Whenever I work with a new client, I’m still amazed at how so few companies have really given much thought into a true forecast, or probability model. I’m referring to the part of the sales process that identifies the probability of any particular opportunity reaching the “closing” stage. We’re becoming more and more aware of this as we work with more companies trying to implement SFA (SalesForce Automation) solutions into their business. Prior to any salesforce training, be it on salesforce.com or other CRM tools, we ask a simple question – if we were to put each of your sales reps, and sales managers in separate rooms, with only a blank sheet of paper and a pencil, and ask them to map out the sales process with associated probabilities, would all the sheets of paper look the same? I’ll bet you know the answer.
Many companies don’t have a truly defined sales process. And for those that do, many of them haven’t assigned probabilities to each event. And for those that have gone this far, when asked if they’ve ever really analysed the data to determine if 60% of the opportunities that reach the “60% probability” stage actually close, the answer is inevitably “No, we have not.” What is the point then, I wonder of classifying these opportunities as 60% closed? Shouldn’t there be some sort of standardization based around some historical data that says, when our rep has done this much with any opportunity, our data indicate that 60% of these deals close?
There are a number of ways to build a true forecast model. The most common way is to simply assign a growing percentage to opportunities that make their way through various stages of the pipeline, Approach, Probe, Prove and Close, for instance. Another method is to assign a greater percentage based on how much information the sales person has gathered from the prospect. The more information the sales rep has, the greater the likelihood of closing.
Outlined below is a relatively simple tool, that we instruct in our sales training that will help you decide whether an opportunity is worth keeping in the funnel or not, and if it is worth keeping, what priority you should assign to it. This method allows you to quickly assign a percent chance of closing the sale to each of your opportunities. Once you’ve assigned a percent chance of getting the sale to your opportunities, you then rank them in order to determine which opportunities you should be working on and which one you should let die a natural death.
All you need to do is look at each of your opportunities and check off the questions in four categories — price information, degree of urgency, funds approval, and competitive edge.
- 10% Prospect has written quote or price information
- 5% Prospect has verbal quote or informal pricing information
- 0% Not quoted as yet
Degree of Urgency
- 30% High degree of urgency. Prospect must buy something now.
- 20% Medium degree of urgency. Prospect should buy something now.
- 10% Some degree of urgency. Prospect may decide to buy now.
- 0% No or low degree of urgency. Prospect doesn’t need to buy now.
- 30% Opportunity funded to or above our price.
- 20% High probability of funds approval.
- 10% Good probability of obtaining funds.
- 0% Funds not yet available and/or approved.
- 20% Sole source, no other competitors being considered.
- 10% Good rapport, preferred or favoured vendor.
- 5% Competitors still being seriously considered. Who and why?
- 0% Sale possible only with difficulty. Why?
You’ll note that, at best, you can only have a 90 percent chance of getting the business. That’s because you don’t consider a sale 100 percent until the product/service has been delivered, installed, completed, paid for, etc., and you’ve done a follow-up to ensure the customer is satisfied.
Of course this system isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to the problem building the right forecasting model but it can be changed and modified to fit most sales situations. Take the time to make it fit yours and keep the sales moving.
SalesForce Training is North America’s premier sales training company, focusing on both salesforce.com training, support, and implementation, as well as soft skills training in all areas of tactical selling, strategic selling, territory management and coaching skills for sales managers.