Before analytics, AI or machine learning can become the magical, life-changing technology promised for Sales, the most delicate and precious data source must be validated: The Opportunity Lifecycle. And the only data source for what happens inside the lifecycle of an opportunity is the salesperson. Once the conversation has begun – once the humans connect – only the salesperson is positioned to capture what happens.
The key to understanding customer buying behavior to see it and capture it through the eyes of the sales person who’s sitting across from the buyer and buying influences. This is true for all B-to-B sales cycles from transactional to strategic, product or service. The analog data collection engine known as the salesperson observes and documents each interaction. The attendees, their role in the decision, the bosses not present, the physical and political requirements to get the deal done. A whirl of variables the salesperson absorbs, translates and calculates when updating each opportunity.
When sales accurately captures and enters what’s happening, there is tremendous value. Unfortunately, most sales organizations continue to struggle with adoption and compliance of Sales Force Automation applications. While many blame the technology, more often it is the lack of a common process and language to describe opportunities compounded by a lack of discipline by sales managers and leaders.
Salespeople recognize the political nature of an organization’s funnel – forecast process and positions their opportunities accordingly, updating the opportunity data accordingly. The result is at its core; funnel data is flawed, driven by the political realities of the day. Because of this forecast accuracy suffers unless “adjusted” by management as it goes up the line, further mutating the data.
Enterprising CSOs must begin to embrace Opportunity Forensics. Far beyond a won-loss assessment, opportunity forensics goes deep inside the sales cycle to document and codify how we sell and more importantly, how and why they buy.
Pipeline integrity is the final chasm to cross for B-to-B sales. The biggest short-term impact is what happens to the funnel when you start to uncover the facts is there is going to be a big drop in the funnel: 50 percent or more of the sales funnel may disappear overnight. CSOs need to be ready to confront that. What’s left in the funnel: real opportunity and the basis for building up the new way of doing business. In the short term, CSOs must confront this, tear it down and rebuild. They must demonstrate to sales the value of seeking and capturing the truth. One of the strategic capabilities of the Sales Leader is to influence how sales behaves, and this is an important one.
This is a collision of analog and digital selling. It’s also the on the on-ramp to true digital transformation. All sales organizations have struggled with the digital transition of transferring our analogue process to a digital platform: from paper forms, to spreadsheets to cloud based SFA applications. True digital transformation is the redesign of business processes to capitalize on benefits the technology.
Our SFA systems today capture the same flawed data as the paper forms and excel spreadsheets of the past. Getting to pipeline integrity is a required step for transformation and the only path to analytics, big data and predicative. If you can’t trust that the pipeline data you see is current, consistent and accurate (to the degree that any human interaction is predictable), the data is useful only for political forecasting. Opportunity forensics is a strategy and process to improve accuracy and confidence of pipeline data.
Once across the pipeline integrity chasm, the real power of technology will unleash a powerful competitive advantage for those brave enough to embrace digital transformation first. All the productivity promises long made by sale force automation and CRM providers will finally have begun to materialize.
CSOs need to confront this head-on. It must be in the strategic capability of Sales Leader to influence how sales behaves – through skills and training, through front-line management, through all of the resources we provide our sellers to prepare them to go out and compete. This require sales leadership. This will have to start with a cultural transformation to accurately capture the buyer’s journey through forensic analysis of the opportunity lifecycle. Then a documentation and codification of how we sell and how they buy. Then, and only then, should Sales Leaders entertain a digital transformation to accelerate this.