Sales Stages are a hot topic 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 in writing this I am advocating the complete abandonment of sales stages. However, I am not. There are clear reasons why sales stages are important, such as forecasting. For example, in a typical sales organization, prospects won’t buy something that hasn’t been proposed. Looking over a salesperson’s monthly forecast, only to find opportunities projected to close that haven’t been proposed yet sets off red flags. In addition, selling environments require critical documentation as opportunities progress through various stages. These gates make certain this information is not forgotten.
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 knowing how to win and actually winning. It is vital to provide tools, training, and tips to aid buyers. Ideally, tips cover what sellers know rather than what stage they select for a given opportunity.
For example, a seller who doesn’t yet understand a prospect’s buying criteria needs dramatically different coaching than an educated seller. 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.AXIOMSFD.com