In our workshops, we encourage salespeople and managers to be honest with themselves, and to assess and regrade every opportunity in their funnels and pipelines. When salespeople grade their opportunities against the new milestones, many discover that silver medal opportunities get purged from their forecast—and fast.
Frequently, after our workshops, our clients hire us to participate in these kinds of regrading sessions. These are usually done via conference call between the first-level manager, the salesperson, and the Customer Focused Selling consultant. A 45-minute session for each salesperson is scheduled for the first 3 months after the workshop. During each call with the salesperson, the top three opportunities are reviewed. In the first month, the Customer Focused Selling consultant does most of the talking. (Especially during the first month, it is far easier for a Customer Focused Selling consultant to disqualify opportunities, because he or she doesn’t have any vested interest.) The second session is more of a sharing between our consultant and the sales manager. The client sales manager conducts the third session, with our consultant serving mainly as a safety net.
Most often, the overall value of the pipeline is reduced by 50 to 80 percent. That doesn’t mean that 20 to 50 percent of opportunities are removed outright. Instead, it becomes clear that the opportunities are at either A or G levels. When we look at the value of the pipeline, we only look at E opportunities, which have been qualified to the point of having some visibility as to the potential close date. The mission of the seller is to get as many opportunities as possible to a level where the manager can grade them either a C or—ideally—an E. When existing opportunities are qualified to E status, some of the selling activities have already been done. The Sequence of Events is shorter, as the remaining activities amount to filling in the gaps, in contrast to starting with a new prospect.
To summarize: In assessing and developing salespeople, we advocate defining and sticking to a process. The Customer Focused Selling process introduced in this resource is an effective approach. It begins with the consistent positioning of offerings (through the use of Solution Development Prompters), and continues all the way through the development of salespeople—which, in the case of the salesperson, is the sales manager’s job. Many of the same techniques that make a pipeline visible and predictable also contribute to improving the performance of the sales force—but only if the sales manager understands and accepts that responsibility.