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Let’s consider opportunity management for a moment.

The old world had a few things that were seen to be good practice 20 years ago. At the time they were used by the most forward thinking companies to outperform the rest. Today, things have moved on and for companies that have a non-transactional sales cycle consider the following

Opportunity Qualification

Old School:

BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timescale)

New School:

Things have moved on and much more is needed in addition to BANT. At least for opportunities. At an early stage ‘Lead’ this is not a bad start. For opportunities that might take a few months and many touchpoints, only using four BANT areas is only part of the answer.

They cover reasonably well whether a customer will buy something, but they don’t give an indication of competitive advantage for your company. Consider the strength of your contact strategy, alignment with criteria, delivery risk, perception of your capability and many more.

A different approach that can be used for simple and complex sales processes helps with adoption.

Pipeline reports

Old School:

These included a list of opportunities and their assigned probability, stage, close date and value.

Add to this a regular ring-around to get updates on how opportunities have moved.

New School:

These 4 things are not enough for sales managers to make informed and accurate forecasting decisions

Much more information is needed and this should not take too long. On average sales managers spend 2 days a month collecting and checking detailed data. Too much!

By including additional details automatically in areas such as funding, buy process alignment, delivery risk, customer business case and others you have a high number of rich data points to better inform the pipeline and automatically categorise the risk.

A move from offline spreadsheets to live dashboards focus sales team efforts more clearly and with less effort.

Forecasting approach

Old School:

A factored or weighted forecast based on value x probability.

New School:

For companies that have fewer, larger, more complex and binary sales cycles a factored/weighted forecast is not accurate enough.

Take the profile of four deals for a company as shown below. Entering a weighted forecast is not good enough. You would miss the forecast a lot.

value probability Actual  weighted
deal 1                 3,000,000 50%  slip                               –            1,500,000
deal 2                 2,400,000 75%  won               2,400,000            1,800,000
deal 3                    175,000 70%  won                   175,000                122,500
deal 4                      34,000 35%  loss                  11,900
2,575,000 3,434,400
133%

 

For companies that have a high volume of average value opportunities a weighted forecast can work, but check it first.

Many companies now have a commit approach to forecasting. Where the salesperson has to make commitments on what is in and what is not. They are held accountable for this.

Methodology for deal management

Old School:

Many have used, and still use an opportunity management methodology that is fixed in approach. These are often highly qualitative in their approach to data collection. Teams fill in the offline forms only when asked by sales managers who in turn have little access to data to help them monitor.

New School:

Not all companies want a fixed approach that can prove to be inflexible.  If an approach cannot easily be tailored for different teams, solutions or customer segments adoption can be severely impacted. I find that a one size fits all approach is not suited to many companies these days.

A common approach, but with the ability to easily tailor this to different circumstances, can offer a more flexible and suitable approach to different situations. For example a lot of questions used to assess complex solutions and many fewer for simple, more transactional, opportunities.

Sales team can struggle to know what to write in the box if it relies solely on qualitative input. This can have a significant impact on the quality of the plans and the productivity of sales.

So are you old school or new school?

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