Sales Management Blog

Sales management tips and advice on how to improve your sales team.

Sales Digest: Make Your Pipeline More Effective

Posted by Gretchen Gordon on Tue, Sep 15, 2015 @09:33 AM

fix your sales pipelineBraveheart Sales Digest

Focus On: Improving Your Sales Pipeline

The inaugural edition of our sales digest was well-received, so we are doing it again around a new theme: the sales pipeline. If you follow Braveheart's Sales Management Blog, you have likely heard me refer to the "fluffy pipeline syndrome." It's a real thing that can seriously undercut sales performance.

In 2013, The TAS Group reported that only 46% of sales reps feel their pipeline is accurate. Find out what leading sales experts have to say now about building and maintaining an effective sales pipeline.

 


 

From the Women Sales Pros Network:

Title: Your Sales Pipeline is Not Your Sales Forecast
Author: Colleen Francis
Source: The Sales Leader Blog
Published: Undated
Time to Digest: 4-5 minutes

The Gist: Pipelines are a well-covered topic on the Sales Leader Blog. In this post, Francis differentiates between sales pipelines and sales forecasts. There seems to be some confusion between the two. Francis clarifies that your pipeline should have all of your opportunities. The forecast is only a smaller subset of that. But entering an opportunity into your pipeline doesn’t automatically make it part of your forecast. Francis identifies four problems that arise from failure to enter opportunities into the front end of your pipeline: can’t accurately predict future revenue, can’t understand lead conversion ratios, can’t analyze your team’s strengths and weaknesses and can’t implement strategies to improve your team or your pipeline. She also points out a key distinction that may make big changes to your pipeline management strategy: “Stop talking about probability of close at each state and start talking about percentage complete in the sales cycle.” Read it here.

Title: How Real Is My Sales Pipeline?
Author: Janice Mars
Source: Sales Latitude Blog
Published: June 25, 2015
Time to Digest: 2 minutes

The Gist: Time to get real about your pipeline. Mars outlines some ways to determine whether your opportunity is fact or fiction, such as . . . the deal is hundreds of days old. Or you’ve changed the close the date multiple times. Or the buyer rarely meets the deadlines they establish and agree to, etc. The takeaway is it’s better to get real and see what you are actually dealing with. Energy spent on leads that won’t close is energy wasted. Read it here. 

fix_leaky_pipelineTitle: Stop Killing Your Sales Pipeline
Author: Barbara Giamanco
Source: Barb Giamanco Igniting Sales Transformation Blog
Published: May 16, 2014 
Time to Digest: 3-6 minutes

The Gist: Giamanco argues that qualifying opportunities is the job of both sales and marketing. But salespeople often don’t qualify well. Then it gets really interesting. Giamanco cites Rick McPartlin, President of The Revenue Game, and breaks down how a $150,000/year sales rep at an average company can end up costing you $625/hour (for the hours they actually sell), and needs to generate over $4,100 in revenue per hour in order to reach an annual $1,000,000 quota. Giamanco then mentions social selling (and reminds that volume of activity is less important than quality of activity). She hits it home on the point that managers need to be on top of actual time spent selling and minimize time spent on non-revenue producing activity. Read the whole post here.

Title: How to Get More Prospects In Your Pipeline
Author: Jill Konrath
Source: Jill Konrath Blog
Published: undated 
Time to Digest: 2 minutes

The Gist: There is a short video here (1:47 minutes) which you can watch — or read the transcript in under two minutes. Konrath explains that while it may seem smart to keep all your options open, really you want to do the opposite and narrow it down to focus on a smaller group. Short and smart bite. Read more here.

Title: Three Reasons Your Sales Pipeline is a Petting Zoo
Author: Colleen Stanley
Source: Sales Leadership Blog
Published: April 10, 2015
Time to Digest: 2 minutes

The Gist: This is a fun read from Colleen Stanley. At least until you realize your sales team has one of the petting zoos she’s talking about, which may damper the fun. . . Every company has an Eddie the Elephant. He never closes, but salespeople keep coming back to him for reassurance. The more time your salespeople spend with the “Eddies” of the world, the less time they spend doing what they should be doing. Read the post (or watch the video) to learn more about how petting zoos hurt sales and get some ideas on how to clean your pipeline. I also enjoyed this post from Stanley’s series on the Habits of Top Producers, which talks about the type of prospects these top producers focus on to hit revenue goals, clean the pipeline, and build more satisfying client relationships. 

Title: Build the Front of Your Sales Pipeline
Author: Lori Richardson
Source: Score More Sales Blog
Published: January 17, 2012
Time to Digest: 5 minutes

The Gist:  Richardson has written many posts related to sales pipelines. This is from a series she penned in 2012. The first is about building the front of your sales pipeline. Among the reasons she gives for using steps to track opportunities: the benefit of a visual snapshot. Front end tips include: learn how to identify “trigger events” in prospect companies, gather information about what they need, give them something of value, and grow a list of probable customers. An informative series that has retained its relevance. Read the post here. Read about the middle and tail ends here.

bloated_pipeline_fix


 

From Around the Web:

This is among the most recent widely-shared posts on the topic of sales pipelines, according to BuzzSumo.

Title: 3 Reasons Why You Should Manage Sales Activity Instead of Pipeline
Author: Jeffrey Fotta (President of Gryphon Networks)
Source: Entrepreneur.com
Published: May 8, 2015
Time to Digest: 5 minutes

The Gist: Fotta argues that while the pipeline is important, it measures superficial “surface” details that don’t address the how and why necessary for accurate forecasting. Fotta says managing sales reps’ activities is where managers will get meaningful understanding about business impact. There are three points made here about how focusing on activity management over pipeline will improve sales: 1) manage on data, not hunches; 2) chop dead wood fast; and 3) gain trust with the C-Suite. Read the whole post here.


 

From The Objective Management Group:

Title: Should You Restage Your Sales Pipeline?
Author: Dave Kurlan
Source: Understanding the Sales Force with Dave Kurlan 
Published: April 9, 2012
Time to Digest: 2-4 minutes

The Gist: This is an older post but still holds value. Kurlan uses graphics to illustrate what an ideal pipeline should look like versus what a typical pipeline looks like, and provides information about why this distortion is taking place and how to correct it. Read the whole post here. A more recent post revisits what a pipeline should look like vs. what it actually looks like. It includes an example of what a salesperson did to restage his opportunities (asked questions about each one to determine if they were closable). It also links to a 5-minute interview Kurlan gave to Gerhard Gschwandtner of Selling Power about pipeline accuracy.  

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Hopefully this gives you some fresh motivation and new ideas to take back and apply towards managing your own sales team's pipeline. If you enjoyed this curated post, click to share it via Twitter or let us know in the comments. 

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© Copyright Gretchen Gordon All Rights Reserved

Image credits: © shawnhempel / 123RF Stock Photo; © timbrk / 123RF Stock Photo; © alvinge / 123RF Stock Photo (modified by text overlay and resizing)

Tags: Sales Performance, For Sales Managers, By Gretchen Gordon

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