The fourth quarter of the year holds a unique challenge for sales professionals. We not only have to close what we can by year end, but we have to prospect with more vigour than ever to ensure we go into the next year with enough momentum and opportunities to ensure a strong start to the year and our eventual success.
Coming out of the summer, we also have a lot of opportunities that have been parked, on hold if you will, due to the distractions of summer. All with the hope, and I mean hope, that now with everyone refocusing on business, they will revive themselves or be rekindled and result in sales. But experience has shown that despite the hope, intention and solid promises few if any come back on line with the promise they had when they were parked in June or so.
This leave pipelines full of names that some mistake for real opportunities, and end up consuming time and energy before we realize that all hope had left these “opportunities” soon after they were parked, or often even before.
All these opportunities in the pipeline end up looking and acting like plaque in ones arteries, creating blockages and bringing with it the risk of deal flow being restricted if not entirely cut off, by these blockers that we confuse with opportunities. Many confuse a full pipeline with a healthy pipeline, and nothing is further from the truth. Having a pipeline full of names, unverified “opportunities”, bring the same risk to your sales, as clogged arteries do to your health. It is important to clear the path, and allow real deals to flow unencumbered by wishful thinking and names in the pipe.
One impact relates to what a former colleague once said about having a pipeline full of names rather than opportunities: “What people emotionally believe their prospect base to be, triggers their urgency to prospect!” The illusion of all those names in the pipeline, the tendency or the need to follow through with each one, just distracts one from prospecting for new opportunities. “Look at all the stuff I have to work on”, leads to a lack of prospecting, and by the time you realise you need to adjust, that year end is close, and the ability to build momentum in to the coming year is gone or badly diminished.
The goal is to establish good rules for requalifying the pipeline, and not being afraid of letting go of all the crap that is just not real, and clogging things up. Rather than trying to make it real, as many will, learn to let them go, for now, you can always revisit, say it after me: “Leads Are Recyclable”. Eliminate the “maybes”, and move on the real ones, the ones willing to take proactive steps to make things happen now. Start by inserting a “Next Step Stent”, if they are unwilling or unable to act in a way a buyer would, then get them out of the pipe, they are a distraction, and again – you can call them back.
Work on those behaving like a buyer, not a tire kicker, if the story hasn’t changed since May, their status in your pipeline should.
Get that stent in there, clear out the cloggers, and close the real opportunities.