Is your Sales Forecast eroding from the inside out?

Is your Sales Forecast eroding from the inside out?

In the Guide using Sales Prospecting Tools to Improve Sales Pipeline Reviews I discuss the risk of how sales pipelines can make our sales leads an anonymous prospect or opportunity. How they can obscure the many people on the other side of the transaction.

Injecting a more personal relationship into the sales pipeline boosts sales efficiencies. It drives increasing sales revenues and business growth. Also improves the quality of what we deliver and focuses us on how well we serve. It is the reason why we must approach our leads as human beings. Doing so allows us to strengthen our sales pipelines, also sales pipeline reviews by becoming more personal with our sales leads. We transcend the anonymous sales lead within a forecast because we move the people we should be serving to the centre stage. We place them in the middle and centre of our attention, stepping into their situation to better understand their perspective.

Abstraction can become a killer within your sales pipeline

The antipathy to improving how we serve our sales leads is abstraction. Not serving others yet depend upon them to achieve our own goals, abstraction will undermine our sales success. It is similar to a hidden killer working from the inside out. It is both misunderstood, and one of the greatest challenges we face is managing our sales pipelines.

Abstraction is a conceptual process; in other words, it occurs in our mind and is part of our modern human behaviour. It evolved as part of human language about 50,000 to 100,000 years ago. That may seem in the distant past to you and me, but in evolutionary terms, it is a blink of the eye.
Our mind is designed for speed, so it makes sense to filter out irrelevant information to think fast. We intuitively use abstraction to filter out information not relevant to a purpose we focus on achieving.

Abstraction becomes a hidden killer when we focus on the wrong outcome goal. In sales, placing ourselves first opens the door to this killer. To avoid this occurring, we need to take a stepped approach to close the door.

  1. First, we do our discovery. Is this sales lead an ideal fit for what we are offering? My own experience is that sales leads will move quickly through our qualification process if they are an ideal fit. Effective qualification is to disqualify those sales leads that are not priority opportunities that will consume valuable resources and time.
  2. Next, we shift our focus from disqualification to serving our priority opportunities. It is at this point we must be mindful of the danger’s abstraction can cause.

To unleash our full sales potential, we must focus on serving our sales leads, so they are satisfied with the outcome. This allows us to maximise our own outcome goals. Being mindful of abstraction helps avoid filtering out important information we rely on to serve to achieve our full sales potential.

Being focused on ourselves and self-serving allows abstraction to work against us as a hidden killer. For example, being overly focused on achieving our quota target means our priority goal becomes achieving this outcome. Consequently, abstraction can filter out important information we need to be more competitive winning the deal. Therefore, we must focus on serving our clients if we are to achieve our sales forecast.

Abstraction has many different names

In our business and personal lives, we will have given abstraction many different names. You may know someone who acts differently when the circumstances and intimate details surrounding them are less personal or tangible. It is as if they have a dual nature, mostly good-natured, sometimes bad natured. The concept is so commonplace in our modern day society we often hear people refer to others as “Jekyll and Hyde“.

One name we frequently give to abstraction in action is road rage. How can a good-natured person turn into a raging short-tempered person when they get behind the wheel of a car? They would not treat these same people with such ambivalence, shouting and raging at them if they are standing next to them.

Stepping into their car and becoming too focused on arriving at their destination on time has created an emotional gap. The abstraction effect has depersonalised the surroundings. The person they are raging at is no longer a person; it is an object towards which they can release their feelings and frustrations.

We have become so familiar with the effects of abstraction we think nothing of it. From an evolutionary perspective, we developed it to rationalise and communicate. We must, therefore, be mindful of the outcome goals we set to ensure we do not filter out information we rely on to achieve success.

Abstraction is a major cause for sales leads slipping or their loss

Abstraction is one of the main reasons why deals in our sales forecasts slip. It is also a major contributor why we unknowingly allow risk to get caught up in our sales pipelines as sales leads move through it to closure.

To explain how we need to take a closer look at our own sales pipelines. In the Sales Pipeline Guide For Sales Teams & Business Owners. I highlight that many sales pipelines focus on serving our internal reporting needs. They fail to place our sales leads’ priority needs centre stage.

If the purpose of the sales pipeline is to serve our internal management needs, that purpose will filter out vital information. We rely on this information to manage sales leads along their buyer’s journey. An emotional gap opens between our sales leads and accurately forecast their closure date and sales revenue value. The reason for this is because our internal reporting needs do not align with serving our sales leads’ priority needs. Allowing that emotional gap to open and filter out important information is once again abstraction in action.

