Note: We’d like to welcome Tom Martin, sales leader at Rackspace, to Voice of Value. In the following article, he shares insight about value selling and Salesforce.com integration from over 16 years of sales experience.
Sales forecasting and business predictability are two critical competencies for sales leaders. They are also two of the hardest to get right.
Forecast processes are often rigorous and only solve for the delivery and roll up of the number. “Get it in by Thursday at noon — roll up reports are generated Friday morning for the leadership,” are words we’re all too familiar with. Any process is only as good as its inputs. The output may be a number on Thursday at noon, but if the inputs to that process were bad, you are in for some fun with management.
In order to have an accurate forecast, it’s critical to address two underlying components: the sales method and value approach.
1. Sales Method
Your sales method can be customized in Salesforce.com for your business needs.
1) Customer Access
In any sales stage process, there are usually some criteria for getting access to the customer (specifically the decision maker).
2) First meeting
Make sure that first meeting engages the customer to the extent that he or she wants to have future conversations.
3) Shared vision
Create a shared vision with the customer. Match their needs with your offer in a way that creates added value for them and for you.
4) Deliver value
Done properly, you close the deal or contract and deliver the value that was sold.
When building a shared vision with your customer, the value conversation is key to the whole deal. It’s also key to a consistently reliable forecast. This is where the sales team learns if a deal is real for them or not. It’s where they learn what competition they are up against and what features, benefits and services are critically important to the customer. It’s also where deals are easily lost and where sales people who are not skilled in value selling get blind-sided.
2. Value Approach
Sales reps who are A Players have two things I have consistently seen in common: One, they build relationships far and wide within organizations. Their networks are vast and available when they need them. Two, they know the value they are selling and how to communicate it to their customers in the way that the customer wants to hear. This is best practice and integrating it into Salesforce.com for repeatable performance across the entire sales force will grow your business and deliver more predictable forecasts.
Here is the recipe:
- Find a value-selling partner. Hire a value-selling partner who can help you build proper business cases to take to market. Choose carefully based on industry experience. Make sure that a weekly inspection mechanism is in place at all levels in the sales organization, using Salesforce.com as the tool — not Power Point or other templates. Bring Salesforce.com up on the screen and go through the opportunity page right there in front of everyone. Inspect from within the tool. There is a good chance that if your leaders are not using Salesforce.com or don’t know how, the sales people aren’t using it well either.
- Define the problem and internalize. Clarify the problem you are solving for customers and what it is worth to them. This is the value you provide to reach the market you want and the share you expect to win. Uncover the customer’s problems by asking great questions. Help them discover the problems you know your solutions will solve. This should be early in your sales stage process.
- Dedicate resources to execution performance. One way to do this is by measuring the performance of committed or best case opportunities with business cases, as well as pipeline deals with questions unanswered. Also note the won deals that had business cases and average deal size, etc. Dedicate development resources to Salesforce.com to iterate quickly and not wait for IT or third party developers to meet your needs.
- Communicate success broadly. When using the process turns into winning deals, share successes with your team. More people will follow the practice when they see others winning. Involve product marketing by establishing Salesforce.com as the single source for all content, so success is even broader.
- Be dedicated — as a company. It takes quarters to get good and years to get great. The bigger the sales force, the harder it is. Stay committed.
A better forecast and a more predictable business require a more consistent sales method and a sales team that knows the value they are selling.