Customer Verifiable Outcomes and Your Sales Pipeline
Every sales process is comprised of a series of steps. A good sales process displays the map for the rep and shows the progression of an opportunity through the sales pipeline. Ideally, the sales process is simple, clear and understandable to all of the sales reps (and the marketing team!).
But are a series of steps “good enough?” Most companies have a process that equates the likelihood of an opportunity closing with the appropriate stage of the deal. For example, if an opportunity has a 20% chance of closing then it is often in an early stage (stage 1 or 2) of the pipeline and is labeled as: “Discovery” or “Qualifying.”
Is it good enough to simply label an opportunity based on its “likelihood of closing?” Further, is it a good idea for the sales rep to randomly determine what the likelihood of a particular deal is to close? What if the sales rep is a new recruit? Didn’t go through proper training? Didn’t read the manual? Or simply ignores the process and sticks his thumb in the air to determine the likelihood of the deal closing – based on HER perceptions of reality?
Or even worse – does your sales process have any way of attaching “accountability” or “verification” to the reps decision to slot that particular deal into that particular stage?
You might think that we are exaggerating but what we’ve often found with companies is that while they might have a defined sales process – the actual execution of that process is random, chaotic, subjective and unaccountable.
Without proper accountability the rep is in charge of determining the stage of each opportunity. Without accountability or verification, the rep’s decision becomes a subjective, one-side, highly biased decision that can skew and destroy your sales forecast.
So how does one protect their forecast from this chaotic randomness that infects our sales reps?
This is where the concept of what the industry is calling Customer Verifiable Outcomes (CVOs)…..or as we would define them, Customer Milestones.
A Customer Verifiable Outcome is an action that:
1. Is a leading indicator of what is to come.
2. Can be documented or is evidential (can be proven).
3. Increases confidence that the deal is winnable.
4. Captures the customer’s reaction and meets their expectations (at the moment).
In other words, you know that you’ve reached a Customer Milestone when something happens that meets all of the above criteria.
The intent behind Customer Milestones is that they also define a distinct moment (aka Stage) in the relationship your rep has with the Prospect. So, once you map and identify Customer Milestones to each appropriate stage of your Sales Pipeline then, and only then, can you start protecting your Forecast from chaotic randomness and sales rep subjectivity.
For example, let’s say that one of your reps held a demo with a prospect. The “old” sales process might guide the rep to put the Opportunity into “Stage 3 = Demonstrating.” The “new” sales process that has adopted Customer Milestones would ask the CVO questions listed above and use that as the criteria to determine whether or not the deal should progress forward to the next stage.
Perhaps the rep presented the product via an online demo – but perhaps the rep didn’t discuss pricing, perhaps the customer didn’t ask about pricing or perhaps there was no clearly defined next step (presumably to send a proposal to the prospect).
With clearly defined Customer Milestones the process drives the rep to move the deal forward.
With CVOs, the rep wouldn’t be able to progress from “Demonstrating” to “Proposing” stages unless there was a conversation about pricing, the customer was agreeable to pricing and both parties agreed that a proposal would be the next step.
With a clearly defined CVO, the rep, the sales leader AND THE CUSTOMER are all in agreement about where the relationship stands and where the prospects sits in the overall sales process.
As you define your Sales Process, be sure to study and examine each Stage and determine what the CVO is that would progress the opportunity to the next stage. Let the process, the specific activities and actions of the rep (in concert with the Prospect) define what stage the opportunity is in – don’t let your rep guess. We all know that even the best sales reps and sales leaders fall victim to Happy Ears. With Happy Ears the rep is more likely to be more optimistic about the stage of the deal.
With CVOs / Customer Milestones – your process, not the reps, will define when the deal moves to the next stage.