MEDDPICC+RR Opportunity Qualification

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The Outcome-Centric Selling Blog

Exploding the 3* sales pipeline coverage myth

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 21-Apr-2021

One of the most unhelpful “rules of thumb” in B2B selling is the long standing and widely quoted myth that the benchmark standard when it comes to sales pipeline management is 3* quota coverage.

I’ve struggled to find any original research that justified this - and even if there was any, the concept has been around for so long that any original research must now be well and truly out of date.

This 3* rule of thumb is no more accurate (and not much more useful) than a stopped watch that happens to tell the right time twice a day.

So - what is the optimal level of sales pipeline coverage? If you’re looking for a lazy, simplistic general answer then I’m afraid you’re inevitably going to be disappointed - because the only universally accurate answer is “it depends”...

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“Why are you still working that deal?”

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 27-Jan-2021

In a recent article (Advance or disqualify!), I proposed that salespeople - rather than clinging on to lifeless sales opportunities in the hope of a miraculous and unlikely resuscitation - should politely and professionally disqualify deals where the customer is unwilling to commit to even a modest advance.

I was merely reflecting what I’ve seen today’s most effective salespeople do as a matter of basic personal discipline: they have too much respect for their own time to waste it pursuing opportunities they have no chance of winning, whilst their weaker, less-disciplined colleagues hold on to them until the last possible moment, for fear that abandoning them will make their pipelines appear smaller.

But as René Voorhorst reminded me in his LinkedIn comment on my article, the failure to disqualify is not just an individual sales issue - it’s a sales management issue...

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Advance or disqualify!

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 12-Jan-2021

In his best-selling sales guidebook “SPIN® Selling”, Neil Rackham identified four potential outcomes from every significant conversation with a prospective customer in a complex B2B sales environment: a win, an advance, a continuation or a clear “no sale”. I’ll define these outcomes in a moment.

Given the number of meetings required to close a complex deal involving multiple stakeholders, it should be no surprise that relatively few customer conversations directly result in the immediate confirmation of a win accompanied by an order.

And if the customer genuinely has no interest in buying, having them explicitly decide not to go any further ought to be a relief - because it frees the salesperson to refocus their energies on more promising opportunities.

More worrying are the number of conversations that end in a limbo-like state, in which the customer agrees in principle to continue the discussion but without making any other meaningful commitment. These often lead to false hopes and wasted time pursuing a lost or losing cause.

That’s why I recommend that salespeople adopt an “advance or disqualify” mindset...

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A brief history of sales opportunity qualification

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 27-Oct-2020

The quality and accuracy of opportunity qualification is widely acknowledged to be a key predictor of future sales success - and a critical differentiator between the best salespeople and the rest.

Today’s top salespeople have too much respect for their own time to waste it on “opportunities” they have little or no chance of closing - while their less-effective colleagues often appear to hold on to dead or dying opportunities like a shipwrecked sailor clinging on to a piece of driftwood.

When we analyse relative sales performance, the benefits are obvious: the additional time and effort that top salespeople invest in qualification is more than repaid in terms, shorter sales cycles, greater average deal values and higher win rates.

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Today’s 3 Frontline Sales Management Priorities

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 24-Sep-2020

Frontline sales managers - the people from whom individual members of the sales organisation take their day-to-day direction - have always played an absolutely pivotal role in the success of every sales organisation.

The actions they take and the guidance they offer have a profound impact on both individual and team performance. Yet relatively few of these critical players have benefited from formal training or coaching in the essentials of their role.

Many were promoted to their current position because they were top performing sales contributors. But the demands on frontline sales leaders (and the skills they are expected to demonstrate) are often very different from those on individual sales contributors.

The issues have been amplified by the impact of the current Covid-related challenges, and Gartner recently identified three key actions that Chief Sales Officers could and should take to ensure that their frontline managers are creating maximum impact...

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How likely is your customer to take action?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Mon 8-Jul-2019

One of the most significant mistakes any sales person can make is to assume that their prospective customer is inevitably going to buy something, and that the only remaining questions are what, when, and who from.

Some purchases are admittedly inevitable - for example when an organisation needs to guarantee a source of raw materials for an essential process. But the vast majority of business purchases are discretionary in some way or another.

It’s no wonder that - according to a wide range of research - the most common outcome of a potential B2B buying exercise is actually a decision to “do nothing” and to stick with the status quo.

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How does your CRM manage different opportunity types?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 2-Jul-2019

[This article was updated on 9-Jul-2019 to include the renewal opportunity type]

Why do so many CRM implementations behave as if every sales opportunity was created equal? If your organisation is involved in B2B or transactional B2C sales, a “one size fits all” approach might possibly work.

But if you are involved in complex B2B sales, and if you are selling to a mixture of new business and existing customers, you’ll almost certainly have a variety of different opportunity types.

These opportunity types will inevitably have different critical success factors, different degrees of difficulty, different average sales cycles, different average win rates and so on.

And if your opportunity management strategies fail to reflect these differences, coming up with accurate forecasts will be nigh-on impossible...

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Hope is not a strategy - and ignorance is no excuse

Posted by Bob Apollo on Mon 15-Apr-2019

Why do apparently promising sales opportunities go wrong so often? Why do close dates speed past, get reset and then repeat the cycle? Why do so many sales forecasts bear so little relationship to reality?

Rick Page, founder of The Complex Sale offered sound advice in the title of his deservedly best-selling book: “hope is not a strategy”.

To which I’m inclined to add “and ignorance is no excuse”.

Page was right. Hope is not, and can never be, an effective strategy. The word should have no place in our sales vocabulary. But I’ll wager that the H-word is still being used every day in countless conversations between sales people and their managers.

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Sales Opportunity Qualification or Qualifiction?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 4-Apr-2019

Accurate opportunity qualification is perhaps the single most important foundation for success in complex B2B sales environments. In the absence of an up-to-date and accurate assessment of the specific circumstances of each of their active sales opportunities, sales people are doomed to waste significant amounts of time and energy pursuing deals that they are never likely to win, or are never likely to do anything, or would not be worth winning.

As a consequence, many sales organisations have attempted to implement a standardised approach to qualification. But creating qualification guidelines by itself isn’t enough. The criteria must be consistently, thoughtfully and honestly applied, and not regarded as a “box-ticking” exercise.

An inadvertent typo (“qualifiction”) in a recent client opportunity review session served to remind me that qualification must always be based on fact and not on fiction or - as seemed to be the case on that occasion - on comfortable but unjustified assumptions.

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A Progressive Approach to Sales Opportunity Qualification [that isn't BANT]

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 21-Mar-2019

Like a growing number of other commentators, I have come to believe that the traditional BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timeframe) approach to sales opportunity qualification is fundamentally flawed and not fit for purpose when it comes to complex B2B sales.

The fact that over 40% of purchasing projects are ad-hoc rather than formally budgeted is, as I argued in a recent blog, yet another nail in the coffin of this outmoded and discredited methodology. But if not BANT, what can you use instead?

Any alternative approach has to take into account the fundamentally non-linear nature of B2B buying decisions, particularly when they relate to solving a new and unfamiliar problem (as opposed to repeat purchases of well-known commodities).

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