Some things in sales can be called by various names without much consequence, the underlying subject being very much the same, prospect – potential buyer, information gathering – discovery, and many others; it comes down to words not actions or outcomes. In other cases the semantics are very important, and cannot be simply interchanged for convenience. A stellar example of this is the confusion between pipeline reviews and opportunity reviews. They are not the same, you can equate a pipeline with a funnel and funnel review, it is not the same as an opportunity review, and pretending they are will cost you time and money.
For me both type of reviews are important, in many sales organizations necessary, and if not done right, or just plain not done, could have big consequences. One of the biggest is lack of engagements by the reps, many having spent countless tedious and unproductive hours in some of these meetings, simply stop taking them seriously, a disengagement that has big negative impact on success.
A pipeline review is a snapshot of the state of the pipeline and the directly contributing factors, usually activity. Regardless of how you look at your pipeline or funnel, it is likely to have a minimal number of clear stages or sections. Lead – Prospects – Pre-Proposal – Proposal – Initial (verbal) Agreement – Won Business (Closed). A pipeline review just needs to look at the opportunities at each stage – are they real, next steps, and volume based on the individual rep’s documented conversion rates. Are there enough leads to sustain the subsequent stages, and is the rep focused on the right activities. Reviewing this in a brief efficient, and frequent fashion, leads to continuous movement of the right things through the pipeline or down the funnel. You can do this review in as little as five minutes per rep, if you have 8 reps, you can be done and wiser in 40 minutes. If you have a large volume of deals you can cut it back to a more than significant representative sample that will ensure short and snappy meetings. These pipeline reviews should be done as a group, and in my opinion weekly, you don’t all need to be in the same room, and with today’s technology can be done from anywhere, including the parking lot of your next appointment.
An opportunity review is much more, and could involve a heavy dose of coaching, as such the first difference is that these are done individually with each rep, and therefore not as frequently, not more than once a month. In this meeting you review each opportunity, how the rep arrived at where they are, strategies on what to do next, and develop a specific action plan. This where the coaching is key, using the review not only to impact the outcome, but to directly impact how your reps can sell better using a real live scenario as a springboard. Helping the reps to not only widen their view of the deal, but others like it. It is an occasion to examine why some opportunities died, and why specifically some were one, or did not take a decision.
Trying to cram both into one meeting is useless, and typifies the KPI mentality many bring to the process, “did it, I can check it off the list”. They conduct these meetings neither to help their reps, or to understand the state of their pipeline (all their reps’ pipelines rolled up to one), they do it as a CYA exercise. Usually because they have to go into to a meeting with their seniors, and want to be in a position to answer questions they anticipate. If they were to conduct both types of meeting separately, ensuring they achieve what they need to from each meeting they would be way ahead. They would be in a position to directly influence the outcome of their reps activities, and by extension the outcome of the meeting with their reps and results presented. They would also be in a stronger position going into the meetings with their superiors, not only answering anticipated questions, but presenting in a way and with content that would negate the questions and focus on results.
What’s in Your Pipeline?