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Forecasting closed sales: how you will know when a buyer will close

Submitted by on Tuesday, 8 April 2014

PsychicAs a sales manager, do you forecast sales that will close when your sales folks tell you they’ll 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.

 

Have Sharon Drew speak on facilitating buying decisions at your next conference. Learn about her topics and see her in action on www.buyingfacilitation.com
Contact her directly at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

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  • http://twitter.com/CodyYoung_austx Cody Young

    don’t be a sales person, be “buying facilitator.” Love it.

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  • Anonymous

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  • http://www.microsourcing.com/ MicroSourcing

    Sales teams know when a deal is on the table when clients drop hints about involving upper-level employees and executives in the talks and maneuvering their schedule around the transaction. 

    • http://sharondrewmorgen.com sharondrew

      it is possible to not have to interpret ‘hints’ but actually facilitate the entire buy-in process for the upper level employees and execx by using Buying Facilitation(r). While not ‘sales’ it works with sales to do just that – manage that hidden set of issues they must contend with via a change management model i’ve developed that’s kinda cool. It takes the hope out of the process.

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      Sales teams know when a deal is on the table when clients drop hints about involving upper-level employees and executives in the talks and maneuvering their schedule around the transaction.

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  • http://www.valuestrategygroup.com/ Gerhard Vierthaler

    Great points, right on the money Sharon.
    If as a sales leader your sales forecast is not at least 75% accurate you better revisit your sales process. As pain management specialists and advisers we have to focus on subtle change management, breaking the status quo for the entire team of influencers. If we fail to position our value as the best possible solution or didn’t succinctly communicate the cost of doing nothing, the deal will stall or worse. Subtle buying signs / stop signs are everywhere in the buying cycle – we need to stay in tune in order to overcome stalls and get back on track. If buyers don’t take action steps with sales in tandem and salesrep’s fail to get buy in from all involved, the sales cycle can drag out indefinitely. An inaccurate sales forecast makes proper resource allocations tough for management!
    Thanks for your contributions and valuable methodology.