The Sales Stages: A Map for The Deal Journey
The “Where’s Waldo” of Sales
I think that we can all agree that weekly sales meetings and pipeline calls are absolutely painful evolutions. They really would go much faster and rise to new levels of efficiency if everyone was on the same page on how to define where our opportunities sit, and where they are in the journey to close. We all have one or two reps on our sales teams that just seem clueless when it comes to knowing where their deals are from a stage perspective, what the timelines are, and when they will close. It’s like a broken record, and watching Zoom is like in watching an old comedy movie.
Sales Manager-Chadly: Elroy, your next, tell me what’s closing and how your pipeline is building.
Elroy: Deal X is getting close, I should have it by month’s end. Deal Y is progressing well, but I am not quite sure when it will close. Z is held up in legal.
Sales Manager-Chadly: So, what’s your call this month?
Elroy: Not sure, between 25K and 200K, probably.
Sales Manager-Chadly: Dude, I need a solid number.
Elroy: I just don’t have it yet.
Sales Manager-Chadley: Well, tell me which ones you feel good about.
Elroy: I feel good about them all.
Goes on for 10 minutes…
Sales Manager-Chadley: Let’s setup a call to discuss.
Round and round it goes. But in their defense, most organizations don’t make the effort to come up with a standardized language for sale stages. Most just use the default settings in their CRM, and I can tell you, they suck. I recently started working with HubSpot after using Salesforce my entire career. Actually, I like this system it’s very intuitive and simple to use but the deal stages are not set up for enterprise sales teams. They match tasks within sales, and not buckets for checklist items for progressing deals. And it’s quite confusing. Having a standardized opportunity or deal progression chart with standardized stages names, sales actions, exit criteria and inspection questions gives you the pathway to progress and close. No more guessing, no more waffling.
As an individual seller, this can be your map to close and your gut check for deals. I have it displayed on my desk as a reference to recenter when I am stuck in a deal cycle, or having a brutal honesty session about my pipeline and committed deals. It will help you nail your forecasting, and be the deal hero.
For managers, put this in place in your CRM, and train your sales teams on the language. You’ll thank me later, and this will become your love language. You will start to see improvements immediately in your forecasting and your team’s confidence levels.
Here is an image of the Sales Stages: Standardized Sales Stages
Here are some descriptions of the sections:
Sales Actions – essentially your sales checklist for each stage in the closing progression.
Exit Criteria – requirements to go from one stage to the next.
Inspection Questions – what a good manager (No Chadley McChadness) will ask at each progression.
Forecast Category – whether or not it should be include in pipeline, best case or commit (another article topic for the future ;)).
Probability of Close/Contribution – the confidence level of closing the deal for each stage and the contribution to forecast (these can be changed overtime as data is accumulated).
Make your team harmonious and invite them to the conversation.
If you have questions, tweet me a DM @avoidthedrift .