Before analytics, AI or machine learning can become the magical, life-changing technology promised, the most delicate and precious data source must be validated: The Opportunity Lifecycle. And the only data source for what happens inside the lifecycle of an opportunity is the salesperson. Once the conversation has begun – once the humans connect – only the salesperson is positioned to capture what happens. The key to understanding customer buying behavior to see it through the eyes of the rep who’s sitting across from the buyer. This is true for all B-to-B sales cycles from transactional to strategic. The analog data collection engine known as the salesperson observes and documents each interaction. The attendees, their role in the decision, the bosses not present, the physical and political requirements to get the deal done. A whirl of variables the salesperson absorbs, translates and calculates when updating each opportunity.
If sales accurately logs what’s happening, there is tremendous value; but the typical sales mentality is to withhold the truth from the process. When it comes to documenting what’s happening in the opportunity lifecycle, most sales reps operate under that assumption of “how will this be used against me?” So, unfortunately, most sales organizations are great at capturing the misinformation provided by sales, with all of the inherent motivations attached. Because of this, factored funnels are the “big lie” of sales and CSOs must tear down that wall in search of the truth. Enterprising CSOs will begin to embrace Opportunity Forensics. Far beyond a won-loss assessment, opportunity forensics goes deep inside the sales cycle to document and codify how we sell and how they buy.
Pipeline integrity is the final chasm to cross for B-to-B sales. The biggest short-term impact is what happens to the funnel when you start to uncover the truth. When the truth is revealed, there’s going to be a drop in the funnel: 50 percent or more of the sales funnel may disappear overnight. CSOs need to be ready to confront that. What’s left in the funnel: real opportunity and the basis for building up the new way of doing business. In the short term, CSOs must confront this, tear it down and rebuild. They must demonstrate to sales the value of seeking and capturing the truth. One of the strategic capabilities of the Sales Leader is to influence how sales behaves, and this is an important one.
This is a collision of analog and digital. Before a digital transformation, there must be an analog transformation; unless or until the CSO has confidence of accurately capturing the buyer’s journey, there should be no digital transformation. In the long term, Opportunity Forensics should drive the Digital Transformations that many organizations are undertaking today. There are many digital transformations happening right now in sales - from paper to spreadsheets to digital recording systems. But there must first be this cultural transformation to seek the truth in the opportunity lifecycle. Without that cultural shift, this is merely a transition of tools and not a transformation in process. In the rush to embrace the promise of sales analytics, AI, etc., many organizations are skipping this step.
Once across the chasm pipeline integrity sales can begin to consider the Digital Transformation path they will all eventually follow.
CSOs need to confront this head-on. It must be in the strategic capability of Sales Leader to influence how sales behaves - through skills and training, through front-line management, through all of the resources we provide our sellers to prepare them to go out and compete. This should start with a cultural transformation to accurately capture the buyer’s journey through forensic analyst of the opportunity lifecycle. Then a documentation and codification of how we sell and how they buy. Then, and only then, should Sales Leaders entertain a digital transformation to accelerate this.
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