As a leader, I struggle with this. The quarter rolls, the business trickles in…issues pop up that need executive focus and things get really busy. The weekly pipeline reviews look large…and curiously consistent. The overall number never seems to grow or decline…it just…moves. Month to month, Q to Q. I call it Fantasy Pipe, and it helps no one.
I really don’t have time to listen to anyone defend their fantasy. I want my team to be rooted in reality. Let’s look at all of the reasons why a sales rep would push bad pipeline every month:
- Execs demand a metric: Does 3X Target Quota sound familiar?
- Management requires a specific funnel shape
- Call Blitzes: Opportunity creation expectations
- Visibility to opportunities to prove a Gap Plan
- Not doing the work necessary – deflecting responsibility
The list is endless.
Please…stop the insanity! If you are padding your pipeline:
- You call attention to a really bad close rate.
- You spend way too much time defending – you WILL get caught
- You don’t provide realistic feedback on the existing campaign activities so nothing improves (Marketing loves this…NOT!)
- You get noticed for never progressing deals – or committing
- You become a liability to your team – and put them at risk
- You never have fun…You never make your number
- You don’t get paid.
Sales is hard, but it doesn’t have to be a grind. The best way to get through a tough situation and achieve a hard number is to go at it with everything you have. Put a plan together and put it into your CRM tool (Salesforce, etc…).
How do you build a PLAN? Start with reality. Flush the garbage from the pipeline and establish your BASELINE. The closer you get to reality, the better. I know of no good sales leader who wants to defend his/her team’s Fantasy Pipe. A good leader WANTS to know what needs to be accomplished – no matter how difficult. Remember, sales plans are in part based on historical sales and existing pipeline…so don’t cut your own throat!
Once you establish the baseline, spend the time going through all of your accounts to understand:
- Historical sales
- Upgrade potential
- Expansion potential
- Maintenance – expectations (don’t lose that base!)
- Adjacency opportunities – additional portfolio solutions
- Key campaigns that you will drive
Next – set the right expectations:
Solution Selling Skills – are you familiar with the Go To Market packages? No? Then get comfortable with the value proposition and make it your own. If you are uncomfortable with it…work on it until it fits you.
Territory Planning – Create a plan. Now that you know your TARGETS, do you know WHY you want to call on them? What solutions would help them? What is your value – because it better be more than price. Work with your team to focus their energy to help develop the territory plan…and execute. Force the team to think strategically about who, what, why and when. It isn’t difficult, but it is a vital task.
Activity Quality and Quantity – Manage to a calendar. You need to know how long it takes to find and then close a deal. Do you have enough activity to fill your calendar weeks in advance? FILL YOUR CALENDAR and put it into Salesforce. Invite key team members and management to meetings. Appointments kept in your head…stay in your head…and become FANTASY. Hold yourself accountable, and your team. Track activity (Salesforce has fantastic reports to capture this). Ask yourself this simple question: Do you have enough pipeline to close your number? If the answer is no (and it usually is)…the next questions are: “What is your plan to address this” (see Territory Planning) and “what does your activity report look like”?
Pipeline Reality – This is literally all that matters…you need to feel confident about what you have in your pipeline. If you are doing the work, you will be able to say…YES this is real pipeline…and if you don’t have enough to close your number…it becomes a very simple discussion with management:
- I have done X, Y & Z – what would you have done?
- These are the activities I have completed…what can I do differently?
- I am getting these kinds of responses – do we have a messaging problem?
- I am losing to these competitors – how do we differentiate?
- You are going to start seeing trends…
The bottom line is, be real. Shift your view, and see a way toward turning your FANTASY into REALITY.