Hitting Sales Targets Consistently
By Rowen Untivero
 
“We sell products and services to industrial and institutional clients. Unlike selling consumer goods, each deal, even those with existing customers, much more with new customers, requires beating competition to the punch.   The difficulty of my sales managers is how to hit their respective targets consistently.”L. - Managing Director
 
I understand perfectly where you are coming from.  In this type of selling milieu, salespeople either have the deal or they don’t.  Hence, with the exception of any steady-demand consumables or existing service-supply agreements that can be predictive of certain numbers, the rest of the sales targets can only be hit by winning the right amount of transactions while denying competition such a privilege.  
 
Therein lays two major clusters of issues. The first issue has to do with projecting accurately numbers entered into the pipeline of opportunities.  The second one has to do with progressive actions being taken to eliminate if not surpass the foreseen performance gaps between the projected tail-end pipeline numbers and sales targets.
 
 
PLANNING: Forecasting With Much Uncertainty
 
Plotted numbers on an opportunity pipeline have several usual possibilities: one- they will happen, two - they will slide time-wise, three - they will have either a negative or positive variance with respect to scale, and  four, they will disappear altogether either lost to competition or cancelled by the client. Obviously, only the first one will contribute to attaining sales targets, while the others unfortunately will leave unintended gaps.
 
To avoid performance shortfalls, logically, pipelines must be robust enough to withstand slides, scale-variances and drops.  A lot of organizations rely on rule of thumb ratios of sales conversions versus pipeline feed. Such are utilized to serve as a guide as to how much numbers comprise a healthy pipeline. Hence the term ‘numbers game’.  But why does this practice still leave much for wanting? Because it still does not guarantee targets will be achieved. Solely on its own that is. Why is that? The ‘numbers game’ relies on past aggregate data. However, this does not account for large variances that oftentimes occur, courtesy of deals being independent events and mostly having no direct relationship to consolidated figures. Make no mistake. By no way is the author implying that this practice be expunged.  Instead, it must simply not be allowed to ride solo.
 
Concomitant with aggregate conversion ratios, it is imperative to analyze large value potentials in the pipeline as non-realization of these will significantly impact actual performance versus periodic sales targets. Analysis should yield meaningful win-lose progressive probability anchored on pertinent indicators of whether transactions will indeed happen in the scale and timing expected. Simply put, for each monetarily size-significantly transaction, tracking progress with attention to critical indicators, predictive of deal-materialization probability, must be diligently done. Figures not ascertained to a high level of realization are placed in incubator buckets instead of directly plotted on the pipeline. This way, sales management is not misled to think the pipeline is solid ground when in reality it is a hidden, volatile volcano about to violently rise and erupt. Analogously, a person who may appear fit still needs to have health checks regularly; reading vitals, degradation of which may not always manifest outwardly.  Numerous heart attacks and unexpected mortality from advanced stages of cancer could have been avoided with early detection.
  
EXECUTION: Timeliness and Adequacy of Progressive Actions
 
Sales performance gap predictions are like weather forecasts, they prompt you to prepare but compliance remains with each individual. Early detection that pipeline entries will not materialize behooves the sales manager to find alternative revenue generators to cover for the shortfall. The sales manager must review the pipeline for possible deals to accelerate. Incubator buckets must also be reviewed for opportunities to find alternatives to deals about to go sideways. The sales manager needs to find quick wins big or small, the combination of which must more than cover for the transactions that are anticipated to be moved to the ICU or worse, the morgue.  The timing of patch remedies is very critical. Amateurs will use pressure or inducement alone. More promising however is to influence client deal timelines from their point of view.
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Rowen Untivero is a Partner and the Chief Sales Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc., the country’s leading marketing, sales, strategy and innovation training company.  Untivero developed original Mansmith Frameworks such as the “Mission Focus-to-Transitioning Phases Matrix” and the “Sales Management Activity-Function Matrix”.  He has been injecting much practicable science into sales management, negotiations, selling and general management for more than a quarter of a century. Please send your questions, comments or feedback to mentors@mansmith.net. You can also visit www.mansmith.net.