As sales leaders, one of our most important responsibilities is to forecast new business growth. Our companies count on us to achieve the sales commitments we make at the beginning of each quarter.
Forecasting is also one of the most difficult responsibilities we have because we are predicting the outcome of an event that we do not have 100% control over (i.e. someone else signing our contract).
The answers to the questions in the Qualification Checklist below will help with this difficult task. The answer to these questions will tell us that (a) yes, we either have a well-qualified deal that is worth forecasting or (b) no, we have more sales work to do to get it there.
In the Funnel – Qualification Checklist
1. Will our solution contribute to a meaningful desired business outcome for our Prospect?
Generally, companies make material business decisions with the following objectives (i) increasing revenue (ii) decreasing costs (iii) decreasing business risk. Will our solution make the Prospect more efficient and effective? Exactly why will their company be better off buying our solution?
2. Do we have a Champion within the Prospect account who wants us to win?
We need a coach or champion in each deal who wants us to win. This individual must also have a material degree of influence over the final decision. Have we armed this champion with the evidence (business case) they need to support the case for us? Have we worked with our champion to understand the various buying influences in their firm so that we can address their needs and wants in the solution?
3. Have we engaged the Economic Buyer for our solution?
Although material decisions often get made by committee, there is usually only one individual who actually signs the contract; we call that person the Economic Buyer. Have we proven to this person that we are the best solution? Do we know what their objective and desired outcome is from a transaction? Has this person validated the timing of the deal closure?
4. Is there a compelling event driving our Prospect to make a decision?
Has a Prospect made commitments to internal or external Customers about the availability of a capability that our solution provides? Are we replacing an aging technology platform that is at end of life or approaching a contract expiry date? Has our Prospect completed an acquisition that needs to be on-boarded within a given target timeframe? What specifically is driving the Prospect to make a decision within the timeframe we are forecasting?
5. Has our Prospect identified their internal process (and timing) for making a decision?
Decisions today are made by a committee of employees who each influence the decision in some way. Companies typically adhere to a known process for approving capital expenditures. Do we know what it is? Does the timing for the decision and subsequent negotiations align with our commitment to get the deal done?
6. What criteria is the Prospect using to make the decision?
How does our solution align against the criteria the Prospect is using to make a decision? Have we communicated this alignment well (and repeatedly) to our Prospect? Why do we align better than our competitors? Does our Prospect believe that we are the best alternative?
If you have good answers to these questions, then you have deals worth forecasting. If you do not, then you have identified the sales work that is still required to get a deal done.