with each item defined in an order that gets you to close by the end of the quarter.
As you attempt to leverage a similar, “backwards planning” approach, ask yourself:
- Are you aiming to build an enterprise-level business case for your solution? How many decision makers do you need to work with to close the right opportunity? Who haven’t you met with yet? Who do you need to speak with again? How long will those steps take?
- Does the client's legal team see this opportunity as urgent? How long will it take for them to turn around the contract with mark-ups and edits?
- Is the demo necessary to close? If so, who needs to participate from the client’s organization? How many days will it take to confirm schedules? What are the required capabilities that you will show and how do they tie back to the positive business outcomes?
- When is the right time to set a meeting with the Economic Buyer(s)? What day is your Champion going to present the ROI/Business Case to the CFO? How much time will you need to prepare your Champion?
- What reference will you use? Is that person open for a call this week or only part of next week? Who is calling that person?
- What could go wrong? Any key players out a few days for graduations, weddings, PTO, early July 4th vacation?
This exercise is good for you to do as you re-examine and move through your opportunity. When the end of the quarter is approaching fast, this process is most successful when your champion is involved and helping to push the steps forward internally, on their end. Many sellers try to take the burden all on their own. Just remember if your client or prospect is not pushing this along harder for you internally, the chances of your deal closing comes down to wishful thinking.
Avoid future slipped deals by understanding why they occur:
If you’re too familiar with stalled or slipped deals, what are some of the steps you might have skipped over in that opportunity that would have been crucial to its close? Did you breeze over any qualification activities that would have ruled out the wrong opportunity, before you spent months on it? You may need to spend extra time on certain steps of your sales process in future opportunities. There are often three main reasons why deals stall. Here’s how you can overcome these challenges in your current and future opportunities.