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Fill the Pipeline AND Sell Strategically: What’s a Sales Person to Do?

Fill the Pipeline AND Sell Strategically: What's a Sales Person to Do? - SalesLatitude

Fill the Pipeline AND Sell Strategically: What's a Sales Person to Do? - SalesLatitudeThese days, when sales people and sales teams are coached, they typically get a lot of mixed messages. You know that thinking strategically about your customer from their point of view (and not yours) is tantamount to success for both your customers and for your sales team. However, sales teams are constantly asked to build and fill the pipeline with deals showing a quarter-by-quarter forecast. What’s a sales person to do? And, how do these two coaching messages mesh? The answer is, first, understand what it means to sell proactively versus reactively.

DO Sell Proactively

To sell proactively means selling from the customer’s point of view and understanding their “must haves” to get done and by when. This will allow you to match your products and services to your customer’s needs. These deals are typically forecasted using a date that is important to your customer to get to their desired state from their current state.

DON’T Sell Reactively

Selling reactively comes straight from your point of view and understanding what you must have to fill your pipeline with deals.  This means positioning your products and services where you believe best match the customer’s needs with little to no understanding of their business goals and priorities and how they link up to their executive/company goals and priorities. Typically, these are the deals that are forecasted and then repeatedly moved out quarter by quarter. It’s like pushing a big boulder uphill since the deal often lacks a connection with the customer’s needs and goals or knowledge of such.

How do these two ways of selling mesh? If you understand your customer’s priorities and constantly validate them with key stakeholders, then you’ll fill the pipeline with quality deals that align with your customer’s priorities and timelines. However, it takes time. And, time is of the essence since we all have annual quotas.

Selling proactively can be a difficult concept to embrace since management will always pressure you to get more deals in your pipeline, which can force you to sell reactively. But are these “good quality” deals that should be in your pipeline? That’s the million-dollar question. You can find out by asking yourself, “Is the deal tied to a top priority of the executive in that organization/line of business? And, do we know how their priorities link to overall corporate goals and priorities?” Even if a reactively sold deal closes, it most likely will sit in the procurement pile while higher priority projects get signed off on first.

What’s a sales person to do?

Be patient, be curious and ask tons of questions — especially when:

  • Things do not make sense
  • There are gaps in your knowledge about the customer
  • You are trying to understand the customer’s key priorities
  • You are trying to understand how these key priorities link to the customer’s management priorities and to overall corporate mission and goals
  • You are not sure who cares about a particular priority or set of priorities
  • The key stakeholder cannot answer your questions about their business goals
  • Stakeholders want to force you down the feature/function path
  • Stakeholders won’t share information on what they need to be successful
  • Dates continue to slip
  • Meetings get postponed or cancelled
  • Anything else feels “off” and you’re getting nowhere

Begin selling proactively and fill the pipeline with deals that are a high priority to the customer, and ensure the close date is the customer’s “must have” date. If you can fill the pipeline 2X or 3X your quota based on your customer’s needs and perspective, then you’ve reached a win-win situation.


Janice Mars, Principal and Founder of SalesLatitude, is a sales performance improvement consultant and change agent focused on growing top performers to impact bottom line growth. With more than 30 years of experience as a senior business and sales executive, she helps companies build successful sales teams by maximizing their time and resources, selling from the buyer’s point of view, and strengthening the effectiveness of leadership. View my LinkedIn profile | Twitter


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