Sales and Marketing really are a power couple, and need to know one another’s business intimately to succeed together. I know what it’s like to lead a quota-busting sales and marketing team, and have had to work hard at achieving sales and marketing alignment, so I thought I’d share some playbook pages from the Sales side of the aisle. If you read between the lines, you’ll find it contains implications for the marketing mission every step of the way.
I chose to talk about forecasting because I humbly believe it is the most vital skill any sales professional can possess. Without it, your revenue projections are a fairy tale, and your organization can’t reasonably plan its financial and operational future.
With that said, read this admittedly cutesy formula, and think about what types of questions you’d ask your prospects and customers to determine if you have accurate information to satisfy these 7 facets of converting a Lead to a Qualified Opportunity and plotting its trajectory in your sales pipeline.
The AIM HIGH Approach to Accurate Sales Forecasting
1. Align with appropriate internal and external partners. Partners could include members of the customer’s organization (or their partners) who contribute necessary skills and knowledge, or other third parties you can identify who could help you comprise a complete solution.
2. Ingrain pain and urgency. Find out how broadly and deeply the pain is felt — is there an executive champion? A critical event causing urgent attention? A persistent motivating force? Use the customer’s language to express this, and refer back to it occasionally to re-validate it.
3. Measure how your product/service can solve the prospect’s need. Paint a hard, statistical, monetary picture of how your proposed solution can solve a need, and take action to make that vision a reality. Get agreement with your customer on how success will be measured and verified.
4. Harden the decision criteria and processes. Gain clarity into the necessary steps and individuals involved in getting to final approval and sign-off.
5. Identify all buyers – economic/financial, technical, executive, etc. Discuss all possible players, even those your prospect might dismiss as irrelevant, if you think their support matters down the road. Extreme example: suppose you are selling a cloud computing solution. You and your prospect might ordinarily think the I.T. organization is not relevant. Actually, I.T. plays a vital role in validating cloud computing solutions for security of information and access, and increasingly are the experts in building account access solutions, so their standards and expertise are often critical.
6. Gain trust through internal champions with strong political capital. Ask your key prospect contacts about how they see your solution impacting the organization, and listen for clues to organizational strategy, institutional patterns of practice and key buyers’ alliances and affiliations. Include social networking sites like LinkedIn and Twitter in your research to determine how closely your key prospect contacts are aligned.
7. Hoist your solution over the competition. Give your customer the information they need to convince themselves that your solution is the right fit. Consider external competitors (know what & how they sell!) as well as internal ones – – apathy, inertia (stay the course, status quo). Note: the “right fit” can be based on price, feasibility, etc. – not necessarily superior technology. Often the best solution just lays on their template nicely, requiring less effort to implement, or perhaps matching their own complement of people and processes.
How do you spell forecasting success? Holla back!