Yep, things are looking good.
Unfortunately, looks can be deceiving.
To see your pipeline as it really is, ditch the rose-colored glasses. Go for the hard data. Then you’ll know whether you have what it takes to cross the finish line.
Today, we’ll discuss some best practices for evaluating your pipeline. And we’ll help you better position your team to make the number. Will your pipeline deliver the deals you need to make the number?
Best Practices for a More Successful Pipeline
“Pipeline” and “forecast” aren’t interchangeable. Pipeline activity is what you have in the works today. Your forecast is what you believe will happen in the future.
Success is not preordained.
Your goal is to maximize your chances of closing deals currently in play. And you can affect those outcomes, in very real ways. You just need to take a sober look at your pipeline. And study it in context and in detail.
1. Consider Average Sales Cycle Length.
Your sales cycle normally lasts three months. How much of your pipeline activity is new? Is it realistic to assume these deals will close in the next 30 days?
2. Study Conversion Rates by Phase.
What are your historical conversion rates at each stage of the buying process? This will help you predict outcomes as deals move through the pipeline.
3. Nurture the Big Deals.
Identify the big deals that could swing your quarter. Ensure that, for each major interaction to come, you’re involved in planning it.
4. Target Potential Pipeline Failures.
Look back 90 days. Note the gap between what you thought would close and what did close. Identify the stress points that may have caused you to fall short. Then make targeted corrections to prevent future missteps.
We’ve found that many organizations stumble at this point. Our team created the Pipeline Opportunity Audit to assist Sales Leaders with forecasting. Use this tool get review your pipeline forecasting process and spot real opportunities in the pipeline. You can download it here for free.
5. Separate New and Existing Clients.
New and existing clients have different types of objections you’ll need to overcome. New clients aren’t sure about your company, product, or service. Existing clients may be frustrated with previous interactions.
Plan for what you’ll likely encounter in each case. Consider how you might sweeten the pot to bring new clients on board.
6. Plan for the Month-End Scramble.
Have you established your “give/get,” or win-win, negotiation parameters? This will guide your team’s use of last-minute discounting to make the quarter. And it will help them handle clients that push hard for more agreeable terms.
7. Leverage Your Executive Team.
Sales shouldn’t have to do all the heavy lifting. Leverage the strengths of your fellow executives. Deploy a one-to-one approach. Map the prospect’s CFO with your CFO, and the prospect’s CEO with yours.
8. Look for New-Product Deals.
New-product deals will likely take longer. The solution architect or tech support may need to help you close. This is new sales territory, so you must identify all risk factors up front.
Bottom Line: Make It Easier to Make Your Quarter
Ever heard the phrase, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you”? Nonsense. Sales leaders can’t take comfort in forecast numbers they haven’t scrutinized.
Take your forecast with a grain of salt. Study it like a skeptic. Then, prep your team and target anything that endangers your sales revenue goal. Adopt this approach, and you’ll boost your odds of success.