Brian Signorelli is the Director of the Global Sales Partner Program at HubSpot. He knows better than most just how much sales has changed over the last decade. Before he rose through the ranks at HubSpot, where he started as an Account Executive in 2012, Brian was COO at an early-stage startup and an analyst at the Corporate Executive Board. He has witnessed technology shift the landscape, and he’s been a part of that shift.
Ask any business if it has a clearly defined sales process that everyone understands and follows. You’ll find that very few can say yes.
Without a formal sales process in place, sales teams end up relying on intuition over data. And when it’s time to forecast, salespeople fall back on their gut feeling about each deal rather than tried and true methods. It becomes a game of guesswork rather than a productive sales activity.
It’s been proven time and time again that clear-cut sales processes lead to more won deals. Harvard Business Review noted an 18% difference in revenue growth between companies that defined a formal sales process and those that didn’t. But the vast majority of sales teams fail to define each stage of their process in a way that reps can consistently follow.
When there are no exit criteria dictating when a deal moves from one stage to the next, everyone is managing their deals differently. Data becomes clouded and unreliable, and that makes predicting the probability of closing that much harder. Salespeople can’t look to historical numbers to make informed estimates about how they perform at each stage of the sales cycle. They may be selling a ton and beating their numbers, but they’ll never forecast accurately enough to make it worth their time.
Why Forecasting is Worth It
And forecasting is worth your time—when it’s done well. World-class sales forecasting means you fall within a 10% margin of error every month or every quarter. That kind of accuracy helps companies align on goals because revenue becomes predictable. Rather than doing a post-mortem every month to see why sales fell short, you can look ahead and proactively fight fires and fill gaps.
But again, effective forecasting hinges on an effective sales process. Formalize that, and you position yourself for a predictable stream of revenue. Not just because salespeople can forecast intelligently, but because they can work more efficiently. When everyone is on the same page, following the same processes, they function as a cohesive unit. Sales management becomes less about chasing deals down and more about strategic planning.
Defining an Effective Sales Process
So how do you actually reach that point? You start by making firm choices about the activities that constitute each stage of your sales process. More often than not, salespeople don’t stick to a process because it’s over-complicated or doesn’t make sense in practice. Or, salespeople start to get, “happy ears” and skip steps when a prospect says they’re just looking to buy. Take time to assess the current criteria, talk to your reps about their experiences, and then revisit the requirements. You may find that simple tweaks and more tactical training actually make a big difference.
Next, take a hard look at how your team tracks activity. Is everyone doing it differently? Usually, this is the case. By nature, some salespeople will be thorough and others will drop the ball. That means you end up with messy data that doesn’t offer any real insight on performance. You can’t draw intelligent conclusions about which activities predict a win or a loss. By Introducing sales technology like People.ai, which tracks activity automatically, you can eliminate that headache and gather reliable data over time.
Finally, once you’ve refined your sales process and formalized activity-tracking, you can focus on retraining the sales team on a data-minded approach to selling. They can relearn the stages, sanity-check the process, and begin self-managing in a way they previously couldn’t. Part of that, of course, is intelligent forecasting. When salespeople have the tools and resources to do it well, forecasting isn’t a chore they dread each month—it’s a route to better performance.
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