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Fiction Doesn’t Help Your Forecast

3 min readMarch 11, 2021

Telling stories is important in sales.

But, not when you’re telling them to your sales boss.

For instance, fiction doesn’t strengthen a forecast.

As humans, we hate ambiguity. We feel a burning need to make sense out of uncertainty.

So, in situations where we don’t have a complete set of facts, we take the limited information we have at hand and weave it together into a narrative that tries to make sense of uncertainty.

In short, we jump to conclusions. Like with that big sales opportunity you need to close this month.

You want to convince your manager that you’re on top of your accounts. So, you attempt to create certainty about that big deal by taking a limited set of facts and stitching them together into a narrative that attempts to create logic where none exists.

And, then you compound the problem by buying into the fake logic of your own made-up story. I’ve seen it a million times. I’ve done it a few times too…

Here’s a simple way to avoid the ‘jumping to conclusions’ habit:

Weight your evaluation of each opportunity in your pipeline according to your understanding of the decision-making process of the buyer.

There are three stages of understanding that sellers all pass through on every deal. (Yes, buyers go through the same three stages of understanding from their own perspective. But that’s a different blog post.)

Not Knowing Stage:
“I really don’t know what’s going on yet.”

This is your data gathering stage. Opportunities at this stage haven’t earned a spot in your forecast yet. Yes, you may have BANTed the hell out of the buyer but that tells you just a bit more than nothing. Certainly it’s not enough useful information to truly understand the buyer, what’s most important to them and how you are going to help them get that.

Uncertainty Stage:
“I think I know what’s going on. But, I have to be honest with myself and admit there are factors at play with the buyer that I don’t fully understand yet. Factors that could change the outcome of the deal.”

This stage is frustrating because you want a clear path to success. You want certainty about how you can and should help your buyer across the finish line. But you haven’t had the opportunity to ask the right questions of all the right stakeholders. So, that understanding hasn’t completely materialized. Don’t rush. (And, be careful, this is where sellers, under pressure from a Sales Boss to convince them they know what is happening on their opportunities, begin weaving together an internal narrative to convince themselves that they know what’s going on. When, in fact, they don’t.)

Understanding Stage:
“I believe I’ve worked through all the alternatives with the key stakeholders and now I have confidence that I understand exactly what’s going on. I understand exactly what I need to do to close the deal.”

Odds are you don’t know everything. However, you understand enough to have an informed sense of confidence about the buyer, and what you need to help them choose you to solve their problem. As a result, you have a fairly realistic assessment of your chances of closing and winning the deal.

Instead of analyzing the opportunities in your pipeline based on how far the buyer has progressed through your sales process, assess them based on your understanding of where they stand in their decision-making process.

Follow Andy on LinkedIn.