Mapping Out the Sales Stages

As the startup moves past the search for product/market fit and into the search for a repeatable customer acquisition model, mapping out the sales stages becomes much more important. Now, the sales process should start with a discovery call, but what’s next? Here’s an example group of stages in a sales process:

  1. Discovery
  2. Demo
  3. Trial
  4. Negotiation
  5. Won / Lost

There’s a balance with having the stages fine-grained enough to reflect where things are in the process, but not so fine-grained that the stages don’t reflect useful information. One best practice is to include the stages that the majority of winning opportunities pass through. For example, some products require two or three demos before purchase, and most deals go through at least two demos, so it’d be useful to rename the “Demo” stage to “Demo 1” and add a new stage after it “Demo 2” since it’s a key part of the normal flow.

Here’s a more advanced set of stages:

  1. Discovery Scheduled
  2. Discovery Complete
  3. Demo Scheduled
  4. Demo Complete
  5. Trial Started
  6. Trial Complete
  7. Negotiations
  8. Contracting
  9. Won / Lost

Entrepreneurs should map out the sales stages and continually refine them as the business matures.

What else? What are some more thoughts on mapping out the sales stages?

Discovery Calls – A Critical Part of the Sales Process

One of the most important elements of the sales process is to really understand the problem that needs to be solved. This sounds obvious, but too often sales people just “show up and throw up” providing the same information without context. The solution is to always do a discovery call (or discovery questions) before proceeding to other aspects of the engagement.

Here are some example discovery call questions:

  • How do you currently do X?
  • What tools, system or process do you use to do X?
  • What works well with X?
  • What are some challenges with X?
  • Who else is involved with X?
  • How much time do you spend on X?
  • If you could wave a magic wand, how would X work?
  • What’s your timeline for changing X?
  • Anything else I need to know about X?

Of course, these questions would be more specific to the product or solution being offered as well as tailored to the audience (e.g. different questions for C-level execs vs front-line managers). The answers to each question should be documented in the CRM and applied to MEDDICC, where applicable.

Sales discovery calls are a critical part of the sales process and should be structured and valuable.

What else? What are some more thoughts on sales discovery calls?

Notes from Trenton Truitt’s Presentation on MEDDICC

Continuing with yesterday’s post on MEDDICC Forecasting Methodology, Trenton Truitt has a great video titled PagerDuty’s VP Sales: Managing Enterprise Sales where he talks about MEDDICC in detail. Here are the notes from his slides:

  • Metric
    • Define, capture and communicate the values used to make a decision
    • More than the ROI on the project
    • Why – Share similar success stores and build metrics for your champion
    • How – Arm the champion with a narrative to save/make money
  • Economic Buyer
    • The person who owns the budget for your service
    • Why – Shorten the sales cycle
    • How – Ask your champion
  • Decision Criteria
    • The values by which your service is evaluated
    • Why – Control the criteria or it will control you
    • How – Ensure your strengths are part of the criteria. Understand your competition’s technology. Lay traps for your competition.
  • Decision Process
    • Answer three questions:
      • How are decisions made?
      • Who is in the power base?
      • Who will move each stage forward?
    • Why – Forecast your sales. Focus your resources. Protect your time.
    • How – Ask the client to walk you through the decision process. Then ask the same question of everyone you meet. Trust, yet verify.
  • Identify Pain Points
    • The measurable problem your solution will solve
    • Why – Understand the value of the problem you are solving.
    • How – Ask the EB or Champion.
  • Champions
    • The person that will stake their badge on your technology
    • Why – A champion sells for you when you aren’t in the building. Nothing happens without a champion. Period.
    • How – Find the right person who has a way-in to sponsor your solution. Arm them with Metrics.
  • Compelling Event
    • An event that drives the timing of a decision
    • Why – Understand when the client needs to be up and running. Work with your champion to create the reason.
    • How – Ask. What are the implications of not having a solution implemented by X-date. Write the narrative.

Want to learn more about MEDDICC? Head on over and watch the video.

