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Closing in Line with Your Sales Forecasts

According to feedback from senior sales leaders, most business development professionals are comfortable with creating and developing new business opportunities.

However, the same feedback also tells us that most business development managers and executives are uncomfortable with driving the close and even more find it difficult to accurately predict the value and timing of when new business will actually be signed.

Similarly, senior sales leaders told us that their key account managers find it difficult to close deals in line with their forecasts.

From our point of view, this weakness in business development and key account teams is closely linked.

In contrast to traditional ‘product’ sales people, business development professionals and key account managers typically pride themselves upon:

  • Building client and market insight.
  • Developing relationships with key influencers.
  • Delivering medium and longer term growth.

But what many business development professionals and key account managers don’t get is how they can systematically (and simultaneously):

  • Build thought-leading market insight.
  • Develop great influencer relationships.
  • Close short, medium and longer term business.
  • Forecast when (and at what value) the business will be closed.

Business development roadmaps for value creation

To grow as a business development professionals or key account managers, you and your people should plan and propose ‘customer journeys’ to prospects and existing clients which map out the journey for the relationship in terms of the value it will create for both the buying and selling organisations.

These business development and account management roadmaps should:

  • Be applied at the senior decision-making level at every level.
  • Include milestones for immediate, medium and long-term wins for the client.

This means that your people should present solutions that address the most pressing needs of senior buyers over a predetermined timescale. Ideally, these needs should be driven by eternal pressures for change that face the client.

If your business development and account development roadmaps are aligned to a set of external pressures and compelling external events, your client(s) will drive the close at each stage of the roadmap. They will be happy to agree a date for signing the contract, which will be seen as simply one milestone in the journey towards delivering significant value.

The client should also be happy to agree the commercial structure of each stage as quickly as possible so that they can get the deal signed off and avoid any delays in the solution’s delivery.

Effective and reliable closing and forecasting of new business requires business development professional and key account managers to lead and drive urgency in their target markets. Traditional sales people realise this but they often sacrifice longer term client relationships for the sake of winning immediate deals.

Business development professionals and key account managers are much more focused on their medium and longer term reputation. Many therefore have seldom natural focus (or urgency) to drive short-term opportunities or assure the date and value of more immediate wins.

A business development roadmap that starts with early wins and leads to medium- and long-term relationships that add greater value opportunities for the client, combined with the use of external pressures for change, is the route to successfully closing in line with your sales forecasts.

It is then up to the sales leadership team to ensure that this ability prevails without compromising the professional standing of sales professionals in their target markets.

The implementation of a consultative approach to business development and key account development – that involves a customer-orientated methodology for driving urgency through a business development roadmap – will improve brand perception and client loyalty. At the same time, a consultative approach will transform the selling organisation’s performance in terms of closing new business and forecasting the timing and the value of wins.

Written by: Steve Eungblut, Managing Director of Sterling Chase