I’ve become a strong champion of having companies convert their selling-focused sales funnel or CRM to a buying-behavior-focused model. By that I mean instead of tracking the steps of selling that your salespeople take (e.g., qualify, I.D. needs, present, etc.), they track the steps of buying that customers go through. There are many benefits to making this switch, all of which end up with better predictability and higher win rates for a sales team.

To create such a funnel, you start by identifying “exit criteria”—the actions a customer takes as they move from one step of buying to another (such as connecting you to another decision maker, articulating their buying criteria, calling your references, and so on).

Having exit criteria defined throughout the buying process helps you get a better read on whether a customer will be buying from you, decide to do nothing, or switch to a competitor. For example, one company knows that prospects who contact references are far more likely to purchase from them than those who don’t. So reps pay close to attention to how prospects respond at that stage of buying. In terms of predicting wins, it makes a big difference whether the prospect says, “Great! We’d like to hear about other companies’ experiences,” or “We’re not at that stage yet. I’ll let you know when to send it over.”

In another company, a key exit criterion is having a legal review of the contract. So a rep says, “I’d like you to have your legal department review our user license.” If the customer gives the rep the appropriate contact information, the rep can report that the customer is taking positive action towards closing the deal. If the customer says, “Well, we’re not really ready for that because we need a few more executives to sign off on this general concept first,” the rep knows they have more work to do to make sure the prospect understands their needs and sees value in the company’s solution.

Too often, companies don’t know that a deal is in danger until it’s too late to rescue it or they have to provide deep discounts or agree to other unfavorable terms to win the sale. If you have a buying-focused funnel or CRM with clear exit criteria defined along the way, you will run into far fewer of these situations. Reps will know if a deal is trouble much earlier—while they are still in contact with the prospect or customer—and are in a strong position for figuring out a way to get the deal back on track.

Kevin F. Davis is the author of “The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness: 10 Essential Strategies for Leading Your Team to the Top.” The book is now available on Amazon.com here.