I’m a big believer in developing systems, and nowhere is this more important that in the sales cycle. It’s not rocket science–but at the same time, I have yet to encounter a business owner that can truly articulate the number of suspects needed to generate prospects, and then how many prospects they need to close deals.

In fact, when you talk to sales people about their pipeline, you get a lot of “blue sky” answers–which ultimately means that many are misplacing suspects in the prospect category when they haven’t actually earned the right to move them over.

Using a CRM such as Salesforce.com won’t solve this issue either. I’ve seen many companies that use these systems effectively across the organization with wide variances in revenue growth. This is usually because different departments are using different data points that determine if this is a suspect or a prospect with no real accountability.

This process is completely predictable if you’re inputing the right data consistently.

The question that needs to be asked at each stage is “what have we done for a suspect that qualifies them to be put on the prospect list?” Salespeople need to ensure that they have had discussions with the actual decision maker and have a good understanding of the customer’s procurement process.

Most of all, we (both you and your salespeople) need to be honest about what qualifies a suspect to be moved over to the prospect list. Using agreed upon data points, triggers or gates will create a significant improvement in predictability, and help you determine where you need to intercede in the process.

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