Ding, ding, ding. Professional boxers are expected to last 36 minutes in a 1-2-1 showdown and leave the ring with their heads up. So as sales professionals why does a 30 minute Pipeline Review leave us feeling like we’ve spent 12 rounds being beaten up by Mike Tyson?
A monthly or sometimes weekly pipeline review is one tool of many that sales leaders use to guide, motivate, build skills and ultimately enable their salespeople. They are 101 in any sales organisation. But despite the effort and time put in, forecast performance remains lousy.
Research from CSO Insights shows that less than half of forecast deals end up as closed won. So there is huge scope for pipeline reviews to help
Qualify opportunities and improve forecast accuracy
Identify the sales actions needed to increase the successful close rate
When we talk to salespeople, too often they tell us that their pipeline reviews feel something like this.
- Forgets to ask me how I am and have a brief catch up before launching into destructive criticism of my pipeline cover
- Misses the opportunity to praise me on my weekly results and the fact I have landed the 10th best deal in the company’s 20-year history
- Focuses on their agenda rather than on my agenda and sometimes doesn’t even have an agenda
- Nit-picks at the slowly moving opportunities
- Rather than asking me ‘How’ questions, focuses solely on a condescending monologue explaining how when they were in sales (emphasis is on WERE) they would have done it like this and how I should ‘definitely’ do it their way!
- Forgets that they have two ears and one mouth, and decides to talk at me more than listen to me
- Finally, gives me 15 things to do, some that I get, some that I don’t, and says, “Sorry mate, need to hop to the next meeting, good luck”.
If that’s how we come across as sales leaders it’s no wonder that pipeline reviews are ineffective.
But of course there are plenty of things we can do to improve the way this process works. Here’s one simple structure that can make a difference.
The PIPE structure breaks the pipeline review into four parts.
- Research and understand your salesperson’s KPIs and progress against target, understanding the impact of their pipeline value, sales cycle length, forecast accuracy, and picking out their top 3 to 5 opportunities
- Prepare your questions rather than what you are going to say to them
- Set yourself objectives on how the receiver is going to feel at the end – Motivated, Supported, Focused
- Ask questions ‘how’ rather than ‘Why’ questions to unearth the real deal
- Understand the qualification criteria required to move the opportunity to the next stage
- Analyse bottlenecks in the conversion and deal with these with support
- Identify a specific action plan that can be taken to qualify/progress the key deals
- Document and plan a collaborative way forward
- Send a follow up note that captures the action plan or even better to solidify learning get your sales person to do this.
- Support your team in executing the next action to move the opportunity through the pipeline
- Make sure that following up the actions forms part of preparing for your next Pipeline Review
If YOU were to shift the percentage of deals won by only 5%, what would be the value and impact to your business?