Ed. Congratulations to Enio for creating an imaginative and useful Excel template. His article explains why the sales process can be computerized by using a simple spreadsheet. There is a much easier and more elegant way to get this functionality and much, much more. The app is free here.
Sales methods are usually associated with two statements by salespeople: “very strict, with little flexibility” or “our business is to be at the client and not in front of a computer.”
We agree that it is more important to be in front of the customer than typing information at a computer. And, we agree that information put into the computer should produce results that are relevant to the successful outcome of the sales process.
Our methodology for achieving this can be mimicked using a spreadsheet to enter the data and, because we are dealing with a definable process, to calculate results that help us win.
We start by dividing the sales cycle into three skill phases: probe, prove and close. By probing adequately about our client’s needs, it will certainly be easier and take less time to prove how our products and services meet these requirements, and closing the sale should be even faster.
Let’s use an Excel spreadsheet to show how easy it is to implement the method.
In Figure 1, we use cells F4, F5, F6 to define the three skill phases (Probe, Prove and Close), and cells G4, G5, G6 for the respective percentage of time we spend on each skill in the sales cycle.
The first relevant information that the method provides is the salesperson’s positioning in a particular sales process. For this to happen, it is sufficient to know just three dates: when the opportunity was identified, when we believe the opportunity will be closed, and today’s date (Figure 2).
On the same sheet, we set Mar 21 as the date we first learned about the opportunity and enter it in cell A3. In cell B3, we set Jul 20 as probable close date, and finally in cell C3, today’s date, May 06.
Using simple formulas Excel quickly calculates which phase we are in. In this case, we are in the “Probe” phase because we have only covered 38% of the sales cycle allocated time. The content of formula in cell B10 is =IF(B7<=50%;F4;IF(B7<85%;F5;F6)).
So, with few steps we can track our position in the sales cycle in terms of the skill phase we are in. Enter three dates and it happens automatically in the simple spreadsheet. You can even use an Excel function to automatically set today’s date every time you open the spreadsheet so your tracking is current.
But tracking is not enough. It is important to provide the salesperson, a precise way to assess his winning chances or losing risk, in every moment of the sales cycle. The probability of winning.
To do this, we divide the probability issue into two perspectives: the assurance that the deal will happen, and the confidence to win. The first is usually out of the salesperson’s control and refers to the necessary conditions for the purchase to happen. Budget problems, strategy changes, or other situations may make it impractical to complete the buying cycle and make a purchase.
The second involves competitive issues, and it is where the salesperson has a chance to work and improve his situation as the sales cycle progresses.
We can plot the two questions by defining the answers as high, medium, and low (Figure 4). By assigning a probability to each combination of responses, the combination leads to a consistent assessment of the chance that the salesperson has to win.
In our Excel spreadsheet, we formatted a 3×3 matrix that represents the nine possibilities for the answers to both questions presented to the salesperson. In figure 5, we set the formulas that will find the appropriate information based on these two issues.
In columns B12 and B13, we let the salesperson answer to two questions: Will it happen? Will we get it? Using simple formulas in cells D12 and D13, Excel helps us to find the probability in column B21. In this case, the “Will it happen” response “low” corresponds to column G, and the “Will it happen” response “high” to row 12. Those intersect at G12 of the probability matrix is 25%, and the value there is shown in cell B21.
With just four pieces of information entered (start date, end date, will it happen, will we get it), the salesperson defines the sales cycle, and the method determines what chances the salesperson has to win business at that moment.
It now remains to inform the salesperson what to do and what degree of effort must be invested to improve his chances. The method calls this priority. It depends on the probability, already calculated, and the position in the sales cycle, also traced. We have three skill phases and nine positions in our probability matrix. When we add a third dimension to the matrix, the three phases of the sales cycle, the resultant 3x3x3 cube represents 27 possible situations that the salesperson can find himself in.
By assigning a relative priority value to each of these combinations, we can automatically organize all of our opportunities so we can see what is important today. Priorities 1 through 3 are clear – 1 is the most important, 3 is the least. The other two are special situations where you find yourself very late in the sales cycle with little chance of winning and you either have to walk away or spring a surprise on your competition.
In our spreadsheet we create a nine line (lines 13 − 21) by three column (Columns N, O, & P) array, each line representing a probability condition and three columns the skill phases. Indexing the line by the probability and the column by the phase, the method determines the priority.
In our example, the position in the probability matrix is 3 and the phase corresponds to the priority matrix first column. The priority is automatically calculated as the highest, number 1.
We could still go a bit further, for instance, in each priority matrix position, to include an instruction, some advice of what to do in each situation. Keith Thompson did this in his book, Sales Automation Done Right, where he describes this methodology on a conceptual basis and defines an automated response to each of the twenty-seven situations.
You are invited to read it and check by yourself.