You hang up the phone. Your colleagues can tell from your gloomy expression that the deal has fallen through. As experienced sales professionals, we’ve all been there. It happens. The odds might have been in your favor, but you knew there was something (a competitor’s product, an adversarial advisor to the decision maker, etc) that could scupper the deal. Without a defined sales process, you might not even see what went wrong.

Sales involves identifying and mitigating risk so that your deals can succeed. Following your gut instincts and a positive attitude will only get you so far. In fact, optimism can keep you from recognizing your blind spots that prevent you from quantifying risk realistically.

How to quantify risk in your sales process

It’s time to ask the hard questions:

What is the goal for this sales process? Without a goal, all the metrics in the world won’t be meaningful. Do you have a sales strategy?

Is the value proposition of whatever you’re selling well-defined? What is it? You should be able to articulate it clearly – most likely, focusing on different value propositions for different target markets.

How was the customer involved in developing the value proposition? Did your company do market research? Are you basing the value proposition on what they told you or lazily referring back to assumptions you had about potential customers from the very beginning?

Have you identified the decision maker? Sometimes, it’s the CEO – but not always. You want to avoid relying on internal champions to do your selling for you, because that just adds more risk to the process. The more people involved, the more likelihood you’ll get blocked by a gatekeeper or just thrown into sales purgatory by a deadlocked team that can’t make a decision together.

These are just a few of the questions that we contemplate in our opportunity assessment instrument we’ve used successfully with many clients. Note that none of these questions involves actually calculating percentages of potential risk – it’s not like that. Rather, if you haven’t bothered asking these questions, your sales effort is likely to be very risky, indeed. Drop the ‘gut check’ and start doing the research so you don’t have to be lucky.

If your team needs sales training to help them define the sales process, we’re happy to help.