Time Is Of The Essence! How To Analyze If Your Sales Pipeline Is Real.
It’s nearly upon us.
Clarifying the relevance of your Sales Pipeline is not only crucial for refining your year-end forecast, but also for planning 2019 activities to get off to a good start. If you need to purge low potential opportunities, now is the time to do it.
It’s like clearing out those clothes from your closet that you haven’t worn in two years. Until you do you won’t know what you really have, and where the ‘holes’ in your wardrobe are. The same is true with your Sales Pipeline.
So how do you purge a Pipeline? You need to compare where your opportunities are against a Sales Methodology such as Consultative Sales. This will reveal where you ACTUALLY are in the Sales Cycle, and help you plan to either move a prospect forward or drop it (or you could put into Nurture for intermittent follow-ups).
Let’s think about the 6 Steps in the Consultative Sales Cycle;
1. Pre-Call Research and Identification of Targets / Vertical Markets
2. Development of Approach Messaging / Prospecting
3. Discoveries (and more Discoveries) (and more Discoveries…)
4. Initial Proposal / Clarifying and Refining / Managing Objections
5. Agreement / Negotiation of Terms, etc.
6. Project Planning / Implementation
Questions to Ask Yourself:
1. Out of your current open opportunities, how many are still in the Pre-call stage? These are not qualified opportunities yet, they are just ‘suspects’ on your list.
2. How many have you prepared an Approach for (email and voicemail messaging)? How many have you actually contacted yet? Remember, it takes on average at least 6 – 8 touches to elicit a response.
3. If you have gotten their attention and they agree there is a problem / opportunity that you can help them with, where are you in your Discoveries process?
Have you met with them to begin qualifying the situation? How many decision makers / stakeholders are there? Do you have a strategy to talk with them, especially if they are in different offices or even countries?
What is their Buying Process? Have you gained enough insight and information to begin to create your customized proposal? If not, you need to go back and fill in the gaps in your information gathering.
4. Have you created / presented your customized proposal to the Decision Maker(s)? If not agreed to yet, have you identified their Objections? Using your notes from Discoveries, can you manage their Objections with further questions, etc.?
Or are they now in their Decision-Making mode? Refer back to your notes on their Buying Process to gauge if it is proceeding as was described and align your efforts to it. Do you have a follow up plan?
5. Have you received an initial agreement but still need to fine tune details? You need to move through this stage quickly to keep the momentum going. Cross your ‘t’s and dot your ‘i’s and gain final approval as soon as possible.
6. Once an agreement is reached, the project plan for implementation now needs to be developed or confirmed. Do you need to involve an internal Project Manager for this? Have you lined up the resources required on both sides to deploy the solution(s) successfully?
For the Sales Managers: Do you currently utilize a time frame with benchmarks? Is the business counted as ‘closed’ upon the paperwork being executed, or does the solution have be implemented first? How long until this deal can be counted as completed?
So, lots of questions at each stage of the Sales Cycle that drastically affect where this prospect should appear in your forecast. You can’t afford not to take a realistic view of your Pipeline, and be merciless.
As George W. Bush famously said;“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice? Won’t get fooled again!”
Don’t be fooled by the number of open opportunities in your Sales Forecast. Take a deep dive to see what is real, and what is not.
About the Author:
Denise M. Barry is an Entrepreneurial Sales Leader who is passionate about New Business Development.
From practicing Consultative Sales for over 26 years, Denise is convinced it is a Methodology that successfully spans multiple industries as the ‘steps’ are the same regardless of what the product or solution is. She has been very fortunate to have had opportunities to mentor and coach many new Sales Leaders in Consultative Sales over her Career.
Denise specializes in Outsourced Sales for her Global clients, enabling them to:
- Launch new Products and Gather Analytical Data
- Open up new Marketplaces and Verticals - 'dip their toe in first'
- Increase Sales and ‘Top-up’ Pipelines
I welcome companies who are interested in augmenting their Global strategy by including the opportunities that abound in the Greater Toronto Area, Canada to contact me.