Survey reveals sales execs lack the real-time visibility they need to forecast accurately.
[Editor’s note: All good things must come to an end (or spin off into numerous series and a successful franchise). This is the third and final installment in our blog series exploring the parallels between the sales opportunity-to-close (OTC) process and Star Trek. It’s Kobayashi Maru time, folks. Are you up to the test?]
Part 3. The Kobayashi Maru test: If only you could reprogram your OTC process to win.
Back when captaining the USS Enterprise was just a glint in his eyes, a brash James T. Kirk (AKA “Jim”) made a name for himself at Starfleet Academy by being the first to defeat the famed “Kobayashi Maru” test. It was essentially a training exercise designed to test the character, cunning, and resolve of command-track cadets by placing them in a no-win situation. It took Jim three tries, but he finally beat the system by reprogramming the simulator to make the no-win scenario winnable. For that, he received a commendation for original thinking, and the keys to a starship with a crew of 430 (and, presumably, heated seats).
The sales leaders Clari surveyed back in February know a little something about what it means to exercise original thinking in the face of a no-win situation. Consider the forecast management part of the opportunity-to-close process.
Here’s the scenario: Forecasting is a time-consuming and highly analytical process that demands the intense scrutiny of volumes of data. You don’t just pull a number out of thin air. Like the captain of a starship, you rely on a combination of instinct, input from your crew, and lots of data to inform your forecast call and ultimately ensure the livelihood of the enterprise. And, when everything doesn’t line up the way it should, you factor in some original thinking too. You have to.
Still, the majority of sales execs we surveyed don’t feel they’re up to the test: 93 percent are unable to forecast revenue within 5 percent, even in the remaining two weeks before the end of the quarter. So, what are the factors contributing to this seemingly no-win situation — and how do we “reprogram the simulator” or redefine the problem?
First, we need to recognize that forecasting is really an end-to-end process. And, for the process to work, you need every member of the sales team to be on board — starting with the rep. Reps have to accurately capture opportunity data in a timely manner so that managers can properly inspect pipeline. If that doesn’t happen, how can you expect the captain of the ship to effectively gauge risk and confidently anticipate where the team will land for the quarter?
Close to 40 percent of survey respondents told us forecast accuracy remains a major challenge — and if you ask just the VPs and execs the number rises to 48 percent. The fact is sales leaders aren’t confident in their ability to forecast accurately: 69 percent report slippage between 10-50 percent of committed deals.
Overall, execs think the process is inefficient, and 54 percent trace their failure to call the number accurately back to sales rep productivity. In short, reps aren’t documenting activity and they don’t know where to focus their time. And without up-to-date data on deal progress, leadership can’t accurately predict close dates.
Our survey reveals the next biggest hurdle to accurate forecasting is the lack of real-time data. By the time the forecasting process is complete, it no longer accurately reflects the latest state of the pipeline. And, that explains why 93 percent of execs have little confidence in forecasting. Sounds like it’s time to reprogram the simulator.
In fairness, Kirk’s “Enterprise” had something yours lacks
In addition to 14 science labs and a rocking observation deck, Kirk and his crew had access to all kinds of nifty gadgets — including tricorders, handheld devices that combined sensing, recording, and computing capabilities. Heck, by the time the franchise had spinned off its popular “Next Generation” series, they even had Data, a character who was the very embodiment of artificial intelligence (AI).
Yesterday’s science fiction is today’s reality. Predictive selling solutions — including everything from algorithm-driven guided selling and sales acceleration tools to virtual digital sales assistants (think your own personal Data) — promise to help make those no-win situations winnable. Some 67 percent of sales professionals we surveyed agree that predictive or AI-based capabilities have the potential to drive much better sales execution.
So, maybe all you and your enterprise team need to reprogram the OTC simulator is a tricorder and some bot-driven insights. It’s not as far fetched as you think, and you don’t have to wait until Stardate 41254.7 to make it so.
If you’re ready to boldly go where other leading sales teams have gone, we invite you to the observation deck. Come see how savvy enterprise teams are leveraging Clari to close more deals, predictably.