Lately I have had a chance to sit in on a number of “opportunity reviews”, and it is interesting how the format and tools have changed, the plot and the theme have not changed much beyond the costumes, props, and players.
Real or Fantasy
What was striking is that for the most part, these “events”, fall in to one of two groups, they are either objective, fact based exercise, leading to a realistic view of their opportunities, with the conviction one gets when one is fully engaged and working the opportunity. The rest, they are much more subjective based, open to how people feel about what happened, with or without input from the buyer(s). This has allowed the former group to act and speak about their pipeline with conviction backed by results, the subjective group, spends more time rationalizing the outcome than driving it.
It would be easy, and unfair, to blame sales people for this, but in many ways, it is the fault of their managers, and others in the organization that are paid to enable sales. First, when it comes to opportunities, it should be less about reviewing, and more about moving them forward to a win. Even after all the advancements in tools and other aids, many managers, especially those new to the role, look at these gathering from the wrong angle. Above I referred to these rituals as an “event”, when they need to be ongoing process, reviewing the specific actions of the buyer, and planning and taking the next appropriate steps; do that and your pipeline and the opportunities in them, will fare better than if you’re just performing a CYA routine.
Of late, what has helped those with the subjective approach has been the rise in statistics they can present to support their cause; again, when you’re looking for cover, stats are great. On the other hand, when you are looking to win deals, you want to evaluate things much more objectively, you want to examine the facts as presented by the interactions with the buyer(s), this ensures you are focused on things that lead you to quota, and maximize your most precious resource, time.
A new wrinkle is now available to the subjective group, one they feel lends a bit of weight and validity to what they are doing, namely statistics. Thanks to the sales tools and technology, there are more stats than ever available, and sales managers being the creative lot they are, are using them to shore up the state of opportunities in their pipelines. Stats are good, but much more malleable than facts. I’d much rather work with sales people who can present probabilities based on actions taken by the prospect, and all the people involved in the decision, than on comparing a current deal to statistics gathered in past leads.
While it is true that there are many similarities between deal of the same product to generally similar companies, when you get close enough to read the numbers, they all unfold in their own way, even within broad parameters. Each deal is different enough, that looking at stats derived from a collection of varied deals over time, to figure out how things may turn out in a current deal, does little to help you close that current deal. On the other hand, if you look at opportunities based on actual things the prospect has said and done; your ability to speak to specific elements of the decision you need them to make. How well you know the why, how, and what of their decision, based on what they say, and more importantly do, will have a greater impact on your success, than doing regression on a series of unrelated deals.
Execution – Everything else is just talk
The more you can stand and defend a deal based on actual things in the deal than subjective elements, the more likely you are to make right plan, take the right actions, and win based on the merits of each deal, than a regression model of the last 100 deals; especially since those have been won, and this one is still up for grabs.