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.   

Ongoing Review
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. 

In the ever-evolving landscape of sales, one thing remains constant: the importance of a robust sales pipeline. It’s the lifeline of any successful sales professional, a conduit through which potential clients become valued customers. But how do you create and nurture a pipeline that consistently delivers results? The answer lies in skill development.

Many sales executives are laser focused on filling their pipelines for the yearSuccessful sales leaders know that a pipeline filled with qualified opportunities is essential to building sustained and repeatable revenue results, which is ultimately the fuel that drives organizational success. 

But the path to get to a healthy pipeline is not necessarily well understood and includes a number of variables, including the talent of the sales reps, market shifts, government regulations, and the competitive landscape. Despite these factors, there is one element that remains constant – selling skills. In order to have sales reps who successfully fill the pipeline with qualified opportunities, they must know how to identify, qualify, develop opportunities. 

Most sales managers are well versed in deal coaching. This means they know how to help their reps assemble the right mix of product and pricing to meet a customer’s requirements. While this is important, it does not address the fundamental need to understand how well the rep has qualified the opportunity, identified key players, and aligned your product/service offerings to meet the prospect’s business objectives. Each of these three steps requires specific skills, and managers who help their reps improve these skills are ones that will see the biggest impact to their overall sales pipelines and year-end results. 

Want to understand what prevents your sales managers from prioritizing skills coaching? Check this article out. And Look here for tips on successful skills coaching strategies.  

have-patience-hs-blogIt may sound counter intuitive, but patient salespeople are always the most successful.  The stereotype of the sales person who won’t take no for an answer, who repeatedly closes and who is relentless about cold calling may make entertaining television, but the evidence points to the patient sales person as the role model for an effective sales organization.

Look at your quarterly or year end results.  Did your sales team discount heavily in order to make the quota?  Has your pipeline of opportunities been cleared out to hit the numbers “at any cost” with that cost being a huge hit to your margins?  I’ve seen this in organization after organization where the sales team and management have not focused on effectively managing their sales process and opportunities throughout the quarter only to resort to panicked, premature closes to many opportunities.  More often than not, this “haste” lays “waste” to your margins and bottom line.

Taking the time early in the quarter to assess your pipeline and schedule business development activities on an ongoing basis is the first step to building patience into the sales process.

Being prepared to listen to the customer to determine their goals is another skill that requires a sense of restraint among the average seller who is too often quick to spray the buyer with product offerings and features hoping for a quick close.  If the seller doesn’t take enough time to fully understand how the customer will use their products, the buyer may get confused about irrelevant features or feel they are buying features they don’t need.

Buyers don’t often like to be told what to buy – particularly by sales people who they feel have a bias to push the sale regardless of the fit.  By listening to the customers needs, sellers are better able to establish the value of their solution.  By being patient, the seller is able to propose usage scenarios to the buyer which positions the seller as a credible consultant and the buyer is more likely to share the values of the alternative usage scenarios.  By exploring the value of the seller’s product usage more fully, the buyer can calculate the benefit of buying the product and the savings of buying it sooner versus later.  Often times the cost of operating without the seller’s solution can be significantly greater than the benefit of negotiating longer for price concessions.  Once the buyer determines that is the case, the urgency to close the deal increases.

Key Points:

  • Listen to the customer’s needs
  • Let the customer establish a goal
  • Establish value for your offering
  • Don’t close prematurely
  • Patience provides strength in negotiation

Developing a sales organization that respects a process that takes the time to better understand the customers need will result in a more predictable revenue stream, a higher win ratio and better margins – all rewards worth being patient for.

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.


Keeping the pipeline filled with qualified opportunities is one of the toughest things a sales person is required to do.  And just as water in a pipe will follow the path of least resistance, so will a sales person when not kept on task.  It’s like homework in college or that dentist appointment that you’re putting off;   eventually these issues have to be addressed.

But why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?  Introducing the #1 pipeline killer – procrastination.  Just like pressure gets water in a pipe moving, a plan is the best way to prevent procrastination from sneaking in.

Here are 3 ways to bite off a “chewable” plan and keep constantly back filling the pipeline:

  1. Assess Current Customers – in many industries 60-70 % of new revenue is generated from the existing customer base.  These prospects are the most likely to close in a timely, predictable time frame.  Forecasting this revenue is the most accurate.  As a frequent customer of a Brooks Brothers, I was recently contacted by a sales person.  Through our conversation I gathered that I was a targeted customer because I spent $X in their store every year.  They know that I’m already a buyer and with an assigned salesperson they could easily increase those sales.
  2. Assess the Quality of Leads – no matter if leads are given to you or leads are organically generated, the most qualified leads are those with a personal connection.  In today’s world we are interconnected as in no other time in history.  That’s the marvel of social media.  I find in my business that the business-focused social media is very beneficial. Do I know who someone in the company that I’m targeting?  An introduction from a mutual acquaintance turns a cold lead into a really warm lead in an instant.  To spend time most effectively is the name of the game, and one of the ways I do this is with social media.
  3. Assess Progress with a Milestone – This is adding water pressure to the pipe.  The speed and velocity of the water through the pipe depends on pressure.  Sales people need triggers in place that quickly determine the speed and velocity of deal from contact to close.  There needs to be a trigger immediately after the first conversation.  Did the customer share any goals with me?  If so, that’s someone I need to spend more time pursuing.  The best milestone that can provide a great forecasting tool is a Deal Map. This is a document that lists by date and responsibility a map of the deal.  Buyer and seller agree to the terms and proposed timeline of the deal.  When both parties are working off the same document, forecasting probability and close date are easy to determine.

To get to the golden customer sometimes it means you have to sift through 100 not-so-golden ones.  It’s easier to tackle this daunting task with a plan.  As the ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, so wisely said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”