That was yesterday. The selling year is over. For the last month or so, all eyes have been focused on the closing the few remaining big deals. For those Sales VPs who made the number – it’s time to celebrate. For those who did not, it is time to buckle up the chin strap and prepare to deliver an exceptional Q1. But first things first.
You need to scrub your pipeline and do it now.
Get Rid of the Garbage
Why the need to clean up your pipeline? The reason is simple. Going into the New Year, your current set of sales opportunities are likely in an unpleasant state. There are some that have probably not been updated in a while and the system data in them is inaccurate. And there are likely many more that are dormant with no real activity for some time. They should have been closed out in the system long ago. Relying on your pipeline at the beginning of Q1 as a basis for projecting future performance would be disastrous.
How to Clean the Pipeline
Here are some suggestions for you to use in directing your managers to get their opportunities in shape so that you can make strategic decisions on allocating people, time, and money in Q1 to drive the number.
Identify the Ancients. Many sales reps and account managers keep opportunities ‘alive’ so that their pipeline does not look anemic. This keeps managers at bay while they desperately try to find real business. Now is the time to find these bogus opportunities that are clogging your pipeline and distorting the view of future business.
Call-to-action: Identify all sales opportunities that have not changed status in 2-3 months or have had little to no interaction with decision-makers. Close each one in your CRM system and have the selling resource develop a “nurture” plan for an internal resource (like a Lead Development Rep) to execute to stay engaged with customer/prospect.
Focus on early stage deals. There is probably a good chunk of business that “pushed” into the New Year. Your team will get on with the task of closing that in January and February. Where you should spend some management time is in reviewing the earlier stage deals, the ones that have not attracted a lot of attention yet.
Call-to-action: Find the larger sales opportunities that are in the early/middle stages of your sales process. Work with each manager to assign an internal senior executive (yourself, CFO, CEO, the VP of Marketing) to each of the opportunities. Then schedule meetings with the management of these customers/prospects. This will give you visibility and traction with some deals that may very well be the difference between a mediocre and blow-out quarter.
Let your Customers Set your pipeline. Sales managers are notorious for introducing their bias into a sales forecast. They downplay rep enthusiasm and set the bar low so they can clear it. This plays havoc with a pipeline. The voice of a pipeline should be your customer, not the rep and not the manager.
Call-to-action: Instead of relying on manager or rep fudge factors, use customer-triggered exist criteria to place sales opportunities in the appropriate stage. This ensures that your deals are tied to the actuals of the buying process. Be warned that if you do this many deals will “go backwards” because they are probably not as far along as your selling team would like to think. But that is OK. Reality is easier to deal with if you have clear sight to the true status of each transaction.
If you are a sales leader and suffer from mediocre pipeline review, consider these other insights into the discipline of world-class pipeline management:
- An Embarrassing Pipeline Review
- How to Build Next Year’s Sales Pipeline
- One Silver Bullet to Bulk up a Sales Pipeline
- Can Sales Enablement Build Pipeline?
If you are a sales leader, and you think these suggestions have merit, give us a ring. Here is how to contact us: https://salesbenchmarkindex.com/contact-us/.