Blow Up the Weekly Pipeline Review

December 3rd, 2018 | Uncategorized |

The weekly Pipeline Review call is… a waste of time.

Let’s be honest, sales reps handicapping their deals then rotting on the phone, and managers further handicapping those handicaps – just doesn’t work, and it’s not worth the effort for the inaccurate forecast.

Sales people spend 15-20 precious hours per month preparing for and participating in these blasted calls. Sales Ops and FP&A teams can spend a lot more time, especially at the end of the quarter.

Next, the HQ team creates a forecast.  Usually it’s too low or wrong by enough that the missed expectation hurts.

Recommendation: Prospecting Reviews

Replace 2-3 of your weekly Pipeline Reviews each month with Prospecting Reviews. Take a deep dive into what people have been doing to create pipeline.  Doing so explores powerful questions about sales behaviors, such as:

  • What should sales reps be doing?  Why?  
  • Are they… doing it?  How?
  • Is it working?  
  • How could we improve?

If you already have a recurring discussion like this, you’re in the minority of B2B sales teams (based on working closely with 50+ sales teams in the last 15 years). Most teams focus on what’s already in the pipeline, not how to get more high quality things in there. If you’re really on your game, you’ll reach across the aisle to include Marketing and align their goals with yours.

4 BENEFITS OF PROSPECTING REVIEWS

#1: Pipeline Growth

This is THE THING for all sales teams.  How much growth can you expect?  It depends on your starting position.  Some sales teams have opportunity-to-close rates greater than 80% (not a typo) and no visibility before the proposal or awarded/won stages.  In this situation, the pipeline could increase dramatically, such as 50x – 100x… because… there isn’t really a pipeline, just an order entry process.  On the other hand, if you already have a modern, flowing upper pipeline, a regular operating rhythm to focus on it should yield at least a 20% increase in size and/or quality.  Also great.

#2: Improved Data Quality

An outstanding sales leader taught me this one… If there is a meeting to review data and charts pulled directly from the CRM, that data has to exist, which means it has to be created.  By Friday at 5PM each week for the Monday AM review. Ewww, sales data entry.  Exactly.  It takes managerial brute force to get this going, or my loving term: “Flogging in the Public Square”.  During the meeting, let the people with the most activity and largest increases to their pipelines go first to discuss their recent actions and results. Everyone else waits.  As people finish, they can leave.  Nobody likes to see their name next to a small red bar in a chart or to be the last one to speak.  Within a few weeks, things will change and prospecting activity data will start to flow.  Sales reps are competitive.   I started out dead last when I was a new rep and had to learn how to prospect and put in the effort.

Potential Objections:

  • Top Reps. Experienced, high-performing reps will inevitably say, “I’m not doing that.  My numbers speak for themselves. Check the scoreboard.” Bull$#%*.  Nobody is too busy to enter activities.  It’s the Big Data/AI era. For an outside account executive, it’s easy and even possible to automate recording 3-5 meetings per day.  Calls not required. For an inside BDR/SDR, this shouldn’t be an issue thanks to CRM-integrated click-to-dial and email.
  • Pipeline Stuffing. Managing to the new metric, some reps may create baloney opportunities or include questionable ones to look good for the camera. The way around this is two-fold: 1) Create well-defined sales stage criteria along the lead>opportunity>proposed>backlog>closed path and 2) Keep track of and publish sales stage conversion rates, and compare across reps and teams over months and quarters. In data-driven accountability world the truth comes out.

Sales is a process of behaviors and managers must create behavioral transparency. Without it, your sales process is out of control.

#3: Better Forecasts

The have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too part.  How sales people and customers/prospects engage with each other is the highest correlated element in predicting lead qualification and deal closing.  If you have the upstream pipeline, sales stage and behavioral data, you can use data science techniques to forecast very accurately.  And you’ll eliminate 99% of sales time previously required to create inaccurate forecasts.

#4: Sales Process Improvement

Saved the best for last.  Improving sales process is the holy grail of sales management because it increases sales scalability – enables growth.  Managers inspecting sales behaviors and reps considering their own and their peers’ actions will surface good ideas.  Maybe… the market opportunity is distributed unevenly across territories.  Or top reps are overly focused on existing customers and don’t prospect enough.  It could be that customer or prospect data is inaccurate or incomplete.  Or the value proposition isn’t resonating. And leads from Marketing could be low quality, but not prioritized to identify the most likely conversions.  Sales stages might not align to qualification criteria or deal flow.  The time you give back to Sales Ops thanks to fewer Pipeline Review calls (boo-yah!) can be used to hunt down answers using your new/improved behavioral sales data and then to drive positive change.

That’s the short version.

Conclusion

Start holding regular Prospecting Reviews in place of Pipeline Reviews. Move your examination further up in the pipeline to where behaviors are creating value.

You’ll improve your selling process and data quality, and your teams will sell more.  Plus, with increased transparency higher in the funnel, forecasting accuracy will increase even though you spend less time on it.

Having greater ability to set expectations and coach your team from the top of the funnel to the bottom is a great way to start the New Year.

Blow Up the Weekly Pipeline Review

Oliver Churchill