You just wrapped up Q1 of 2018. In the next week or so, you’ll have a full tally of how your sales teams did with top and bottom line results. For many, the New Year comes in fast and furious as you recover from the year-end push and assemble your teams to plan for the rest of the year.
So, exhale for a moment and breathe deeply; now is the time to take a good, hard look at your opportunity pipeline for the balance of 2018. Are there enough qualified opportunities in development to enable you to exceed your revenue plans? Ignore the old adage that you need to have “three times” the revenue in your pipeline to hit your annual plan – it’s not only a bad guess for how to hit your number, but it’s also a dangerous precedent for sellers who aren’t sure what a healthy pipeline actually looks like.
Here is what your sales leaders need to do NOW to make sure there is enough revenue working:
- Establish Qualified Opportunity Criteria: this should have been done by January 1, but if you haven’t done it yet, it’s not too late. Make sure each member of your team knows the criteria required to categorize an opportunity as qualified. (We have done this with our customers, and can send anonymous examples to you by request to firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Coach Opportunity Development EARLY: don’t wait until the negotiation is coming to a head to parachute in and close the deal for the seller. Salespeople learn nothing from this, except perhaps how you close, which won’t help them when you aren’t there. Set a schedule with each of your reps to coach them on how to successfully navigate their open opportunities, and make sure a complete job is done in early stages.
- Practice Skill Conversations: from prospecting to qualification and all the way through negotiation, make sure your team members are fluent in all aspects of the conversations they will have with customers and prospects. Not all sellers need every skill improved; a good benchmark is to pick one skill per rep per month and ensure that it is really mastered.
Once you have these basics in place, we can look at how to build the right opportunity mix for a healthy, balanced revenue pipeline (read Part 2 of 2 coming next week). But without doing the work to establish opportunity criteria, coaching opportunity development and practicing skill conversations, you’re sure to have some gaps in your pipeline that will make it very difficult to achieve your annual plan. If you do the heavy lifting now, you will avoid the year-end fire drills that many organizations go through to hit their numbers in Q4.