Pipeline or Pipedream?

There are lots of things salespeople don’t like to do: call reports, expenses reports, CRM data entry, company meetings, and of course, the dreaded Opportunity Pipeline Review. Ironically sales managers frequently dislike many of the same things, as they can easily cause frustration for both parties. With Opportunity Pipeline Reviews, the most common cause of failure for sales managers is no forward movement of deals in the sales cycle. The most common cause of frustration for the sales professional is they don’t see any value in the exercise, and if the review is done incorrectly, they are right!

An Opportunity Pipeline Review should be just that, a review of qualified opportunities currently in the sales cycle, and when done correctly, should be incredibly beneficial for everyone, including your prospects!

What’s in it for the Company?

With accurate data in the pipeline, companies should be able to predict future revenues and better allocate resources. Its highest and best use is forecasting. Of course, this is dependent on accurate data. More on that later.

What’s in it for the Sales Manager?

One of the toughest and most important jobs in a company is the job of the sales manager. They are tasked with recruiting, hiring, training, managing, holding accountable, coaching, and motivating the people who bring in all the money. As with most of us, time is their most precious resource. When done correctly, an Opportunity Pipeline Review will be instrumental in knowing where to focus their training and coaching efforts with the sales team.

What’s in it for the Sales Professional?

Good sales managers must provide valuable insight on how to advance a deal from one stage to the next, uncover training opportunities, and allocate other resources to help get deals to the finish line. Just as important, they can identify deals in the pipeline that don’t belong there. The result is keeping sales professionals from wasting valuable time or pestering unqualified prospects. This is all dependent on the sales professional embracing the CRM system, and its features (setting appointment and task reminders, keeping relevant account notes, etc.) as a Sales Operating System and not seeing it as a tool Big Brother uses to micro-manage, or a fancy rolodex!

What’s in it for the Prospect?

There are two scenarios where a well-executed Opportunity Pipeline Review will benefit a prospect. First, if a prospect is legitimately qualified and would benefit from your product or service, the review can keep everybody focused on next steps and move the opportunity to a mutually beneficial conclusion. Secondly, after an objective Opportunity Pipeline Review, an opportunity may be deemed disqualified. If that’s the case, get it out of the Pipeline so your sales team doesn’t end up harassing someone with no interest in your product or service. Either way it’s a win for the prospect!

A Place to Start Opportunity Pipeline Reviews

The most prominent reason Opportunity Pipeline Reviews are frustrating for sales professionals and sales managers is a lack of a mutually beneficial process. Below is a method for conducting an Opportunity Pipeline Review. It is a sample of what it could look like if you performed it weekly. I realize not all sales organizations are the same, so adjust the frequency based on your particular needs. As a side note, I favor weekly reviews conducted early in the week. Ideally, at the end of the review, there are actionable steps the sales professional can take immediately.

  1.  Share any successes (opportunities closed/won) since last.
  2. Sort opportunity viewed by stage. Starting with the final stage and move backward to initial qualification, each sales professional to report on the following:
  • What is the next step?
  • Is it on everyone’s schedule?
  • What is the likelihood of success?
  • Why do you think that?
  • If no progress since last review state so (if you do them weekly).
  • If no progress for two consecutive weeks, what is the plan to re-engage?
  1. As an option, you can follow the same process for leads that have not yet been converted into qualified opportunities.

If you would like a free audit of your current Pipeline Review Process, reach out to us me at Les@LesLent.com and put “audit” in the subject line.