Top Tips for Building Qualified Sales Pipelines
To be successful in sales, you must invest your time on qualified pipeline opportunities. All of the training and knowledge in the world will not help you if you are working on poor quality deals that will never close. Nothing else in your pipeline really matters unless you are working with qualified pipeline opportunities.
Salespeople Waste Time "Hammering Every Nail"
Many experienced sales leaders will share stories of new reps who chased every deal as if they were all equally qualified. The expression "if you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail" is often cited. And sadly, every sales day there are reps trying to "hammer these nails," which often are:
- Not a good fit
- Too small
- Too big
- Too risky
- No budget
- Wrong industry
- Not in the buying window
- Without an identified decision maker
From the outside looking in, it becomes obvious that these low probability, poor quality deals will never close and will be a drain on energy, emotions, and time.
Yet, in spite of the obvious signs, salespeople press forward, placing these deals in their pipelines and forecasts. Then, waste endless hours working on bad deals that will never close. And the results are too predictable– the vast majority of these salespeople hammer away at pipeline that ultimately vanishes.
Meanwhile, frustrated sales managers look on in dismay, pleading with their salespeople to let these ugly deals go. It is an ongoing battle that is a core part of the sales manager's job as a coach– keep those "hammers" focused on only the "real nails" that will close quota.
How To Qualify Pipeline Opportunities And Keep Them On Target
So what can sales reps do to keep from pursuing bad deals and how can sales managers help them?
Define the Target:
What every experienced sale leader knows– if you don't define the target deal, your team will waste a lot of time chasing bad ones. Far too many companies and sales organizations have failed to develop the profile of an ideal prospect or customer. Therefore, the first step is to develop an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) so your whole team knows who & what to pursue.
Make a commitment to measure every prospect, deal, and customer against your ICP. When they don't fit, develop the discipline to walk away. At the end of the day, no bad deal is worth chasing.
Leverage the Team to Keep it Real:
Not every deal is going to fit your profile perfectly. That is clearly not a reasonable expectation. In some situations, it may make sense to take some risk and pursue opportunities outside the target profile. But there is a difference in taking a risk and chasing a bad deal. Analyzing pipeline opportunities as a team is a powerful way to move forward with calculated risks and keep the team focused.
Working as a team gets everyone engaged in pipeline management and is an excellent way to help new salespeople learn how to qualify opportunities. Salespeople can be so close and so committed to a bad deal that they cannot see the obvious and may not listen to their sales leaders. However, they'll often get a wake up call when the entire team tells them that their particular deal is not worth chasing.
Coaching and Pipeline Reviews
It is crucial that sales leaders conduct regular pipeline reviews and look at each opportunity in the forecast. Good sales managers coach their sales pros: "Don't hammer every nail!" to keep the rep and the whole team focused on qualified deals.
The End Goal
The end goal is to keep your pipeline full of viable, qualified deals that have a high probability of closing. When you do, your pay check will get bigger, you will have more fun, and ultimately you will have more time to enjoy outside of your sales day.
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