The difference between selling and dreaming


Sales professionals, after all, are eternal optimists. And when you think about the number of times they hear “no” on a daily/weekly basis, they pretty much have to be.

They expect the deal in front of them to close. They expect the new prospect to enter their pipeline. It’s that mindset that helps make them successful, helps them ignore the daily rejection, and helps them push through every month and every quarter to hit their number.

It’s also that mindset that, if left unchecked, can wreak havoc on your sales projections.

Clear definitions for qualified prospects and opportunities is a critical starting point. For example, it doesn’t count as a qualified opportunity unless a decision-maker is involved, there’s budget available, as well as a mutually-agreed upon (even if estimated) close date.

Those definitions apply to subsequent opportunity stages as well. The farther down the pipeline, the more narrow and specific the criteria for allowing it to impact your closeable projections.

Effective pipeline management and projections also requires significant input from the buyer directly. What direct and subtle buying signals are you getting? Is the buyer talking in future tense or present tense? Are they saying “you” or “we”? These and other signals can both validate and accelerate your confidence in late-stage deals. And if you have the means of capturing these signals, they can give sales managers and executives confidence in the pipeline projections as well.

The best salespeople are a mix between realist and dreamer. They’re at the same time grounded in what’s in front of them, yet optimistic about what’s still possible.

But there’s a big difference between projecting and hallucinating. The strength and accuracy of your sales projections relies on your ability to distinguish between the two.