Progress Predictor Questions

Quick Summary: Predict sales through the use of a series of simple yes/no progress progression questions.

Abstract:

Identifying the individual tasks that must be completed and tracking their completion status can be a far more accurate predictor of when a sale is likely to occur.  Although each task may be quite involved, the metric to define their completion should be simple, straightforward, and unambiguous.  Not only will this technique help in predicting sales, it will also help to identify issues that are showstoppers and prevent success from occurring.

The previous article in this collection, “Progress as a Predictor,” explained why monitoring the discrete steps that each sales opportunity goes through is a much better method of predicting sales success than simply assigning a percentage likelihood of the sale.  The next natural question is what are the progress steps in the overall sales process.  Many of the steps are the same from one sector to another.  The major difference is the target customer base; are they businesses or consumers?  Although the activities associated with each step can be complicated, each step should be defined in a simple, unambiguous manner. Further, their definition should be phrased as a yes/no question.

As discussed in the article referenced above, the steps in the process can be addressed in any order.  However, some more logically should occur early in the process while others will occur later.  In defining the steps, it is helpful to begin by logically defining them in their typical occurrence order.  Using the classic sales funnel model, discrete funnel levels can be identified and then steps can be defined and associated with each level.  The funnel, or pipeline sales progress model, implies a continuous flow, but identifying discrete stages helps to visualize the progress.  A sales funnel typically has five to eight demarcation levels.  The names of each level also vary considerably as do the beginning and ending points.  For example, some funnels begin with the act of prospecting while others may begin with qualified prospects already identified.  Funnel-ending activities can also vary from the receipt of an order to the fulfillment of a contract and final payment received.  Below is an example of the sales funnel defined levels. (Do not dwell on the labels or number of levels, they are only examples.)

 

Level Number

Level Name

1

Prospect

2

Qualification

3

Solution

4

Proposal

5

Negotiation

6

Finalization

7

Shipment

 

Independent of the funnel level naming and beginning and ending criteria, the process of establishing the step definitions is the same.  Below are a few sample step questions that could be used and were taken from an actual implementation of this process.  The questions are representative only with other steps interspersed with them in the actual implementation.  Although they are presented in a “logical” order according to a typical sales evolution, there is no need for activities to be restricted to working on any of the steps in any rigid order. (Do not dwell on the specific questions, they are only examples.)

  1. Does the prospect have all required government licenses or approvals in-hand or are they in the final stages of receiving approval?
  2. Does the opportunity involve only the standard application of our current or planned products?
  3. Have we identified all of the elements of the total end-to-end solution?
  4. Do we have an acceptable plan to address all of the elements in the total end-to-end solution?
  5. Has the prospect prepared a business analysis and/or cost justification regarding this opportunity and have they developed a clear understanding of why they should proceed with it?
  6. Have we met with the financial key decision makers and do they agree that we will be an acceptable supplier to them?
  7. Have we resolved all of the elements of the total end-to-end solution and have agreement with any required business partners on how to proceed?
  8. Have we identified (from the prospects point of view) the three most bothersome things about our company and do we have a strategy to diffuse these issues?
  9. Have we identified the five items that positively differentiate us from any other alternatives that are being considered?
  10. Has the customer already made a contractual commitment or resource commitment on other aspects of this project that leads us to believe that they will proceed with us or someone else?

Note that all of the questions can be answered with a definitive “yes” response.  They can also be answered with “no”, “work in process”, or “not yet addressed” status.  Obviously, from a forecasting standpoint, only the “yes” or “no” answers can be used to draw any conclusions.

If one insists on using percentages, two methods can be used together or independently.  One method could assign an unweighted percentage to each question.  For example, if there were 25 questions (probably not enough), then each question, when answered with a “yes” would be assigned 4%.  Any other answer would be assigned zero percent.  This technique would be strictly a step percent completion metric and does not take into account the complexity or length of time associated with each step which could vary considerably.  Alternatively, certain questions could be given a higher percentage weighting to reflect their complexity of time required for resolution.  For example with 25 questions, some may have an average weighting of 4% while others could have 1%, 2% or 8% values.  Of course, the total with this approach needs to be 100%.

Although the percentages in aggregate provide a sense of how far along the sales process has progressed, the real value of this technique is to uncover the showstopper issues that are identified with a “no” response.  These are the issues that can derail sales success.  Either the issue needs special attention or the opportunity needs to be terminated, postponed, or, at a minimum, removed from the forecast until the situation is resolved.  There is no value in driving a sales opportunity to 96% completion knowing that the remaining 4% issue will never be resolved.  As pointed out in the article, “Getting to NO, Before Getting to Know,” understanding quickly when the answer will be “no” can free up resources to find more opportunities that can result in a “yes”.

 

Article Number : 5.010204   

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