On Monday, I posted about understanding and knowing the very next thing that needs to happen if a specific opportunity is to move forward to becoming a client. Because I wanted to focus on a specific question, I glossed over the question I am sure many had as I set out a scenario, specifically when we ask sellers:
“Who is your best prospect?”
Talk about a loaded question inviting interpretation and misinterpretations. If you do this with a group, you will get all kind of answers, about the only thing most have in common is the overload of subjectivity most have. Once they finish describing the opportunity, ask:
“It is the largest opportunity in my pipeline” (Be that dollars, units, etc.)
“They are the furthest down the pipe”
“I have been chasing them so long that…”
“They were a customer once, then they left”
Here is a challenge for you, what is the most bizarre response you get to that question.
At first glance you may put this off to different companies, but I got the above from people on the same team.
For the moment, it really does not matter which I, or anyone else, thinks is right or wrong. What’s scary right off the top, is that there are multiple definitions of what is a “best” or a good prospect. What I found that unless you get a uniform answer to that question, you can bet that they don’t even know what a prospect is.
That lack of definition is rarely the reps’ fault. If based on your process and onboarding, and related training, there is still a divergence around this core issue, you need to stop, step back and plug this hole.
Not knowing what a prospect is, is a common problem, and it not only leads to pipeline full of crap instead of opportunities, that crap drowns out the few viable opportunities that do exist. Definitions are important, they are not like some like to say, limiting, they help you utilize your time in the best possible way.
I was taught early that we need to call things what they are, and if I referred to someone or an opportunity as “Prospect”, it clearly stated that the “Prospect” was fully engaged, and if they were fully engaged, my manager should be able to see a clear Next Step relating to the opportunity in CRM. Next Steps also need to be defined, you can see mine here, but to summarize, they need to be clearly agreed on by both you and the buyer(s), needs to move the opportunity forward, and be tied to a specific time. I continue to be amazed at how many sales people have things at various stages of their pipeline without any clear next step, or in some cases plan. Even worse, these are the things that go into your forecast, an opportunity sitting at 60% communicates something to the manager, sales leadership, finance and the entire organization. So when a rep has something sitting at 50%, all because they had a good phone call, and the buyer told him to call back after vacation, what’s that going to do to you quarter, especially since they have not called them back yet. I had a pipeline review with a rep once, he had 42 opportunities coming in. Before getting to the nitty gritty, I asked which of these there were formal next steps with, only 2. I know this is an extreme, but you need to go through your pipeline and ask how much an extreme, how many opportunities do you have a proposal stage without a next step?
This lack of definition why sales people’s time is consumed creating a narrative for their pipeline, rather than working their pipeline, especially when a manager’s idea of a pipeline review is having a story for their review with their superior. This is why many managers, never trained in finance, become experts at factoring. When your time is spent adjusting forecasts up or down based on past experience with a rep, forcing you to live in your spreadsheet rather than that expensive CRM, you are not leading from the front or adding value to your team, just revaluing worthless numbers and forecasts.