Sales Organizations and Star Trek: Parallel Universes?

Hila Segal

Hila Segal
VP Product Marketing, Clari

Sales Organizations and Star Trek: Parallel Universes?

Survey reveals common execution challenges slow enterprise sales missions down 

Sales: the final frontier. In the coming weeks, the Clari Blog will boldly go where no enterprise solution has gone before. (Music swells, soprano hits high notes, and cheesy Starship replica zips in and out of frame at warp speed. Roll credits.)

Even if you’re not a fan, chances are you’re at least familiar with Star Trek. The original TV series may have had a less-than-stellar debut back in 1966, but since then syndication has spawned a cult following that turned a once-cancelled pilot into a multibillion-dollar franchise. Today, you can’t escape the influence of Star Trek.

So, what do today’s sales organizations share with the franchise — besides the “enterprise” moniker and the universal desire to “live long and prosper”? The answer is a lot. So much so, in fact, that we need a series of three blog posts to really do the theme justice. So, let’s get on with it and set a course for sales.

Part 1: Trouble forecasting? You may be in trapped in a “wormhole”

Clari recently surveyed enterprise sales organizations about how they approach sales execution and forecasting. The findings suggest that everybody on the team struggles during the opportunity-to-close (OTC) process, that critical but unwieldy part of the sales cycle that occurs after you identify a lead and before you get them to sign.

In Star Trek terminology, OTC might be considered a “wormhole” — a potentially unstable bridge or tunnel between two points in normal space and time. Once you’re caught in a wormhole, communications get jammed, navigation is sketchy, and you can lose your ability to accurately detect and track objects in your path. Sound familiar?

Of the nearly 300 sales professionals we surveyed, an incredible 93 percent say they’re unable to forecast revenue within 5 percent, even in the remaining two weeks before the end of the quarter. That’s one serious wormhole. How’d we get stuck here?

Clari polled sales reps, managers, VP-level execs, and sales ops leaders and our findings suggest that common execution challenges are slowing teams down:

  • Sales reps underperform: Half of those surveyed reported less than 50 percent of reps in their organization achieved quota last year.
  • Deals consistently slip: Four out of five respondents reported more than 10 percent of their committed deals slipped out of quarter— and some 40 percent reported slippage in excess of 25 percent.
  • Teams struggle to forecast: Only seven percent said their forecasting process is “very efficient.”

In Star Trek, members of Starfleet abide by something called the “prime directive.” It’s the one rule that must be obeyed above all others. For members of sales organizations, the prime directive is simply to close more deals predictably. Adhere to that one rule and every mission will end in success. Unfortunately, abiding by the prime directive is often easier said than done.

For the enterprise teams we surveyed, persistent problems with rep productivity, data quality, pipeline visibility and forecasting accuracy are undermining the prime directive. In the coming weeks, we’ll examine the inefficiencies that are holding sales organizations back and explore the solutions that sales professionals believe have the promise to right the ship once and for all.

Meet us back here in the upcoming weeks for our continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new tools and new innovations, and to boldly go where no sales team has gone before. Ahem … In the meantime, check out our OTC resources to discover what top sales organizations are doing to better manage opportunities, pipeline, and forecasting to achieve their “prime directive”.

Next segment: Part 2: “Dammit Jim, I’m a sales manager, not a mind reader.”