MEDDICC Forecasting Methodology

After yesterday’s post on The Success Plan Google Doc for Sales, Landon mentioned I should take a look at the MEDDICC forecasting methodology discussed in the post Control, or Be Controlled: Sales Forecasting Done Right. Like a more advanced version of BANT, MEDDICC is an an acronym for seven characteristics to evaluate:

  • Metrics – ROI and/or business case that proves the value of the solution.
  • Economic Buyer – The person who makes the economic decision to buy the solution.
  • Decision Criteria – The requirements and specifications to make a decision.
  • Decision Process – The process to find, review, and choose a solution.
  • Identify Pain – The existing business problem that needs to be solved in the timeframe.
  • Champion – The internal person with power and influence.
  • Competition – The other competitors in the opportunity and how they stack up.

Looking to improve sales forecasting and predictability in the sales department? Implement a system like MEDDICC.

What else? What are some more thoughts on the MEDDICC sales forecasting methodology?

Bonus: Here’s a great video explaining MEDDICC.

The Success Plan Google Doc for Sales

Recently I was talking to an entrepreneur about B2B sales and the sales process. After we talked for a few minutes, he offered up something that had been working well for his company: the Success Plan. Intrigued, I wanted to learn more. Here’s how it works:

  • Make a Google Doc for every prospect that’s qualified after completion of a discovery call
  • Title the Google Doc “Company Name / Prospect Name Success Plan”
  • Write bullet points of the major pain points learned in the discovery call
  • Make a table of what needs to be done, the person that owns the task, and a done column to check things off
  • Outline the schedule and timeline of deliverables to prove the expected value (e.g. if there’s a trial or proof of concept involved, it should show the value)
  • Share the Google Doc with the prospect and work it until the deal is closed!

Looking to improve your sales process and increase the win rate? Try the Success Plan process and use it like a collaborative mutual close plan.

What else? What are some more thoughts on the Success Plan for engaging with qualified prospects?

Testing Potential Demand By Being an SDR

Over the past few years I’ve seen several startups implement a Sales Development Rep (SDR) function in their business with great success. Because of this, I’ve become a big proponent of the SDR role (see Sales Development as the Most Important Sales Innovation in 10 Years and 7 Quick SDR Tips for Startups), recommending it many times. Only, it struck me recently that the activities of an SDR are perfect for an entrepreneur to test potential demand for a new product or service.

Here’s how the SDR role would test potential demand:

  • Build a list of potential prospects that could use the product or service
  • Develop a cadence or flow of steps to use in a product like SalesLoft
  • Call potential prospects and get appointments to do a discovery call around the product or service idea
  • Email potential prospects to find latent demand and assess market worthiness
  • Rinse and repeat until it’s clear that there is, or isn’t, demand

Sound familiar? That’s because customer discovery is very similar — reaching out and assessing the need in the market by talking to hundreds of people. The benefit of thinking about it as an SDR role is that there’s great SDR content online, and entrepreneurs should use that to do customer discovery more efficiently.

What else? What are some more thoughts on testing potential demand by being an SDR?

The Case for Not Setting Goals

Jason Fried, co-founder and CEO of Basecamp, lays out the case for not setting goals in his post I’ve Never Had a Goal. Here are a few choice quotes from the article:

  • I want to make progress, I want to make things better…But I’ve never set a goal.
  • A goal is something that goes away when you hit it. Once you’ve reached it, it’s gone.
  • I consider Basecamp, my current business, as one continuous line back from when I sold the first thing I ever remember making.
  • I just worked at whatever I was working on and ended up wherever I am.
  • Jim Coudal said about goals:

    “The reason that most of us are unhappy most of the time is that we set our goals not for the person we’re going to be when we reach them, but we set our goals for the person we are when we set them.

Personally, I enjoy the clarity and focus of working towards a target and knowing whether or not it was achieved, especially in the team or company context. On an individual level, I don’t use goals very much, but I do care that I’m always learning and growing, as that’s important to me.

What else? What are some more thoughts on the case for not setting goals?