As the market fluctuates, the importance of coaching sellers on how to forecast accurately becomes critical. Find out how coaching can support your sales team.

If you have been in sales for any length of time, you know the saying, “Hope is not a strategy” from the books by Rick Page and Ted Gee. Every sales operations team has done the math to understand how many opportunities need to be in the pipeline to ensure the company can meet revenue targets. That number is based on historical conversion rates within the quarter and average deal size.

But as the market changes and belts tighten, Becky Abraham, Associate Client Partner in our Organization Strategy Practice says, “many organizations are going to look at the pipeline number and wonder whether it’s enough.”

A common instinct is to build the pipeline and find more opportunities. However, according to Christoffer Ellehuus, President and Global Sales Effectiveness Practice Leader, “this can simply add more workload and stress to sellers.” Instead, he calls for sales enablement leaders to seek quality over quantity by coaching sellers on a clear sales process that’s aligned with customers’ buying processes. This ensures forecasts are as accurate as possible.

What is a sales process?

A sales process is all the activities that a salesperson does to close business. In our October Seize the Sale webinar, 54% of respondents said their organization had a random or informal sales process . However, our 5th Annual Sales Enablement Study shows that companies with a dynamic sales process — one that is monitored and tweaked based on data — produce 21% higher quota attainment rates and 26% higher win rates.

The 4 sales process maturity levels are listed below:

  • Random: The organization lacks a documented, overarching sales process for sales teams to follow. Sales reps themselves determine what actions to take to pursue sales opportunities, following sales methodologies they learned elsewhere.
  • Informal: Salespeople are expected to follow the organization’s documented sales process, but the process is not enforced, reinforced or monitored.
  • Formal: The organization has adopted a documented sales process and holds its sales reps accountable for following it. Sales managers regularly check whether their sales reps are following the protocol and offer coaching on the process.
  • Dynamic: The organization has all the elements of a formal organization combined with analytics and additional technologies to help them identify changes in process metrics over time.

A sales process will tell you where the majority of opportunities exist: early-, middle-, or late-stage as the salesperson sees it. It’s important data so companies know which deals are likely to close by the end of the month or the quarter.

However, Abraham highlights that our research shows that more than half of deals that organizations forecast to close don’t. “Almost every company we speak with says increasing forecast accuracy is a priority” she says. That’s no surprise given the wider implications that poor forecast accuracy can have. The more sales leaders focus on the forecast, the more sellers might be tempted to manipulate the forecast to include poorly qualified opportunities to prop up their numbers.

That’s where sales coaching plays a critical role.

Sales Effectiveness

Break through to immediate, predictable and sustainable sales effectiveness

Coaching sellers to forecast accurately to improve the sales process

"We recommend sales managers set a regular cadence for funnel reviews: weekly, monthly and quarterly," explains Mark Grimshaw, Senior Client Partner of Korn Ferry’s Global Sales and Service Practice. “A clearly defined cadence will help drive the right discussions in funnel reviews and minimize the reliance on outdated data”.

But managers also need to consider the substance of their conversations, ensuring there’s proper alignment between their sellers’ sales process and the buyers’ buying journey. If not, a seller may think a deal is in the proposal stage, but the customer is actually back in discovery. “This type of inaccuracy has a huge impact on business targets,” adds Grimshaw.

While no salesperson wants to move an opportunity backward in the pipeline, in the long run, having a more accurate idea of where opportunities are provides a better roadmap for what sellers need to do to close opportunities. And this understanding also helps sellers recognize when it might be time to walk away from a buyer.

Look beyond the pipeline

During a down cycle, the best sales organizations aren’t trying to build a faster, bigger sales machine, but a sales machine that produces higher quality deals. And they can’t do that if they’re only looking at sales pipeline growth. Coaching sellers to spend time qualifying deals saves disappointment and frustration in the long run.

Join Becky Abraham, Christoffer Ellehuus and Mark Grimshaw to learn more about how you can move your organization ahead in 2023 with better sales coaching. Watch the webinar now.

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