In a recent discussion forum featuring leading thinkers in the sales world, we were asked how companies could improve their sales forecasts. Our response: “Increase your transactional sales load and unbundle your strategic deals.”
As we see it, forecasts certainly suffer when reps work the wrong deals or count on insufficiently qualified prospects.
They suffer when the production of opportunities is not matched to the numbers they’ve promised to make. But there are other reasons.
We suspect sales leaders could make their forecasts more predictable by making their deal portfolios more transactional in nature.
How do you do that? By shifting much of your sales activity to high-volume, high velocity work that can be sold virtually – often “as a service” or through a recurring revenue model. While critical to the success of many firms, large, strategic deals tend to make your pipeline much more lumpy than transactional ones.
It’s tougher to forecast accurately when your business disproportionately revolves around major accounts pursued by a field sales force.
Such teams spend an inordinate amount of time “off the grid,” beyond the purview of managers/coaches. Quota-carrying, inside sales reps, by contrast, tend to be more actively managed and coached. Their teams generally run more experiments, get more market feedback, and learn at a faster rate than their counterparts in the field.
Given these dynamics, there’s plenty of evidence that money is on the move and structural shifts are underway. Enterprises that relied excessively on big deals to make their numbers are now trying to balance their customer portfolios by going down market. Meanwhile, high-growth, venture-backed firms that have mastered the transactional sale are trying to go up market (expanding now that they’ve landed).
But let’s take this a step further: What if you were to “unbundle” your strategic deals so that your account managers could sell them more incrementally? That, too, might make them more easy to forecast – and, of course, easier to close in a risk-averse era.
If you’re struggling with forecasts, perhaps it’s time to increase your transactional sales load and unbundle your strategic deals. Perhaps it’s also time to place more emphasis on the virtual sale.