The challenge is compounded — many businesses set up their sales pipelines with the wrong purpose in mind. A sales pipeline’s purpose must be to support us manage a sales lead to a successful closure. A successful closure is when our sales lead, now a client walks away satisfied and we have maximised our outcome.

We can only this outcome by placing the sales leads’ interests centre stage. Unfortunately, most sales pipelines are used to monitor milestones and sales stages that report sales lead to closure. We become overly focused on predicting when the ship will arrive rather than keeping the ship on course. Consequently, the ship, which is our sales lead in our sales pipeline, drifts off course. It is here when deals slip in our sales forecast or are lost.

Is your sales pipeline set up to serve your internal management’s needs?

Because many sales pipelines are set up to serve internal management’s reporting needs, we risk eroding our businesses from within. Not placing our sales leads’ priority needs centre stage, we allow abstraction to become a hidden killer within our sales pipeline. An emotional gap between us and our sales leads has been opened and will probably increase. Abstraction has the same effect on the road rage driver. An emotional gap between themselves and their fellow motorist has opened in their mind. Therefore, they perceive it perfectly acceptable to shout and abuse other drivers.

Not placing sales leads centre stage in our sales pipeline exposes our sales forecast to risk. The abstraction effect will have filtered out some emotional information we rely on to be proactive act preventing our forecasted sales leads slipping.

Our sales pipelines need to track the buyers’ journey. Doing so helps us leverage abstraction to our advantage rather than allowing it to become a hidden killer. Our sales pipeline and supporting systems need to help us to develop more meaningful, trusted relationships with buyers and influencers. Our sales pipelines must include more leading indicators that prompt us to understand our sales leads’ priority needs and challenges better.

We need to make it more personal

In his book ‘To Sell is Human’, Daniel Pink presents compelling evidence about why we need to make it personal. He retells the story of a young Israeli radiologist named Yehonatan Turner. Turner decided to conduct an experiment with the permission of 300 patients and attached their photos to the radiology scans. A group of radiologists were part of the experiment but were unaware of Turner’s purpose. By making it personal, all the radiologists reported feeling more empathy for the patients having seen their picture. They were more meticulous examining the patients’ scans.

One of the skills that separate outstanding radiologist from the average ones is their ability to find what is called “Incidental findings”. These are abnormalities that the radiologist wasn’t instructed to look for. It is this same skill that separates the exceptional salesperson from the average salesperson. They have learnt to become problem finders rather than remaining a problem fixer.

The real power in Turner’s experiment was revealed three months later. He repeated the experiment with the same group of radiologists using the same patients’ scans. This time he did not include a picture. Because they review so many scans each day, the radiologists did not notice these were the same patients.
The results surprised everyone. Eighty per cent (80%) of incidental findings were not reported. The radiology team were less meticulous. Turner told the DailyScience. “Our study emphasises approaching the patient as a human and not as an anonymous case study”.

Does your sales pipeline contain anonymous sales leads?

The same is true for many of our sales pipeline reports, reviews and forecasts. Approaching a deal flowing through our sales pipeline as an anonymous sales lead we risk missing incidental findings. This lack of perspective and intimate details about the people we are serving makes each sales lead less personal or tangible. So, we lower our guard and become less meticulous just as the radiologists did in Turner’s follow up experiment. This will occur if we manage our sales leads as anonymous sales pipeline activities. The same will occur during pipeline review meetings. Once again, this is an abstraction in action.

How do we guard our sales pipelines and forecasts against abstraction?

To guard against the misuse of abstraction, we must place our sales leads centre stage within our sales pipeline reporting. We align our purpose with their own priority needs. Doing so helps prevent an emotional gap opening in our mind between ourselves and our sales leads.
One way to discover and focus priority needs is to implement a sales prospecting tool. A tool that includes leading indicators to guide us better manage conversations with our sales leads. A tool like the Conversational Solution Sales Scorecard allows us to share these leading indicators with our Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) system and sales pipeline reports.

Pulling it all together…

We are often unaware abstraction is working against us as a hidden killer. It has become so commonplace that we never noticed its misuse slipping into our own sales forecasts. When a forecasted sale slips or is lost, we forget a contributing factor is an emotional gap between ourselves and our sales leads.

To close this emotional gap, we must place our sales leads centre stage. This allows us to build stronger, more trusting relationships. Our sales pipeline management and pipeline reviews will become more effective. Doing so we shut the door on abstraction becoming a hidden killer eroding our sales forecasts from the inside out.

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