Why Your Sales Stages Don’t Matter

sales stages

Sales stages are hot topics these days. The Opportunity Stage includes triggered learning, content delivery, playbooks, and activities. But is that really meaningful? In many cases, the answer is no.

Static Selling Vs. Dynamic Buying

Even in the most thoughtful organizations, sales stages represent a linear progression of opportunity. Generally, this means moving from the earlier stages of identifying opportunities to the later stages of proposing, negotiating, and closing. But is that how buyers evaluate solutions? In today’s environment, it is necessary to deliver meaningful impact even BEFORE qualifying.

Similarly, many propose opportunities to the negotiating stage only to have another evaluator enter the mix. Sometimes, uncontrollable events force us back to the qualifying stage. Most CRMs allow sellers to move opportunities back and forth among stages. However, this points to the futility of an overactive focus on sales stages.

Why Have Sales Stages?

It appears that I am advocating the complete abandonment of sales stages. I am definitely not. There are clear reasons why sales stages are important, forecasting in particular.

Looking over a salesperson’s monthly forecast, finding opportunities projected to close that haven’t been proposed sets off red flags. In addition, some selling environments require critical documentation as opportunities progress through various stages. These gates make certain this information is not forgotten.

Sales Stages

An Alternative: Information Equals Opportunity

That being said, stages rarely reflect the likelihood a seller wins a given opportunity. In most CRM implementations, EVERY opportunity that progresses through the selling stages automatically earns a high win probability. However, whether or not we win an opportunity relies more on what we know about the customer than what stage we assign to the opportunity. This includes business issues, alternatives, and buying criteria.

There is a strong correlation between the quantity and quality of information collected from the customer and winning an opportunity.

For example, a seller who doesn’t yet understand a prospect’s buying criteria requires dramatically different coaching than a seller who does. This is despite the fact that both seller’s opportunities are at the exact same selling stage.

It is certainly easy to create triggers, content, and workflows based on sales stages, but this does not help salespeople better engage customers and win more business.  If you’re unsure, just answer two questions:

1.     How often do we lose opportunities because we fail to change the sales stage?

2.     How often do we lose opportunities because we fail to properly understand the customer and/or their buying criteria?

Is your answer to question #2 greater than your answer to question #1? If so, it’s time to stop tying triggers, tools, and playbooks to selling stages. Start tying them to information! Give us a call.  Our Salesforce.com native solutions help your team learn better, coach better, and sell better. www.axiomsaleskinetics.com

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