What can be more difficult to manage in a business than a sales force that is unable to accurately forecast results?
The truth is, there really isn’t much else that can affect business growth and profitability like unpredictable sales results can – as you’ll find it has an impact on almost every part of the company, from strategy, to budgets, business plans, scalability and much more.
So why could your sales department be struggling with inconsistency? There are six potential causes*:
1. Lack of accountability
This has the potential of being the biggest roadblock to achieving sales results within an organisation.
When sales people are able to make excuses as to why they aren’t meeting KPIs, can’t fill their pipeline, or are unable to close, then there won’t be the motivation to succeed. It also creates an atmosphere of no one needing to change the way they do things, even if there could be better outcomes from different activities.
2. Ineffective qualifying
Qualifying a prospect is one of the first critical stages of the sales process, but often there is no formal procedure around this aspect – which means sales people are spending precious time on a potential customer that will actually never close, for whatever reason.
And of course if these ‘leads’ are included in a forecast, it will no doubt be bad news when they don’t make it through the sales funnel to become a customer.
3. Ineffective coaching
Coaching is not only required when there is an issue, or identified weakness in a salesperson. Ongoing, regular training by management is an important function of any sales team to ensure skills are always being developed, and any problems are able to be dealt with early – before they become a hindrance to performance.
4. Ineffective sales process
Without a formal sales process, an organisation will no doubt find it difficult to achieve targets. But even if there is one in place, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is effective and is achieving the best results possible.
Without structure in place, no one can be expected to sell as efficiently as they could by following best practice steps that takes a prospect through to closing.
5. Lack of a formal, staged, criteria-based pipeline
According to this blog by world-renowned sales leader Dave Kurlan, there are only two types of pipeline issues – poor quantity and lack of quality.
Kurlan notes that a pipeline with poor quantity suggests possible lack of goals and plans, expectations not being communicated or executed, the likelihood of excuse making, and a probable lack of accountability by sales management.
And when it comes to having no quality of leads in the pipeline, it usually means the qualifying being performed is elementary at best – it rarely includes much more than asking one or two questions out of as many as 20 required to completely qualify a prospect.
The good news – both of these issues can be solved by having a well-recognised, criteria-based pipeline, and the result will be increasingly more accurate sales forecast.
6. Lack of pipeline inspection
For a pipeline to be as effective as possible, it is imperative that it is regularly and routinely ‘inspected’ by management. This isn’t to say you don’t trust your salespeople to input the right data, but what you don’t know, you can’t manage. Analysing the information in a pipeline (both on an individual and team basis) will also enable you to assess any areas where sales seem to stall, or fall over.