I feel good about this one.
No sales manager wants to hear phrases like these from their direct reports during weekly one-on-ones. Accurate sales forecasting requires detailed assessments, not hunches or estimations. And that can only be achieved through effective deal inspection.
But running deal inspections is a skill. To gain the insight you need to coach your team and hit your revenue operations forecast, you need to understand the right questions to ask.
These six questions will help you gain the insights you need to accurately track a deal’s progress.
1. What’s changed in this deal since the last meeting?
Account executives should follow a regular cadence of sales meetings with the prospect’s decision-making team. Each meeting should be calibrated carefully to move the deal forward.
By asking what has changed since the sales rep last met with the prospect, you can keep a pulse on the deal’s health. If a deal isn’t progressing, the account executive likely needs coaching on follow-up meeting strategies.
2. How much activity does the deal have, and is it the right type of activity?
It rarely pays to grill AEs on the granular details of a deal or their day-to-day—this can come off as micro-managing, and likely isn’t the best use of anyone’s time. But as a manager, you need to understand whether the account executive is successfully moving the ball forward. If they can’t confirm they’ve taken the right steps, on the right accounts, that’s worth knowing.
If you have to question whether they’ve sent a follow-up email, if the contract was sent to their sponsor for review, or if they’ve scheduled a meeting with the director of finance, that can indicate they’re not doing their job well, or that you don’t trust them.
But if a large deal is forecasted to close this quarter, you need to know if emails have been sent and responded to, or if meetings have been scheduled. You also need to know if a rep is wasting their time working on a small deal that might represent an insignificant blip on the quarter’s numbers.
3. Is your team building healthy relationships?
The typical buying group for a complex B2B solution involves six to 10 decision makers, according to Gartner. Not all members of a decision-making team actually contributes to the yes decision, but many have veto power. Your reps need to build healthy relationships with the whole decision-making team, and know how to neutralize detractors.
Who should the account executive connect with?
- The economic buyer. The person holding the purse strings may not call attention to themselves. They may say something like, “I’m just here to support the team.”
- The end-user representative. It’s amazing how often the actual end-users are ignored in a deal. If no one represents the people who will use your product on a daily basis, your AE may struggle to close the deal.
- Detractors. Some people might say no, even though they can’t make recommendations. The IT team often plays this role. Make sure your account executive has met with somebody who can veto the deal—and knows how to neutralize them.
4. Does this deal follow our sales process?
From MEDDIC to BANT, from SPIN to Challenger, there are at least 12 enterprise sales frameworks or methodologies in active use by organizations today, Hubspot notes. If your organization has adopted a standardized sales process, it’s for good reason: Your organization wants to use a proven process to close sales effectively and avoid wasting time and energy.
Make sure your reps follow your standardized sales process. This will help you keep your progress on track.
5. Is this deal tied to an urgent initiative?
If a deal isn’t tied to an urgent initiative within your prospect’s organization, the deal won’t close. Period. Any positive declarations from the client side are a distraction and won’t accurately predict what will happen.
Organizations only invest important sums of money to acquire a product or a service if they believe it will help them with some urgent corporate priority that ties into a revenue goal or strategic initiative. Your offering must meet that bar.
6. What is the real revenue for the deal?
Finally, you need accuracy in your forecasting. The best way to ensure accuracy is to know the real revenue the deal is likely to close for, not a rep’s sandbagging or over-inflation.
Dillon Blake, Sr. Director of Revenue Operations for Motus, suggests that commit calls should come from a rep’s “commit bank account,” or the total revenue value of their committed deals. He recommends using a rep’s number up to, but no higher than, that amount.
The Key to Deal Inspection
It’s critical to keep tabs on the details of your sales process so you can accurately forecast your sales pipeline. The key to deal inspection is knowing essential pieces of data, including the sales activities that take place on a daily basis, whether a deal is tied to a critical initiative, and if the revenue numbers are accurate.
But one-on-ones aren’t the time to gather that data, especially when it’s readily available in your tracking software. That time can be better spent coaching reps on how to resuscitate stalled deals or accelerate healthy ones.