As you begin to prospect more, you’ll need to start forecasting to support your growth. Staffing, for example, will be very contingent on what your sales pipeline looks like. How do you create the forecast, and how do you manage it so that you are proactively prepared for the new business you’re signing?
Weighting opportunities (or scoring, or whatever you want to call it) is assigning a percentage to the probability of closure to the lead. I am an optimistic forecaster. When someone says they are interested, I hear “This is a done deal.” Fortunately, our Director of Business Development is a conservative forecaster – she doesn’t put something over 50% probability before the contract is requested. As you can imagine, that creates some challenges for forecasting.
If I think a lead is at 50% when a proposal is requested, and she thinks a lead is at 50% when the contract is received by the client, it’s going to be almost impossible for us to staff for upcoming projects. In our case, it likely evens out – my over-optimism and her conservative approach cancel each other out. But what happens if all your sales reps are eager-beaver forecasters or never-going-to-close doomsayers? Well, you’ll need a process that automatically scores or weights based on stages. That’s what we did.
Our stages include:
- Value Proposition
- Needs Analysis
- ID Decision Makers
- Contract Review
- Contract Signed/Retainer Received
Whenever the lead gets pushed along in the process, the weighting changes to reflect what is actually happening, vs. what I THINK will happen. This allows us to forecast properly, staff cost-effectively and prepare for times that are going to potentially be busier than others.
If I tell you I have 100 deals in the pipeline that I am certain will close next quarter, that sounds great, doesn’t it? Might make you consider a few new hires to support growth, right? If those 100 deals are all weighted at 10%, that’s a problem – nothing is closing any time soon and your sales rep may not be performing at the level that is needed to close business. If they’re all weighted at 95% you need to start staffing up. Yesterday. Linking actual events to your opportunity allows you to take the guess work out of the picture so you can base your sales forecasting on facts, not feelings.