Forecasting closed sales: how you will know when a buyer will close
As a sales professional, do you forecast which sales will close when your contact tells you they’ll be ready? Or when it seems to you they’ll be ready?
How accurate have you been with your predictions?
WHY DO WE THINK SALES WILL CLOSE?
Frequently, sellers believe a sale will close when they
- hear the prospect asking questions that relate to the use or implementation of the solution;
- have connected with the prospect over a period of time and are being told that the right people are finally interested and discussing time frames;
- have had a meeting and presented the solution information and were very well received – lots of questions, requests for call backs;
- are told that it’s going to happen ‘next month’ or ‘when the CEO is back from holiday and can get the paperwork started';
- are assured that the decision is being made by the big-boys ‘soon’ and that ‘everyone likes your solution and is on board.’
In other words, they have no idea. It’s a guess. Sales people hoping to close hear things like:
– “he just got back from holiday and needs a week to catch up before he focuses on this” or
– “we just found out that we have new partners who need to be involved and must wait a month” or
– “one of the other department heads needs to be involvedand he’s finishing up a project now so we need to wait about a month.”
Or something equally plausible.
Whatever it is, it’s out of the seller’s control, and often something they knew nothing about.
CAN WE KNOW WHEN A BUYER WILL BUY?
Unfortunately, using the sales model, it’s quite difficult to predict when a prospect will close. Because the sales model focuses on a solution placement, and the seller has little more knowledge than the specifics of the need and (possibly) a few of the relevant Buying Decision Team members (I’ve never met a sales person who knows the entire Team.), it’s impossible to understand – or influence – the full extent of the buying decision path.
Until or unless everyone who will touch the solution has added their 2 cents to the criteria for solution selection, and an entire change management plan has been developed, a buyer cannot buy. So we take what seem to be ‘buying signals’ and assume we’re going to close. I’m not sure why we do that: the odds have been bad, historically.
USE BUYING FACILITATION® TO FORECAST
Big question: what would you need to consider differently to be willing to add a different skill to your current selling skills? And how would you know that adding a change management model will increase your sales — before you started to learn it?
The Buying Facilitation® model enters early in the decision path and actually enables buyers to navigate through their decision path quickly, leading to the ability to forecast more accurately – not perfectly, given the nature of the change and people issues buyers must align prior to being able to make a purchase.
Buying Facilitation® focuses on the buy-in, the change management issues, the creation of the Buying Decision Team, and the steps the buyer must go through to align all of the systems issues that will touch the new solution and therefore must be managed carefully before they can buy anything. All that stuff we sit and wait for them to do.
As sellers, we are not privvy to this data. As buying facilitators, we are acting as a GPS system and navigating our buyers through their change issues, so we actually help them do all of the activities necessary to ready themselves. As a result, it’s easier to predictand the forecasting is much more precise: we will know who is doing what, when; we will know what activities need to be managed and who is managing them (or not); we will know how our solution will fit with their status quo and be introduced to the old vendor if need be.
There is a difference between selling and having someone buy, between understanding the need and helping manage change, between having the right solution and getting the buy-in from the appropriate people.
Add Buying Facilitation® to your sales skills, and get your forecasting right. Otherwise, you’ll just continue guessing and not knowing who is going to close.