Sales Tips: Determining "Forecast" vs. "Sunshine Pump"
By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®
For decades, companies have strived to improve productivity and reduce costs through the use of technology. It’s astonishing to realize how infrequently most of us interact with bank tellers or have to get boarding passes by waiting in line for a service representative. Looking forward, you can see Uber, Lyft and other companies utilizing self-driving cars to eliminate the cost of drivers.
As is often the case, selling has resisted productivity improvements resulting from implementing technology. While the inventions of the automobile and telephone dramatically changed the landscape of selling, recent technologies have had smaller impacts. Many sellers feel updating pipelines using CRM takes away from their selling time, especially if the system doesn’t fit the workflow of developing and working on opportunities.
In my mind, the single most important way to positively impact seller productivity is to empower managers to qualify opportunities on an ongoing basis.
The desired result would be that sellers work only on transactions with reasonable chances of closing. In my experience as a sales manager, once unqualified opportunities enter a seller’s pipeline, they stay in longer than they should and updating a forecast meant massaging close dates on deals with very low probabilities of closing.
“Forecast” vs. “Sunshine Pump”
It has always amazed me that companies refer to a seller’s monthly report as a “forecast.” That may be an accurate term for sellers that are year-to-date or better against quota. Sellers that aren’t year-to-date crank up the “sunshine pump” with quantity and little or no regard for quality. If they could sell to clients as effectively as they sell their managers on their forecast, they’d be making or exceeding their numbers!
Sales managers should be the filter that ensures whatever enters a pipeline is worthy of a seller’s time. That said, they should also realize qualification (more accurately, disqualification) decisions need to be made on an ongoing basis.
A critical step in defining milestones is having as many as possible based upon buyer actions rather than seller opinions.
Some steps in the CCS® sales process include:
- Qualifying champions that will provide access to members of buying committees.
- Validating that access was granted.
- Negotiating a Sequence of Events that reflects the prospect’s buying timeframe.
- Creating cost vs. benefits with buyers to determine if product evaluations are warranted.
Many managers tacitly accept pipelines from sellers that have many “story opportunities” in them. It may be painful, but a cursory analysis of the cost of competing and losing could be a sobering exercise. For new or struggling salespeople, sales managers should be concerned about quality control of all opportunities that are actively being worked on.