How you manage and stage your pipeline can be the difference between an OK year or career, or a consistently great one. To use a sport analogy, your pipeline is your core, no matter what sport you are in hockey, tennis, or running, a strong core, a well exercised and maintained core adds to athletic performance and lifts one competitor to victory over a comparably talented athlete with a less conditioned core.
Below are three things every seller should consider and do, no matter which methodology they use to sell, to lift their execution and results.
Bold – This speaks to who or which opportunities you choose to peruse, there is the element of pursuing ALL REAL potential prospects that others either ignore, or completely miss due to personal or corporate blinders. There are many potential buyers that are overlooked by a large number of sales people. Some don’t see the dots and as a result can’t connect them; others see the dot’s but fail to or are afraid to connect them. There is a lack of imagination and boldness in their approach.
Some will overlook things that fall beyond conventional qualification measures, an over reliance on BANT if you will. The key here is that they be REAL, meaning given the right circumstances they would buy your offering, and qualifying comes down to how you view your market, and choose to align your offering. Are you limiting your sights and pursuits to those people that have the pains or other mundane signals, those your product has traditionally addressed? If so, you’ll likely miss many REAL prospects or opportunities.
But if instead you look to see how you may help someone achieve their business objectives, your universe of REAL potential expands considerably. This is huge from a pipeline perspective, the more REAL potential prospect you’ll be able to identify, the more REAL opportunities you can fill your pipeline with. Since sales is to a degree a numbers game from a conversion ratio perspectives, more opportunities translate to more and or better sales, and at the minimum more options for you as a seller.
Binary – Leveraging the above, being binary becomes easier and more productive. Let’s explain what I mean by binary. Your pipeline should contain only active opportunities, those prospects you are engaged with now, and in turn they are engaged with you and the sales process; it should not contain anything else. All those potential “prospects” you are not currently engaged with, as great as they may be, are leads, and should be managed in your leads funnel, not your active opportunities funnel or pipeline. But many sales people, and by extension their sales organizations, hold all kinds of inactive opportunities in their active pipeline, distracting time and resources. There are some common examples of this: former prospects who you met once or twice, who smiled, told you they were “really” interested but have not met with you or returned your call in weeks. Sure, they send you e-mails, saying they are still interested, they are just tied up, or on another project, or are waiting for some event, or maybe just waiting for Godot.
These are not engaged prospects and need to be moved out of your pipeline. This is not to say that they are not worth pursuing at some point in the future, but in popular vernacular, they are in the nurturing phase, not active selling phase of a pipeline. Alongside these are those “prospects” who are talking to you, but are doing less than nothing to move the process forward, move them out, they are just filler, and you can’t have that. The only opportunities that should be in your pipeline are those where the buyer is taking reciprocal action, executing their buying process as you are executing your selling process, and together you move to a mutual agreement. Binary – active – not active; taking action – avoiding action; on or off; keep the on’s and get rid of the off’s. Don’t clog up your pipeline with crap, not a place for a heart attack.
Many fool themselves by looking at their pipeline and thinking, “wow, look at all the stuff I have in there”. Exactly, stuff not opportunities. This false sense of doing, just messes you up, and most importantly sucks up your time for a number of reasons, and most deadly, prevents you from prospecting. When we are stuffed we don’t eat, when the pipeline feels stuffed, you don’t prospect.
If you want to see this clearly, just look at any pipeline using the 90 – 60 – 30 method and watch how it piles up, what happens in the last 30 days; for validation just look at how many times opportunities are recast in the 30 day segment.
Blended & Balanced – I remember learning this lesson the hard way, I fancied myself an elephant hunter, and ignore many smaller and shorter cycle opportunities. Till one year the elephants went to a different field, and I was left short on my target. My friend on the other hand, she focused on the small and easy, didn’t over extend. Interestingly enough we both came in behind someone who had a nice blend in their pipeline, big, small, short, long, and everything in between. Seems obvious, but not always easy to execute. There are a lot of distractions, things to entice you, being a home run hitter has its appeal. But with planning and discipline, you can map out a prospecting regimen that helps you balance the pipeline just so. I now use a Plan P approach, P being for pursuit, this allows me to continuously balance things, think of it like balancing and rebalancing a portfolio actively to maintain the optimal mix for you requirements. This allows you to be Bold in you pursuits, forces you to remove the inactive opportunities clogging up your revenue artery, and maintain a productive and profitable pipeline.