The saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” can be applied to lots of different areas of our lives. One place we should think about the old adage relates to our sales pipeline. If we apply an ounce of prevention to our new opportunity identification process, we will avoid the pitfalls of a weak sales pipeline.
There are a large number of analytics tools on the market. The list is growing by leaps and bounds and the solutions become more sophisticated and easier for the average business user.
In the sales world, these tools provide insight into pipeline metrics to highlight where deals tend to stall and provide predictors of future success and/or failure.
Most companies we talk to have a great handle on their sales pipeline. Today’s sales leaders know their team needs 3X to 4X of quota in their pipelines in order to manage to success.
With all this visibility, why do companies often miss their numbers? Why do sales people miss their numbers? What can be done?
There are many contributing factors, but an often overlooked area is, “pre-pipeline optics”. Pre-pipeline optics represents the critical insight into the leading indicators that drive predictability in closing deals in the pipeline. You see, it isn’t the amount of pipeline (2X, 3X, 4X, etc.), it’s the quality of that pipeline.
Quality pipeline starts with a solid, front-end qualification process. And a qualification is more successful if your initial contact is with the right type of person.
So, how do you know the quality of your pipeline?
There are telltale signs that the pipeline is weak when some or all of the following begin to occur:
- Close dates start getting pushed out
- New players and requirements emerge
- The client keeps the status quo (aka the dreaded “no decision”)
There are a lot of tools to help sales leaders evaluate and deal with pipeline issues. These include sales stage reporting, account plans, “blue-sheeting” the deal, etc. While all are good and necessary tactics, most deals are doomed from the start because the sales person started the engagement at the wrong level. In other words, the outreach effort landed them too low in the organization.
This is where pre-pipeline optics comes into play. Your sales team should always be working deals and doing things to uncover new sales opportunities. Pre-pipeline optics are the measures and activities that lead to initial conversations at the right level in an account; which in turn, mean an opportunity with better sponsorship and strategic alignment with the prospect.
Here are three things to look for in you pre-pipeline process.
- Are your sales reps engaging in enough meaningful first conversations with the right people (decision makers)?
- Are these same reps gaining sponsorship within the organization?
- Is the business problem your reps are trying to solve, widely acknowledged throughout the organization?
An “ounce” of attention paid to and measuring the answers to these questions will provide “a pound of cure” and the necessary insight into the pre-pipeline optics — before it is too late.
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