Image credit: SalFalco on flickr
For the last few months, my team and I have been working diligently on my forthcoming book, Pivotal Conversations: How knowing what your prospect really thinks about your offering can radically boost forecast accuracy and goal attainment. The book delves into and describes the messaging framework we’ve developed for sales teams and sales management. We’ve been looking at the powerful and necessary conversations that commercial sales teams have to excel at to advance more business.
In order to have an even sharper grasp on the real world implications of this topic, I’ve been talking to sales leadership at some very interesting and diverse companies — all to learn what they had to say about the current state of sales and how important the right messaging was to their success.
That’s where Robert “Bob” Petrocchi comes in. Bob is the Vice President of Sales at Pivotal Inc.
Here’s what he had to say.
The Three Categories of Forecasting
One focus in my book is the idea of getting a more accurate forecasting model — and through the course of these interviews, it’s been obvious that sales leaders are always trying to sharpen their forecasting accuracy. When I asked Bob about best practices to get an accurate read on forecasted opportunities, he said: “This could be a long conversation.”
But then he got down to it — and his best practice is something experienced sales leaders do. Bob said you can categorize “the forecast amounts into two or three different categories: Committed, Best-Case, and Worst-Case.” Then when he’s looking over his quarter, he can define the forecast based on three different scenarios. “The Best-Case category is — If everything in the world goes right for me, this number will come in; the Worst-Case category is really the “if the wheels come off” scenario,” Bob said. “So from my perspective, what I always will do is use the worst-case as what I think the real number is going to be and start working back from there.”
Add a Personal Touch
This sounded like a pretty solid method, but I reminded Bob that sometimes there can be a gap between the worst-case scenario and the sales goal. “Sure,” Bob admitted. “But what I do is start with the worst-case and then personally touch all of the bigger deals within the worst-case category.” The approach is such that you have your worst-case category, identify the biggest deals, and then interact at the executive level to move the dial. By doing this, “I can help facilitate moving the process along, and just get a feel for whether or not they’re actually going to move through the process.”
Get It In Writing
One of the biggest take-aways I took from the interview was what Bob called his “Sequence of Events Document.” I asked him about how he locks down the deals or coaches his reps through the sales process, and his answer was simple — but something I’d never heard of someone doing before.
“Most of the time when deals slip, the reps or the manager don’t really know the steps to completion. The people who do a better job are the people who have a better sense of what the process is — so one of the best practices I’ve always used is a Sequence of Events Document that takes you from where you are today with a reverse timeline all the way to closure — and get the customer to actually sign off on it to make sure you have it right. You know, when somebody actually HAS that? — I mean, the probability of that thing closing increases tremendously.”
Being this explicit with the buyer is something I hadn’t heard laid out in this way before. Not only will it help both parties define the process before the process begins, but just the fact that they will or won’t discuss their internal process with you is very revealing about their motives and the deal.
“Absolutely,” said Bob. “It’s a qualification. You also find out sometimes the person you have been working with may not even know what the procurement process is. Laying out the document gives me a sense whether or not this thing is rock solid or if it’s fuzzy.”
I sincerely appreciated Bob’s insights and was happy to see we were on the same page. This whole idea about the need for a sales process beyond what the current sales methodologies offer is exactly the reason behind my book. Pivotal Conversations will take what you and your sales team already know but add a solid process to it — a process that will help with forecast accuracy as well as rep accountability. Ultimately, it’s about winning more deals, right? But the first step is to know your sales process.
- Have you ever used something similar to a Sequence of Events Document? How did it move your sale along?
- How do you know which deals require your “personal touch” in order to close?
- How do you discover a deal is solid or fuzzy?