I wrote a newsletter and a blog post about cadence, the rhythm of business as it pertains to a sales organization. One reader wrote to me to ask me about problems they should look for in their pipeline meetings.
- No New Opportunities: Part of the rhythm of business when it comes to sales is the time it takes to create and win new opportunities. The opportunities you create this week will be won (or lost) at some point in the future. The time it takes is different for different industries and different businesses. But one thing is always true: if you don’t create opportunities now, there will be some point in the future when you don’t have the new business you need. The more weeks without new opportunities, the worse your future. This problem is only remedied through prospecting.
- No Real Opportunities: An opportunity only exists if the prospective customer is engaged with you in an initiative to change. There are a lot of people inside your prospective client companies who are willing to speak with you. There are some sales organizations with products and services that are so interesting, that their prospects will always take a meeting to learn what’s new. But the willingness to meet doesn’t mean that the prospective client has the necessary willingness to change. If there is no compelling reason to change, there is no opportunity. A lot of people need what you feel and can’t—or-won’t buy it.
- Retreads: I’ve seen “opportunities” that have lived in pipelines so long that the salesperson’s child started and graduated from high school without the deal being won. If this was the company’s natural deal cycle, that would be fine, but it wasn’t. Salespeople who don’t have new or real “opportunities” tend to go back over or conversations that they’ve had with prospects who will give them time. If the same “opportunity” comes up over and over again with no real movement, it’s a lead.
- Too Long In Stage: Some deals take time to mature. A few deals will be progressing even when the deal lives in a stage for longer than normal. But most of the time, a deal that is in a stage for too long is stalled. The deal may be stalled because something changed on the customer’s side. Or, more often than not, the salesperson hasn’t gained the commitments they need to move the opportunity forward. Every opportunity in the pipeline should have a next action that is a commitment that the prospect has made that results in moving forward. A deal without a commitment is stalled, or approaching a stall.
These are some of the most common problems you should look for in a pipeline review.