How your pipeline is managed and staged can be the difference between a decent year or career, or a consistently great one. To use a sport analogy, your pipeline is your core. No matter what sport you play, a well exercised and maintained core adds to athletic performance and turns one competitor into a champion, while a comparably talented athlete with a less conditioned core falls behind.
There are three things every sales person should consider and do, no matter which methodology they use to sell, in order to lift their execution and sales results.
This lesson I learned the hard way, I fancied myself quite the big game hunter, ignoring many smaller opportunities, with shorter cycles. Until one year, when the elephants migrated. They moved to a different field, leaving me well short of my target. One colleague did the opposite - focusing on the small and easy opportunities and didn’t over extend. Interestingly enough, both her and me finished behind someone who had a nice blend in their pipeline: big, small, short, long, and everything in between.
This may seem obvious, but it’s not always easy to execute. There are many distractions and shiny things that may excite you; being the home run hitter certainly has its appeal. But with planning and discipline, you can establish a prospecting regimen that helps keep your pipeline in balance. I now use a Plan P approach, where P stands for pursuit. This allows me to continuously balance things. Think of it like proactively balancing and rebalancing a portfolio to maintain the optimal mix for your specific requirements.
This is central to allowing you to be Bold in you pursuits, forcing you to remove those inactive opportunities clogging up your revenue artery and maintain a productive and profitable pipeline.
This speaks to the opportunities you choose to pursue. Most people are unable to pursue ALL REAL potential prospects others either ignore, or completely miss due to personal or corporate blinders. Many potential buyers are overlooked by a large number of sales people. Some don’t see the dots and as a result can’t connect them; others see the dot’s but fail to, or are afraid to, connect them. There is a shortage of imagination and boldness in their approach.
Some will overlook things that fall beyond conventional qualification measures; using BANT as a crutch and failing to see real business potential. The key here is to make sure these opportunities are REAL. That these prospects, given the right circumstances would be able and willing to buy your offering. Qualifying then comes down to how you choose to view your market and align your offering. Are you limiting your sights and pursuits to those people that have the pains or give out other mundane signals - those your product has traditionally addressed? If so, you’ll likely miss many REAL prospects or opportunities.
But if you instead look to see how you can help someone achieve their business objectives, your universe of REAL potential will expand dramatically. This is huge from a pipeline perspective. The more REAL potential prospects you’ll be able to recognize, the more opportunities you can fill your pipeline with. Since even complex b2b sales, to an extent, is a numbers game from a conversion ratio perspective, more REAL opportunities quite simply translate to more and/or better sales. At the very least, it provides more options for you as a seller.
Leveraging the above, taking a binary approach becomes easier and makes you more productive. What do I mean by binary? Your pipeline should contain only healthy opportunities with momentum - those prospects you are engaged with now, who in turn are engaged with you and the sales process. It should contain nothing else.
All those potential “opportunities” you are not currently engaged with, as great as they may have been, are now leads. They should be managed in your leads funnel, not as active opportunities in your funnel or pipeline. Many sales people, and by extension their sales organizations, unfortunately hold on to inactive opportunities of all kinds in their active pipeline, wasting time and diluting resources. There are some common examples of this: prospects you’ve met once or twice, who smiled, told you they were “really interested” but have not met with you or returned your call in weeks. Sure, they send you e-mails, saying they are still interested, they are just tied up, or on another project, or are waiting for… something. Or maybe just waiting for Godot…
These are unengaged prospects and need to be moved out of your pipeline. This is not to say that they are not worth pursuing again in the future. However, in popular vernacular they are in the nurturing phase, not in the active selling phase of a pipeline. Alongside these are those “prospects” who are talking to you, but do less than nothing to move the process forward. Move them out, they are just padding, and you can’t afford that here and now. The only opportunities that should be in your pipeline are those where the buyer is taking reciprocal action, executing their buying process as you are executing your selling process, and together you move to a mutual agreement and goal.
• Active / Not active
• Taking action / avoiding action
• On / Off; keep the on’s and get rid of the off’s
Don’t clog your pipeline with crap. It’s not the place for a heart attack.Many look at their pipeline and think, “wow, look at all the stuff I have in here”. Exactly – stuff. Not opportunities. This false sense of doing, of keeping busy, only adds to mess you up and suck up your most valuable resource; time. Even more deadly, it actually prevents you from prospecting. When we are stuffed we don’t eat. When the pipeline looks full, you don’t prospect.
If you want to see this more clearly, just look at any pipeline using the 90/60/30 method. Watch how it piles up and what happens in the last 30 days. For validation, just look at how many times opportunities are recast in that 30 day segment.
Tibor Shanto is a 25-year veteran of B2B sales, Tibor has developed an insider’s hands on perspective of successful sales execution. Called a brilliant sales tactician Tibor shows organizations and sales professionals how to leverage their sales process to shorten sales cycles, increase close ratios, and create double digit growth through execution and using the right combination strategy, tools, metrics, tactical execution of the sales process.
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