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SELL THE DIFFERENCE: Establishing your Unique Solution Value

Size isn’t everything: why more revenue often flows from smaller pipelines

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 14-Feb-2017

One of the abiding urban myths that misinforms sales pipeline management is the idea that sales people need at least 3* pipeline coverage in order to achieve their quota. Where this “golden number” came from, nobody seems to know, but it’s a fair bet that it dates back beyond the Neolithic.

Another widespread urban myth is the idea that whenever you have a bigger sales pipeline, you end up selling more. It’s the sort of misconception that leads marketing teams to drive to create an ever-larger number of MQLs without any regard for how many of them ever actually result in any revenue.

The simple fact is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of what the optimum coverage ratio for any specific sales pipeline is…

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Where did that close date come from? (and where is it going to?)

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 6-Dec-2016

One of the biggest challenges to the accuracy of any sales forecasting system lies in accurately predicting the close date. It’s a particular problem this month, at the end of the sales year, because aligning everything necessary to close a bookable order requires a great deal of preparation, and quite a bit of luck.

Wandering close dates are another common challenge, particularly because they rarely seem to wander closer to you, but always seem to prefer to drift off towards the horizon.

Now, I know this is hard. I know that sales people can always be prey to external events. But there are a handful of simple measures that every sales leader could and should put in place to mitigate the problem…

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The keys to Improving Sales Forecast Accuracy

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 24-May-2016

As we're all very well aware, complex sales are complicated. There are subject to a wide range of factors that are outside of our direct control. It's no wonder that forecasting if and when any individual deal is likely to come in is such a challenge.

Research by CSO Insights has shown that less than half of forecasted deals actually close on the date and at the value originally expected. Many close dates slip (often repeatedly) and many of these forecasted deals never close at all.

If you’re in a short cycle transactional sales environment, high deal volumes and the law of averages can blur the impact of this uncertainty. But if you’re involved in a high-value long sales cycle situation the impact on revenue can be much more serious…

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Inaccurate forecasting = inconsistent qualification

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 17-Mar-2016

Accurate sales forecasting is a particular challenge in high-value complex sales environments with lengthy sales cycles. Given that we are trying to anticipate the collective decision of a group of decision makers, it’s safe to conclude that perfection is an impossible goal.

But it’s also clear that every complex sales organisation has significant room for improvement when it comes to forecast accuracy. Studies by CSO Insights and others have concluded that average forecast accuracy on a deal-by-deal basis has remained stubbornly stuck for years at below 50%.

This tends not to be an issue in high-volume, low-value transactional environments, where the inability to accurately predict the outcome of an individual deal gets washed away by the law of averages. But if you’re only working on a limited number of high-value opportunities, a few misjudgements can make the difference between having an excellent quarter or missing by a mile

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The 2 critical factors behind B2B sales forecast confidence

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 26-Jan-2016

Regular readers will recall that I am no great fan of the default approach taken by so many CRM vendors, in which individual opportunity forecast probabilities are based on applying the same percentage to every opportunity that has reached a given stage in the sales process.

Many CRM users simply accept the default “out of the box” percentages without questioning them, or validating them against actual outcomes, or are confused about whether the % is measuring progress through the process or the probability of winning.

It’s no wonder that sales forecasts are often so wildly inaccurate. But there is a better way of thinking about this…

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Why it’s best to say “no” before your prospect does

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 20-Jan-2016

Many sales people seem to have an abiding fear of hearing the word “no”.

As a result, they go to often-extraordinary lengths to avoid asking questions that might cause the prospect to give them a negative answer that will kill the deal.

But this desire to avoid negative answers usually turns out to be an entirely counter-productive strategy, and here’s why…

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Why sales forecasts go wrong - and what to do about it...

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 5-Jan-2016

I hope that you enjoyed the holiday season, and are returning to work re-energised and determined to achieve some ambitious goals in 2016. But I wonder if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to do a better job of sales forecasting?

If so, I want to share a few ideas that may help you start the New Year - and finish the first quarter - as you mean to continue…

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Why untested assumptions will kill your Q4 closes

Posted by Bob Apollo on Sun 22-Nov-2015

It's the 22nd November, we're well into Q4 and for many organisations - and many B2B sales people - that haven't yet achieved their 2015 revenue goals, it's the most critical period of the year.  In practical terms, we've probably got 4 weeks of active selling time - 5 if we're lucky. In the US, the Thanksgiving holiday is about to eat into that precious time.

You're probably still depending on a number of deals to make your number. Now more than ever, you've got to rely on your sales people to execute flawlessly, and hope that your prospects do what you want them to do.

But if that hope is based on assumption, rather than a mutual commitment to an agreed close plan, you had better prepare to be disappointed. Let's not forget that hope is not (and should never be) a strategy. A number of clients have found the following checklist invaluable when determining whether the deals they are depending on have a real chance of closing - so that they can address the weaknesses before it is too late. I offer them to you in the hope that you might find them equally useful...

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Sales Forecasting Essentials - get your definitions right

Posted by Bob Apollo on Mon 12-Oct-2015

There’s nothing more frustrating for a sales leader, a CEO or a Board of Directors than a continued inability to come up with a revenue forecast that consistently hits the target numbers. But - as anyone who has had the responsibility knows only too well, accurate forecasting is a tough task.

That’s particularly true in complex sales environments with multiple variables. And it’s a sad truth that there are no magic wands. But - as I hope to prove in this occasional series on the essentials of effective sales forecasting - there are some basic foundations that need to be laid.

At the most basic level, forecasters - and everyone they depend on for data - have to work off a common set of definitions about what exactly they mean by various forecast categories. It sounds like it ought to be simple, but I’ve been exposed to far too many sales environments where even this most basic objective has not been achieved...

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