Sales Pipeline Management

Pipeline management and pipeline reviews are the most important tasks you complete in sales because they help you prioritize what activities to complete each month as well as give you an accurate indication of how healthy your sales  pipeline really is. Here are some tips that can make you reviews effective:

  1. Detailed pipeline reviews should be held at the start of every month.
  2. Sit down with someone in your organization who is capable of looking objectively at your work and someone who can challenge the assumptions that you are making. If you are an individual contributor this would be your sales manager, a VP, a sales coach, or a trusted third party. If you are the sales VP or the sales leader or the business owner sit down with each individual sales person to make sure that they are clear on what accounts will close and what won’t.
  3. Ask tough questions. Push until you receive an objective answer on everything you need to get done in a month or in a quarter, how much is really expected to close, and how you are going to get it closed.
  4. Get the facts. Smoke out all false assumptions and ask questions such as:
    1. What proof do you have that this deal will close this month?
    2. When did you last speak directly to the client?
    3. What is stopping the client from buying right now?
    4. What are your next steps?
    5. What other contacts can you make inside the account?
    6. When will you complete those next steps?
  5. Be on the lookout for answers that reveal thinking based on feelings and assumptions rather than facts. Don’t let yourself, or your sales reps get away with language like “I think,” or “Maybe,” or “I’m not sure but,” or “As I understand it,” or “I am sensing.” Sales are based on facts not on assumptions.
  6. The last step is to dig a little deeper. Once you have challenged basic assumptions dig deeper and ask probing questions to yourself or to your sales team about the facts supporting an account. This is time for a more rigorous examination especially when you see any of the following associated with deals that are supposed to close in a month.
    1. If you or your rep describe the account as still being at the qualifying stage or lower.
    2. Anything less than 70% probability to close at the start of the month probably isn’t going to close that month.
    3. Lack of clear financial information linked to the sale.
    4. Last contact date is greater than two weeks in the past. After all, you can’t close business if you are not talking to your customers.

These  actions  suggest that you or your sellers are missing important information about an account and that the pipeline has not been updated with accurate information.

When you have completed your review you will undoubtedly have a smaller pipeline but don’t dismay because it will be a real pipeline based on facts rather than assumptions. You and your sales team will also have a plan of attack for each deal and know exactly what it will take to get those deals closed or moved closer to a decision and now the rest of the month can be spent executing on your plan.