What makes a good solution sales process?

As solution sellers we all want to increase our win rate, our deal size, and get deals closed faster. We also need to provide accurate forecasts to our sales leaders, all with the minimal amount of admin. To do this we need to ensure we are qualifying well and focusing on the right deals. Our sales process should help us with all these things, and not get in the way by creating excessive process overhead.

Increase win rate by focusing on the right opportunities, and avoid “pipeline padding”

We’ve all been there: we get a sniff of what we think is a good opportunity, and naturally want to invest in it and nurture it – but it’s not quite ready yet. We get one of our team-mates involved to help develop the opportunity and the relationship. This means we are required (by our organisations governance rules) to create an opportunity in our CRM system. This usually requires that we give our very early stage opportunity a close date and a value. And hey presto! We have a new “opportunity” in the pipeline. It’s OK, we’ve given it a close date that’s so far out no one will give it much attention, right? But these opportunities have a habit of being ignored or forgotten until they suddenly turn up in a quarterly forecast, by which time we’re reluctant to remove them for fear of making the pipe look bad. You get the picture?

We need a way to rigorously qualify opportunities before they enter the pipeline, and differentiate them from those potential deals that we choose to nurture. Our pipeline should only contain real deals that are worthy of being prioritized and being included in the forecast. Once in the pipe, we need to continuously qualify & re-qualify to ensure that the deals remain worthy of our focus, and not be afraid to remove them if they no longer qualify in. This helps give a clear picture of the real status of our business, avoids us wasting time and energy on non-deals, and enables us to know when we need to invest more in prospecting, business development and lead generation etc.

In short, our sales process should provide us with an effective and well defined “gate” on the front end of our sales pipeline, and support continuous qualification once a deal is in the pipe.

Close deals faster by having a clear way of knowing where you are and where you are going

How do we move deals along faster? Well first of all we need to be focused on the deals where the customer is prioritizing the opportunity as much as we are. If they’re yet not ready to invest time, energy and money to solve a problem, then we won’t be able to make it move forwards as fast as we would like.

Once we have focus on the right deals, we need to always know where we are and where we’re going next. An accurate way of assessing current status, for all aspects of an opportunity, is crucial in this. And once we know where we really are, we need guidance on the things that need to be achieved next to advance the sale. This guidance should empower the team by allowing them the freedom and flexibility to choose how to move forwards, given their knowledge of the opportunity and relationship with the customer.

Improve forecast accuracy by making opportunity status visible

In my experience, forecasting is not simply a case of providing a static report to your sales manager; it’s usually a conversation that happens on a regular cadence.

The challenges with forecasting are twofold: one, you need clear guidance on judging what is closable and by when; two, you need a way of facilitating an intelligent conversation between the sales rep & the sales manager. The sales manager often does not have first-hand knowledge of the opportunity, nor a direct relationship with the customer, so he or she is relying on the rep’s ability to assess the opportunity status in terms of the sales process stages and steps being followed.

A good sales process will provide the rep and management with the means to accurately assess status and enable a proper conversation, leading to a more reliable forecast. It will also provide clear visibility and transparency into opportunity status, avoiding the need for repetitive and time consuming forecast reviews.

Minimise process overhead by adopting a light, agile process

Finally, a good solution sales process needs to help with qualification, opportunity assessment and planning, and forecasting, but without adding an administrative burden onto the sales people. A good process will support, facilitate and add value to the real work that sales teams do, not get in the way of it. This means it needs to be lean, light and agile: easy to access, quick to learn, and simple to apply.

Does your solution sales process do these things? If not then take a closer look at the Essential Sales Process.