Where Do You Stand? It’s Time to Review Your Sales Pipeline
For sales managers, Halloween isn’t nearly as scary as the fact that November is here and the end of 2015 is close behind—and that means the big reckoning as far as sales goals and your sales pipeline!
Do you know where your pipeline currently sits? Are you going to be sitting pretty come December 31 or a sitting duck, or wishing you could do 2015 all over again?
It’s a tough question to ask because nobody wants to admit they’ve fallen behind. But an empty pipeline isn’t good for anybody, nor is a pipeline that’s not as full as it could (or should) be. As the year comes to an end, it’s time to review your pipeline so you can make your number. By looking through your sales pipeline, you’ll be able to see where your team stands now and implement solutions to help you finish the year strong.
A constructive approach to the pipeline review process
To get a handle on your year-end performance, you need to meet with your sales people individually to discuss their personal pipelines. Talking with your sales people individually will be more effective since you’ll be able to hear their personal plans for meeting their number. Talking with them one on one will also let you be honest with them without embarrassing them in front of their peers.
When discussing the specifics about the opportunities within their pipelines as the year comes to and end, tell them they either need to close the deal or end it. But don’t just take a hard line with your sales reps. Coach them and refocus them on what steps they need to take to finalize the deals in their pipeline. You’re the manager. You just might be able to help them over a hurdle to make the closes happen to reach that quota after all.
Questions to help you understand what’s really going on
If you’re not sure how to go about these one-on-one conversations, try using these questions (based on suggestions from sales guru Colleen Francis) to keep you focused on what matters. Your goal here is to dig deeper into what it really going on within each sales rep’s pipeline. Rather than asking for numbers and projections only, these questions will help you move past assumptions and possibly help you coach your reps towards a close or two (or more):
- What deals are currently in your pipeline?
- If there are deals in your pipeline, what are you doing to push them through?
- If your pipeline is empty, what are you doing to fill it?
- What deals are going to close this month?
- What can be done to close these deals?
- When did you last speak to your client?
- If your client isn’t communicating with you, why not?
- What are you doing to reach out to your client if they do not initiate the conversation?
- What’s stopping the client from buying now?
- Have you identified any hindrances or road blocks that are preventing the client from closing?
- What are you doing to facilitate the sale?
- What are your next steps?
- What is your plan of attack when it comes to closing this sale?
- What are you going to do if the client can’t decide?
- When will you complete those steps?
- What is your timeline on these steps?
- When do you predict this sale will close?
Digging even deeper when you need to
It could be these kinds of conversations will reveal what you as the sales manager need to know to coach your reps towards meeting their quotas—or not. It could be these questions are only a start, and you’ll have to dig deeper to improve their end-of-the-year performance. Francis says you’ll know you need to dig deeper when you hear your sales rep say things like:
- “I think…”
- “Not sure, but…”
- “As I understand it…”
- “I’m sensing that…”
- “I just know…”
If you can’t get the hard facts you’re seeking and the salesperson is unsure about an aspect of an account, you need to tell them to either work harder to get the answers they need or to table the account so they are free to focus on other accounts that are more likely to close. They should be focusing on the accounts where they have all the pieces put together, not accounts where they’re wasting time with misinformation or a lack thereof.
The harsh reality is, it’s November. It’s time for them to make it or break it.
This kind of one-on-one pipeline review process might take some time, especially with a larger sales team, but the information is valuable to you and your organization, and it will help you manage expectations and meet sales goals. Without this kind of mutual understanding and solid communication between manager and sales team, there is no way everyone will be on the same page. So make the time to talk with each member of your team, to get results, and to coach them in the right direction.
Make your numbers, and end the year strong—because there’s nothing scary about that!