When I talk to different sales people, it always surprises me how few spend time evaluating their sales pipelines. Now, I know many sales managers regularly look at dashboards and other types of analysis to gauge the health of their team’s sales pipelines. But why is this not top of mind for sales people?
I can hear it now: “Janice, I do look at my sales pipeline to ensure that when I meet with my management, I have the right story to tell.” But how “real” are the deals in your pipeline? Do you put anything that smells like a deal in your pipeline to ensure management sees movement and that the numbers neatly add up to meet your quota number? Do you keep deals in the pipeline even when they are, for example, 400 days outside of your typical sales cycle? That alone is a clear indication that you’re not paying enough attention to your pipeline.
Take 30 minutes on a monthly basis to review the quality of your pipeline. At a minimum, you should be looking at each deal’s velocity and your understanding of the buyer’s business impact and their engagement level.
Do you evaluate the velocity or speed at which your deals are progressing through each sales stage? Take a look at the number of days your deals are spending in each sales stage.
If a deal is stalled in a particular stage, what are you doing about it? Are you just leaving it in your pipeline? Or are you talking to your prospects to understand if priorities have changed? You may need to confirm if the buyer’s ROI is not as significant as you thought it was, or if something else has changed – such as a key executive leaving the company or moving to another division.
Determine why the deal has stalled, verify it with multiple people and reset your game plan. In the process of attaining this information, you may need to move that deal out of your pipeline.
Do you clearly understand the business impact your product and/or service will have on your potential buyer? If you don’t, then your competition most likely will. You may not be high enough in the organization to know for sure. Work on a plan to move up in the buyer’s organization to best understand the specific business outcome for that group, line of business or division. Then learn more about the linkage up and down the organization with an eye towards understanding and identifying that your deal will achieve their priority business outcome.
If you look at this as either a specific cost saving to the organization or a revenue generator, then maybe the buyer will confirm an ROI with you. In most cases, they will not divulge all the information for fear of giving up some negotiating power. However, there must be some number that will indicate the implementation of your products and/or services was a success.
Make sure you know the specificity of their objectives and don’t accept generic goals like “We want to make more money” or “We want to save money” with no other details. Remember, they have to justify the purchase somehow. So, the question is, how much are you a part of that process?
Have you collaborated and validated the buyer’s engagement level? If you look at your pipeline, for how many of your deals do you have a regular review with each buyer to validate key activities, dates and accountability? You should always be “testing” the buyer’s engagement level and adjusting your pipeline based on new information on objectives, priorities and timelines.
Make no mistake, ignoring your pipeline and only occasionally evaluating it will put a damper on your income. Don’t wing it. On a monthly basis, review these three things at a minimum, and you will have better control and a more accurate health check on your sales pipeline. The toughest parts will be moving deals out of your pipeline and adding new deals that fit the criteria above.
How often do you take a hard look at your pipeline?
Next week, we’ll cover pipelines from the sales managers’ perspective. So, stay tuned!