If you ask people what’s important in their sales force, often, they’ll say the pipeline. But, that can mean a lot of different things. This vital tool is essential for most sales organizations, yet it’s often not used correctly, or not understood fully. Jason Jordan, interviewed by John Golden, explores proper pipeline management.
This expert sales interview explores pipeline management, including:
- Defining pipeline management
- The importance of having a common sales language
- Two mistakes to avoid
Pipeline Management Defined
If you don’t have pipeline management defined, it’s impossible to use it. The biggest misconception about a sales pipeline is that it is the same as sales forecasting. Forecasting is looking to the future and trying to predict where you’ll be at a certain point in time. Pipeline management is trying to get there, and managing the deals that you have. A pipeline is also a collection of current opportunities. When a lead comes in, you qualify it, and it becomes a real opportunity with a discrete beginning and end. A pipeline is a collection of those. It is a collection of your opportunities.
Having a common language or understanding of what different things mean is critical to being able to manage and measure. One of the most significant barriers we see in sales forces is lack of common language. This is in part because there are very few programs out there for teaching sales, and most salespeople enter the workforce as novices. One of the biggest things that go undefined is a sales process. If you don’t have a laid out sales process, then you have nothing to manage. “The number one thing we found that made a productive sales pipeline was having a well-defined sales process,” said Jordan. “Without it, you can’t measure it or coach it.” Ensure that your organization has similar language to define and understand things and that each part of your sales process is transparent.
There are several mistakes that sales managers make when it comes to managing a pipeline. These mistakes can be severely detrimental. The first mistake is that managers think a bigger pipeline is a better pipeline. This isn’t always the case. If you can determine the proper size of a sales pipeline, it eliminates all of the “junk prospects” that extend the sales cycle and reduce your closing rates.
Sales Manager Engagement:
Another mistake is the tendency of sales managers to engage too late in the sales cycle. Sales manager tend to focus on deals that are about to close. This makes sense on the one hand because you don’t want to lose the sale. But, the research shows that engaging earlier in the sales process is more impactful for sales productivity. For one, you start to pull out the bad deals early. You can coach your team how to shape the transactions in the customer’s mind from the beginning, and help your salespeople close better deals sooner.
For more information on pipeline management, watch the expert sales interview!
About Our Host
John is the Amazon bestselling author of Winning the Battle for Sales: Lessons on Closing Every Deal from the World’s Greatest Military Victories and Social Upheaval: How to Win at Social Selling. A globally acknowledged Sales & Marketing thought leader, speaker, and strategist. He is CSMO at Pipeliner CRM. In his spare time, John is an avid Martial Artist.