Missing sales goals is not what an executive team member sets out to do. Invariably, however, quarter or year-end surprises happen. Being able to trust your pipeline will minimize those blunders. But that’s the rub – discounting, the rush of quarter-end contracts and erroneous optimism impact forecasting.
If you want a pipeline you can count on, follow these best practices:
Define Your Sales Process
Know how long each type of opportunity takes to move through the pipeline. Is the buyer just including a discounted offer within negotiations and keeping their original timetable? Don’t devalue your offer too soon. A discount on the wrong solution doesn’t help anyone.
Develop Opportunity Profiles
Different types of deals have different types of characteristics. Use that data to create opportunity profiles. A review of those profiles will show the sales team (and management) what the portfolio looks like in real-time. Is there a good mix or are all opportunities tied to discounting? Will a new decision maker or stronger value proposition bring about the sale? Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Grade Each Opportunity
We know not all opportunities are created equal. Use standardized milestones to assign a grade to opportunities in the pipeline. With measurable fact-based rules and grades, you can forecast your pipeline accurately.
Capture Enough Opportunities
This number varies depending on the length of your sales cycle and your win ratio. You should have at least three times as many opportunities in the pipeline as your sales goal.
Continuous Business Development
If you’ve ever had your pipeline run dry you know it’s not fun. To avoid that, salespeople should spend 10-20% of their time every week or month on business development. There’s a constant ebb and flow with any pipeline as opportunities are downgraded, closed or deleted. This is an effective tool that builds relationships and turns your team into playmakers.
When a management team values opportunities and leads salespeople know it and act. Have you ever met a salesperson who doesn’t want to meet expectations? When those at the top take the time to evaluate and measure the pipeline, your sales team will appreciate the focus and pay attention too.
In life and in sales, a goal without a plan – and measurable steps – is just a wish. It takes discipline and drive to manage progress and adjust as needed. Achieving your goal depends on evaluation – it’s worth it.
Flannery Sales Systems helps organizations develop and implement a repeatable sales process. Improving the effectiveness of your sales organization is the key outcome we provide to clients. We would welcome an opportunity to explore your needs and understand where you could benefit from improved skills and sales processes. Flannery Sales Systems works with a broad cross section of industries and we are confident we can enhance your results.