Great Conversations Don’t Belong In Your Sales Forecast
How many times have you been in your weekly sales meeting and someone asks, “How is the Fisher Account coming along?”
…..and the answer is, “We had a GREAT CONVERSATION.”
Or someone asks, “How’d the demo go? Did you close ’em?”
…..and the response is, “No, but we had a GREAT CONVERSATION!”
The dreaded Great Conversation.
Don’t worry – it happens to all of us but it’s something that we need to be cognizant of. Afterall, Great Conversations are not a bad thing, right? A closed deal was ultimately comprised of a series of carefully planned “conversations.” So having a Great Conversation can’t be all that bad can it?
Of course we all aim to have Great Conversations with our prospects – that’s what all of the protocol and etiquette coaching was for.
But what we are concerned about today is when those Great Conversations are showing up in our forecast.
We all know that sales reps are susceptible to the infamous “Happy Ears” and when they have a “great conversation” it tends to be reflected in their forecast. After such Great Conversations they will zealously and aggressively update the status and the stage of the deal.
Good managers can usually observe this when they see a deal move quickly from “Demo Stage” (or the equivalent) to “Committed” in a matter of hours. But for most managers who are managing lots of reps and who each of a pipeline of deals – the details gets lost in the noise. It is difficult to discern truth from fiction.
The most dangerous unintended consequence of “Happy Ears” and Great Conversations is that often times a rep might actually have a Great Conversation with a prospect early in the sales cycle…….but then the prospect suddenly stops engaging.
In such cases, the rep is emotionally tied to the Great Conversation that was had WEEKS AGO and never moves the deal OUT of the forecast. Great Conversations can be deceiving to the rep (and the manager) and can clutter and skew a forecast dramatically (especially if the Great Conversation was with a whale opportunity).
Most often, when a rep says that they had a Great Conversation it means that there wasn’t a clear “Next Action” determined on the call. A Great Conversation usually means that the prospect fits the Target Company Profile and that the rep would LIKE the prospect to be a customer but there was not a clearly defined next action after the call was completed. This could construed as a lack of interest or perhaps the rep didn’t “ask for the next step.”
What often happens after a so-called Great Conversation is that the prospect goes dark (silent). The prospect might have been genuinely engaged during the call but it could also mean that the prospect struggles with conflict and simply didn’t want to tell you “no” on the phone.
You don’t think that happens? It happens all of the time.
One Great Conversation does not a Prospect make.
What matters is the continued and constant engagement with the Prospect through the cycle of the sales process.
If you have a sales process that you’ve put together…..trust the process. Trust that the cadence works (it’s worked in the past, right?). If the Prospect refused to engage after the Great Conversation, after multiple attempts and after going thru the prescribed cadence cycle, then you need to update the status appropriately in the system. The Prospect is probably “dead” (not literally).
Now, don’t confuse a “dead prospect” with a “slow moving prospect.” Slow moving prospects might be larger deal opportunities – whales. Big deals tend to be with big companies that have multiple layers of selling complexity and multiple stakeholders. These sort of deals move slowly by their very nature and should not be confused with a dead prospect.
Trust your process and trust your systems. If your rep has not had meaningful engagement with an opportunity in their forecast then you need to move it out of the forecast. Cut the fat. Get rid of the noise that is clogging up your forecast.
The next time you hear your reps talk about the Great Conversations they are having – use that as an opportunity to refocus on “next steps” and “next actions” instead of Great Conversations.