10 Fixes for an Unreliable Pipeline

How reliable is your company’s pipeline? If you are like most of the companies we encounter, it is less than stellar. We find there are four main reasons for it:

  • Salespeople are indirectly rewarded for growing the pipeline because sales meetings are focused on regurgitated discussion of tired old pipeline opportunities and salespeople are allowed to blather on about the details of the same old deal.
  • Salespeople do not follow a repeatable sales process and therefore do not qualify (or disqualify) opportunities well.
  • The system in which opportunities are tracked is not set up to assist the salespeople in their sales role.
  • Salespeople suffer from negative sales beliefs that cause them to assume too much and believe prospects too much.

All is not lost. Making a sales pipeline reliable is within reach.

Apply these 10 fixes:

  1. Only discuss the pipeline in one-on-one coaching meetings. The sales meeting is not the forum for a rundown of every opportunity that is expected to close this week, this month or this quarter.
  2. Focus only on a few high-impact, high-profile or important opportunities. When reviewing the pipeline with a salesperson, put the focus on what the individual is going to do this week to move those few opportunities along. If you have hunters on your team, great, except they may get bored with opportunities already in their pipeline. Make especially sure you keep their feet to the fire to move those opportunities along.
  3. Keep track of what they committed to do. Ask them about it in the next one-on-one meeting. Do not allow them to feed you any excuses about why they couldn’t keep their commitments either.
  4. Implement the use of a repeatable selling system. It must be one where salespeople receive guidance on asking questions to uncover key elements along the way. I would suggest focusing on 1) the compelling reasons why the prospect needs to do something (and how compelling it really is), 2) the ROI, or better still, the cost of failure the prospect will encounter if they don’t work with your company now, and finally, 3) understanding all the components of decision-making, including not only who cares, but also how the decision will be made and what the impact is to the decision-maker personally.
  5. Institute the use of a qualifying scorecard. Make it a group project to identify the items that make a prospect more likely or less likely to become a client. Create a scorecard of these items and require a certain tally for each pipeline stage before opportunities can move forward. Also, make sure that pipeline stages are systematized. Leave nothing up to interpretation by your salespeople.
  6. Populate the CRM with tools and resources. Include tips, good questions to ask, training elements, and whatever else you think will help a salesperson know what to do next in the sales process.
  7. Ensure there’s an opportunity-nurturing system in place. In other words, if an opportunity is removed from the pipeline, a workflow exists to automatically remind the salesperson to check-in or better yet, have a system that combines email touches with reminders for the salesperson to do something. Salespeople will be less likely to hoard deals in the pipeline if they know that they won’t forget about them.
  8. Adopt the mantra “Move it or blow it up!” This implies that opportunities are only allowed to hang around in the pipeline for a certain time period before they get killed.
  9. Regularly ask salespeople what was agreed to next with prospects. It should not be “I am supposed to call them back in two weeks.” Enforce the rule that a defined and agreed-upon next step exists. Salespeople need to set follow-up appointments and to understand exactly what is happening between appointments within the client company. They also must get prospects to commit to what will happen in the next interaction.
  10. Be certain every salesperson clearly understands their personal “Math of Success”. This includes closing ratio, average opportunity size, total pipeline value needed, and especially activities to produce enough quality opportunities to predict success. Then pay attention to these metrics and cause salespeople to pay attention too. They need to be taught to “own” their success. The more salespeople understand these metrics, the more they can individually course-correct if necessary. Still, the manager must also pay attention and advise if the metrics are askew.

Dual Benefits Will Result

When these areas are addressed, the pipeline becomes reliable and predictive, and movement will be witnessed. Another benefit is that financial modeling becomes more accurate too! We help with companies large and small implement all of these ten fixes. Let me know if you want our assistance at gretchen@boostprofits.com.