Creating a quality sales pipeline, and then executing it, are two separate, distinctive disciplines. Here are five simple steps to a creating a quality sales pipeline.
1. Talk to the Right People
To create a quality sales pipeline, you need to target the contacts that can provide you with the right information. The key is to communicate with stakeholders at the right level within the organization. The reasons are two-fold:
- Different levels of an organization will have different takes on the priorities on which they’re spending the most time, money and resources.
- The higher up in the organization you go, the more strategic the need will be for your products and services (and the larger the deal).
Gain a good understanding of the goals of each level of the organization, and ensure the linkage makes sense. If it does not, then ask more questions.
2. Align Yourself with Executives
Getting in front of executives to talk about the things that are near and dear to their hearts provides an opportunity to increase your credibility. Understanding their needs, priorities and goals is equally important to knowing the required time frame for achieving their desired business result(s). This will provide the necessary information for building a quality sales pipeline – one that is in direct alignment with your customer’s or prospect’s goals.
3. Let the Process Be Your Guide
For me, executing on your quality sales pipeline is easier than creating one. Be diligent about adhering to your established sales process by ensuring the required sales activities are completed without cutting corners. But more importantly, make sure the customer/prospect is engaged at each stage as well. If they’re not, find out why.
4. Keep a Close Eye on the Deal
I often see well-created sales pipelines where the execution falls short because they were not actively managed and monitored. Many sales managers get involved way too late in the sales process, making it difficult to verify if their salespeople asked the right questions at the right levels, and truly understood priorities and timelines.
This is where the sales manager must be an effective coach and ensure salespeople are seeing the deal through their customer’s or prospect’s lens. For example: Is the customer/prospect engaged? Why is the deal stuck in a particular stage? Should we spend more money, time and resources on this deal, or move on?
5. Get Events in Sync
A best practice for implementing a quality sales pipeline is the use of an executive-level Sequence of Events document. This document helps drive collaboration with the customer/prospect by clarifying both party’s activities, stakeholder responsibilities and time frames. Typically, you work the key milestones backwards from the date your products and services deliver value to the customer/prospect. Start early in the sales cycle to create the document and collaborate with your customer/prospect to continually modify it along the way to ensure everyone is marching to the same drum.
Do You Have a Quality Sales Pipeline?
In the end, creating and executing to a quality sales pipeline takes strong leadership and a top-down approach to affect positive change. Start with the five proven steps and you’ll be well on your way to a pipeline that consistently gets results. Do you have a quality sales pipeline?
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