Purchasing in the businesstobusiness environment has changed in the last year and a half.  Buyers are more critical, more informed, and more careful with their spends. Their shrinking budgets have eroded sales, which has caused sales organizations to become hyper vigilant on lagging indicators like revenue, sales-to-quota, and close ratios as a measure of success. However, lagging indicators only allow for postmortem analysis. 

Conversely, leading indicators allow for course correction before targets are missed. Here are three leading indicators that can help you reach your revenue goals. 

  1. Opportunity Pipeline Value – This is a good, early quantitative indicator.  This ratio should mirror your close ratio.  Do you close 1 out of every 3 opportunities?  Then you need 3 times the dollar amount in qualified opportunities to make your annual quota plan.  
  2. Meeting Summary – This is the best qualitative measure I know. A meeting summary is a written communication between buyer and sellerWhen this is a customer-facing document, then important analysis can happen. Managers can see whether this is a qualified opportunity or not and if the sales person is spending the appropriate amount of time to move the sale along. Also, sales people tend not to exaggerate the size of the opportunity when it is discussed and reflected back to the customer, which makes the pipeline totals more accurate.   
  3. Implementation Plan – This is another auditable, qualitative checkpoint. A clearly communicated plan between buyer and seller, crafted while the opportunity is still being developed, shows commitment on both sides. First of all, it’s auditable. A manager can look at the plan and offer steps that have been missed and strategies to ensure closing. Also, the probability to close increases to 80% when the customer is involved with an implementation plan, thus making the opportunity pipeline numbers more reliable and concrete. 

Above all leading indicators, it is the auditable documents that track the communication between buyer and seller that provide the most accurate lens for the “crystal ball” that we call sales forecasting.  Let us help your organization create auditable documents and an improved focus on leading indicators.   

 

The technical sale requires people who can grasp the intricate (or scientific, medical, etc) nuances of a product and are smart enough to articulate them in a simple, easy-to-understand manner.  These sales people are amazing to me.  Many times they are recruited to change seats from the buyer’s seat to the seller’s role.  This seller may be an electrical engineer in the computer hardware industry or the chemist in the life sciences industry (to name two) who are recruited to sell those types of products.  They are geniuses in their perspective fields, but have some deal killing tendencies that need adjustment.

 

The first step to making a shift is awareness.  Here are 4 ways for sales people to better align their time to work on the most qualified opportunities.

  1. Begin with the right person.  Entering the sales process at the user level almost guarantees a long selling cycle. Ideally, you start with the ultimate decision maker.  Remember in the beginning you are referred to whom you sound like.  You’re smart and you’re enthusiastic about science.  You will be referred to the person inside the organization that sounds like you.  You may have found someone that shares your passion, but they may not be the decision maker.
  2. Focus on usage instead of technical aspects of product. The focus of our selling process is to have buyers focus on how to use your product or service, not what the features of product are in an unknown environment. Technical information too early (we realize that you know the product inside and out) can kill the deal. Success stories are a better approach and they also reassure the buyer that others have successfully used your product.
  3. Talk Less.  By not making the buyer feel like he is in control of the conversation, you are likely to stimulate objections.  Being patient and asking good questions around business issues will provide greater insight in what the buyer needs and the value you can provide.  Recently, when training medical devices sales people we covered the list of questions they could be asking the buyers that would properly position their product’s capabilities.  They all responded that they already knew the answers to these questions so why ask them? The answer is: artificial patience.   You may know the answers, but the idea is to get the buyer involved.  Buyers are best convinced by reasons they discover. 
  4. Close when buyer is ready.  Understanding the buyer’s needs and the ideal time to close are keys to success.  As sellers become more experienced, they run the risk of moving the buying process along too quickly.  Buyers must be allowed to arrive at a buying decision and the seller needs to facilitate the process.  A sequence of events will help everyone see the steps to the process and understand the logical deal flow to closing.

 

Understanding deal killing/impatient behaviors will help the technical seller become the business partner the buyer is looking for and, if mastered, close ratios and revenue will increase.

 

Flannery Sales Systems helps companies to define (or refine) and implement a repeatable sales process.   Increasing revenue through the sales process is the ultimate goal. We work with a broad cross section of industries with a specialty in life science and medical device companies. We are confident that we can enhance your results.