Today’s post is by Norman Behar, CEO of Sales Readiness Group and author of The High-Impact Sales Manager: A No-Nonsense, Practical Guide to Improve Your Sales Team’s Performance.
Managing the sales pipeline is a critical aspect of managing team performance.
If you were promoted from the field, you probably already know the sales pipeline holds information about pending sales opportunities and consists of various stages relating to the advancement of those opportunities. However, the salesperson’s relationship to the pipeline is materially different from that of a manager.
For the manager, the pipeline has two primary functions. First, it’s a coaching tool. The information in the pipeline will provide structure and focus for the weekly discussions you’ll have with salespeople. The aim of these discussions is to develop strategies that help salespeople advance their sales opportunities and close more deals.
Second, the pipeline is now a reporting tool. You’ll use pipeline metrics to create sales forecasts, which get handed off to upper-level managers and executives so they can see how much revenue the sales team is expected to bring in for the month or quarter. You should always be mindful that the executive team wants to see 1) an accurate forecast and 2) higher win rates.
Salespeople have a much different relationship with the sales pipeline. For one thing, they are eternal optimists – no matter how long a deal has been lingering in their sales pipeline, they believe a “yes” is just around the corner. Your average salesperson also believes his or her manager will respond more positively to a full pipeline (even if it is full of dormant opportunities).
Compounding this problem is the tendency of salespeople to avoid labeling stalled opportunities as “inactive” because they perceive it will be a poor reflection on their selling skills.
Over time, the pipeline becomes bloated with opportunities in different stages for widely disparate time periods. Since this information is readily available and tracked by senior sales leaders, they want to know which opportunities are realistic, how soon those deals might close, and why such a high percentage of opportunities seem to be “stuck.”
In this video interview with Selling Power founder and publisher Gerhard Gschwandtner, we discuss a three-step process you can use to help your sales team better manage opportunities and eliminate “bloat” from the sales pipeline to improve the accuracy of your sales forecasts.