Home | Back | Up | Next

Improve Your Odds To Win Each Sales Opportunity

Dave Brock, Partners In EXCELLENCE

(Download PDF Version)

I participate in countless forecast meetings, account, and territory reviews with many organizations every year.  Inevitably, the question arises: “What are our odds-to-win this particular deal?” 

Often, the sales person seems to pull a number from the air, generating whatever story necessary to support the number.  Situation to situation, sales person to sales person, the process for forecasting is different. 

On querying sales people about how they arrived at an estimate, usually the response is:

  • “Based on my instincts and gut feel.”

  • “Based on past experience with this customer.”

  • “It’s an educated guess, but I’m optimistic.”

  • “I want to be real conservative on this, I’m not certain about this deal.”

  • “My manager wants to drive the business, so I gave this number.”

  • “I’m behind plan and want to make things look better.”

This list could go on.  Some of the reasons are valid, others have no place in effectively managing the business.  If each sales professional makes the estimate differently each time, there can be little consistency or confidence in the process, across the organization.

Managers complicate this process by applying their own filters to each forecast.  Often, they adjust predictions for a variety of reasons:

  • “Well, Joe is always overoptimistic and unrealistic.  I ratchet his assessments down every time.”

  • “Debra doesn’t really want to commit to anything, she will always sandbag the forecast.”

  • “Bob is really inexperienced and doesn’t understand this kind of deal.”

  • “I made a call on the customer and think the number is …..”

This list, likewise, can go on.

None of these approaches instills confidence in the resulting estimates of success.  Everyone involved in the process has different opinions and means of assessing the odds-to-win.  Two people involved in the same situation can come up with very different forecasts, for different reasons.  Which estimate should we accept?  How do we develop any level of confidence that any of these accurately represents potential business?

Shouldn’t the process be driven by facts, based on a consistent and common view of what it takes to be successful?  Wouldn’t it be powerful to focus on a common set of critical success factors, and their importance to winning?  Couldn’t reviews be more useful as forums to discuss the issues and strategies critical to sales success rather than trying to decode each other’s opinions?

Improving the way in which these judgments are made is important.  It helps sales people and managers determine how much time and resource they should invest in an opportunity.  It helps determine critical actions needed to drive success.  It helps organizations plan better, more effectively utilize resources and investments, improving overall results.

Clearly, a consistent, data driven approach to determining odds-to-win can improve the consistency and quality of the process and the results produced.

A Simple Solution:

The following methodology can improve the consistency and accuracy of forecasting the likelihood of winning each opportunity.

The assessment must be based on common criteria, critical to success.  Review your organization’s past history of wins and losses to determine the critical success factors.  Potential criteria are listed below.

  • The customer perception of how well our solution fits their needs.

  • How the customer perceives our solution relative to competition or other alternatives.

  • The business impact or value our solution provides the customer.

  • Our relationships with the people involved in making the decision and selecting a solution.

  • Our understanding of how the customer will make their decision.

  • The customer perception of our past and current performance in the account.

  • Our selling cycle is well aligned with the customer buying cycle.

Many factors influence sales success, however, based on our experience, a few critical criteria provide good indication of positioning and the ability to win.  These will differ from organization to organization.  Focus on those critical to yours.

When identifying these criteria, it is important to focus on the customer perception as much as possible.  Finally, keep it simple.  Usually, 10 or fewer criteria are sufficient.

Each criterion has different importance, but usually there is consistency from sales situation to sales situation.  Based on experience, prioritize the criteria, weighting them on their importance.  Test the weighting based on past wins and losses.

For instance for the criteria identified earlier, the following ranking might be established.

Critical Success Factors Importance
The customer perception of how well our solution fits their needs. 10
How the customer perceives our solution relative to competition or other alternatives. 15
The business impact or value our solution provides the customer. 20
Our relationships with the people involved in making the decision and selecting a solution. 15
Our understanding of how the customer will make their decision. 10
The customer perception of our past and current performance in the account. 10
Our selling cycle is well aligned with the customer buying cycle. 20
Total

100

We have applied a scale that totals 100.  Based on the example, the first criterion has up to a 10% impact on our likelihood of winning.  Establish rating scales appropriate for your business. 

Doing this across the organization creates a common framework for predicting likely success.  It is multi-dimensional, identifying the key areas and their influence on in the selling process.  Each aspect of the assessment can be supported by facts, specific to the situation. 

