Every approach and landing a Navy pilot makes aboard an aircraft carrier is graded by the Landing Signal Officers. The grades are posted on a “Greenie Board” in the squadron’s Ready Room for all to see. The grading scale can get complicated, but to simplify:
Green is an “OK” grade. A perfect approach, or one with reasonable deviations and good corrections.
Yellow is a “Fair” grade. Still pretty good. A safe approach with reasonable deviations.
Red is a “Cut” grade. An unsafe pass with gross deviations inside the waveoff window.
An example of a debrief from the LSO might sound like: “High and overshooting start, fly through down on comeback in the middle, low in close to at the ramp, Fair 2.” Carrier pilot lingo.
A Navy F-14 Squadron Greenie Board
So what kind of grade would your B2B, complex Sales Process and Sales Funnel earn?
Below is a Greenie Board grading scale for sales leaders that can help with benchmarking your Sales Funnel and forecasting system, and identify opportunities to improve.
- No defined Sales Process(es) or formal funnel is in place, other than perhaps tracking the number-of-sales-calls completed for each prospect
- Forecasts tend to be educated guesses, and are often way off target
- The Funnel or pipeline is full of poorly qualified or unqualified prospects.
- The Funnel is misshapen or reshapes frequently. Many new opportunities suddenly pop-in near the bottom of the funnel. (sales reps are either over-eager or sandbagging)
- A CRM system either doesn’t exist, or is used with little discipline or consistency (you’re not utilizing or acquiring critical sales data)
- Sales meetings are usually dreaded and unproductive, and the CYA and BS factors are high
- Quotas or targets are set too low or too high, and most miss quota or blow well by it
- Few KPIs are in place to encourage successful activities and smart funnel progression
- A Sales Process is in place and mapped to funnel stages, but resembles a Sales To-Do List, versus a Buyer-Conscious Sales Process
- A funnel is in place, but not managed with discipline, and opportunities are listed in poorly defined or misunderstood stages
- Time-to-close and percentage-closed numbers are assumed, versus data supported
- Forecasts are frequently way off, or corrected just days before the end of each reporting period
- A CRM system is in place but with no business rules and little discipline applied to its use
- Sales meetings consist of rambling descriptions of stalling sales cycles. The Sales Process is rarely referenced or consulted. Promising opportunities tend to dissipate after several weeks or months. Surprise competitors are winning the opportunities that seemed solid.
- Accountability is confusing and tends to create silos or unhealthy rivalries amongst sales, marketing, customer support and management
- A relatively simple Sales/Buyer Process exist that indicates a wise understanding of how Buyers make the decision to go with your brand
- The funnel stages are simple and well defined from the Sales/Buyer Process. Only qualified opportunities enter the funnel. Criteria are well understood for funnel progression or discharge.
- Revenue forecasts exist for opportunities in all stages of the funnel based on fact based time-to-close and chance-of-closing data derived from the CRM system
- Separate Buyer-Conscious Sales Processes exist for products or services that differ: products, professional services, transactional purchases, strategic purchases, etc.
- Simplicity rules over Complexity
- The CRM system is easy to use, helpful and a quick resource for making data-driven decisions. Simple business rules exist to keep everything updated and logical.
- Sales meetings are easy and ensure transparent accountability. They are focused and everyone remains engaged in a spirit of competitive collaboration.
- Sales managers easily assume a servant leadership role, addressing funnel challenges head-on. Substandard performance becomes obvious, and talent management moves (pro or con) come as no surprise.
- The architecture and process is agile, and easily adjusted
- The CFO, COO and CEO love the Chief Sales Officer. Life is good because everyone is aligned, attuned to the Buyer, and forecast fluctuations are anticipated, understood and manageable.
Acknowledging the Buyer’s path-to-purchase and acknowledging their buying process with your selling process is critical. Simplifying your 4 or 5 funnel phases into clearly defined process stages, and tracking them with discipline in your CRM system is imperative. When your approach is on glideslope and the centerline, better win rates, faster sales cycles and more accurate forecasts will rule the day.
Just as a Navy pilot’s ability to safely land on the ship consistently is a cornerstone to his/her career success, a Chief Sales Officer’s ability to create a solid Buyer-Conscious Sales Process and Funnel architecture is critical to creating Green Dot results.
Jack Liles flew combat missions in the Navy F-14 Tomcat after graduating from The Citadel, and successfully transitioned into a sales and marketing career following his naval service. He has held leadership roles at the ad agency Leo Burnett, Coca-Cola, UPS, several start-up tech and consulting companies, and is an occasional military analyst on CNN. Jack is a Partner at TechCXO, an executive professional services firm that provides C-level leadership and consulting services for clients seeking accelerated growth and revenue. Reach Jack at firstname.lastname@example.org