For each sales situation, the salesperson can rate their position for each criterion.  The importance value provides a scale for this assessment.  For instance, the first criterion in the table below has an importance of 10.  Using this as a scale that can range from 0-10,  we can assess our position.  The higher the score, the better our position. 

The table below provides an example of how each item might be scored for a specific situation. 

Critical Success Factors Importance Assessment Score
The customer perception of how well our solution fits their needs. 10 7
How the customer perceives our solution relative to competition or other alternatives. 15 4
The business impact or value our solution provides the customer. 20 9
Our relationships with the people involved in making the decision and selecting a solution. 15 10
Our understanding of how the customer will make their decision. 10 8
The customer perception of our past and current performance in the account. 10 9
Our selling cycle is well aligned with the customer buying cycle. 20 16
Total 100 63

The total of the scores provides the odds-to-win of 63%.  In developing the score for each item, the sales person needs to think, critically, of their positioning, using the facts of the situation to help in their determination of the score.

This type of assessment provides another source of information important to every sales professional.  It provides a high level SWOT[i] analysis.  Inspecting each criterion helps to identify areas in which we are well positioned and those in which we need to improve our positioning.  

We can use this to identify areas in which we are very weak, developing strategies to improve our positioning.  Likewise, we can identify our strengths and further exploit them. 

In the example above, the greatest weaknesses are:

  • How the customer perceives our solution relative to competition or other alternatives.

  • The business impact or value our solution provides.

Focusing efforts on improving customer perception of our solution in these areas provides the greatest impact in improving the likelihood of success. 

Periodically, through the selling process, reassess the odds-to-win to refine your sales strategy, always focusing on those areas most critical to your success.  

Additionally, as dispassionately as possible, put yourself in your competitor’s shoes and complete an assessment for them.  This could provide valuable insight in improving your own sales strategy.

A Management Tool: 

This framework provides a common basis for forecasting the odds-to-win.  Forecasts are based on the same set of criteria, and supported by the underlying facts of the situation.  This reduces the potential for miscommunication and improves consistency across the organization.  

More important than the total odds-to-win number itself, this process enables sales professionals to think critically about each sales situation.  It provides a high level diagnosis to focus the refinement of each sales strategy.  Focusing on specific areas of strength and weakness direct the sales professional to the most important actions. 

Managers now can have a richer dialog with their people.  The process enables the manager to focus on specific areas, coaching the sales person on strategies and activities critical to success.  

Over time, it also provides the manager indications of strengths and weaknesses of individual sales people.  If an individual is consistently weak in an area, the manager can coach the professional in developing their capabilities, making them more successful and producing better results for the organization.

A Caveat:

While this process provides a consistent and disciplined approach, it is important to recognize that these assessments are still educated guesses.  Use the results as indicators that can help you in becoming more successful by focusing on the areas most important to the customer and to winning the sale. 

The most powerful use of this tool is to use it as a means of thinking about what you are doing and on how to improve your sales strategy.  By doing so, you will increase your odds-to-win each opportunity! 

Partners In EXCELLENCE provides training programs incorporating the Odds To Win approach in to your sales process.  For information on the Dimensions Of EXCELLENCE training programs, follow the link.

For a Word or Excel Template based on the criteria identified in this article, contact Partners In EXCELLENCE.  This template can provide a jump start in the development of your own criteria for forecasting odds-to-win.  

[i] Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.

 

Partners In EXCELLENCE supports its clients in achieving performance and organizational excellence.  We help our clients develop and implement high performance marketing, sales, distribution, and customer service strategies, maximizing their impact in achieving the desired business goals.  Much of this work begins with the Sales or Channel Audit.  For more information about this audit or for other information on developing and implementing your channel strategies, please contact us at info@excellenc.com, or by phone at (949)305-7146.

Dave Brock is the founder and president of Partners In EXCELLENCE.  He can be reached at dabrock@excellenc.com.

ă 2000 Partners In EXCELLENCE, All Rights Reserved.


Information in this document is subject to change without notice. Other products and companies referred to herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders.

Dimensions Of EXCELLENCE™, EXCELerator™, and EXCELerators™ are registered trademarks.

Send mail to webmaster@excellenc.com with questions or comments about this web site. Copyright © 1998 Last modified: February 12, 2008

If you are interested in learning how to OutPerform and OutSell your competition, please contact us by phone or email:

Telephone: 949-305-7146
Address: 22715 Barlovento, Mission Viejo, CA  92692  USA
Electronic mail:
General Information: info@excellenc.com
Webmaster: webmaster@excellenc.com