Brian, an inside sales rep, spent too much of his time chasing deals that ended up going nowhere. He knew it; his sales manager Francine knew it. Late one Friday afternoon, Francine asked him to give some thought to the matter, and to come up with some ideas about why this was a problem for him.
The two spent an hour-long coaching session the following Monday discussing the possibilities Brian had come up with. The conclusion they reached together was a simple one: Brian wasn’t qualifying effectively. He was chasing every opportunity that crossed his desk. He had no “filtering” mechanism; he simply entered each opportunity into the spreadsheet he reviewed weekly with Francine, marked it as “active,” and started making calls.
“I’ve got an idea,” Francine said with a smile near the end of their coaching session.
“What’s that?” asked Brian.
“What if it were a little bit harder for people to get into your pipeline?”
SET YOUR PIPELINE CRITERIA
Perhaps the easiest way to avoid wasting time with questionable opportunities is to be more selective about which ones you allow to enter the pipeline in the first place. A more stringent “pre-pipeline” screening step may be worth considering. What are the criteria for entering that active phase of your pipeline?
At a bare minimum, such a screening step would require that, before you list an opportunity as “active,” and therefore worthy of your time, effort, and energy, you confirm that:
- You know and are able to deliver a “best-fit” product or service that meets the prospect’s needs and matches up with your target customer profile.
- The prospect has and is willing to invest the resources required to obtain the product or service.
- The prospect is in a position to make a decision within a time frame consistent with the average length of your selling cycle.
In other words – consider placing only qualified prospects in the “active” category that you review with your manager and use to develop income forecasts. Hold yourself accountable for investing most of your time and attention to the task of moving those opportunities – the truly qualified opportunities -- forward. After all, these are the people who have the greatest statistical likelihood of doing business with you! They’re the ones who deserve your time, your attention, and your expertise.
Even the most effective selling strategies will have minimal impact when applied to opportunities that don’t deserve your attention. By being more selective about whom you allow in your pipeline (and how long you allow them to remain there), you just may close more sales more quickly.
THE PIPELINE SPEEDS UP
By focusing more of his attention on prospects who were truly qualified, and less time chasing people who were unwilling to share basic information, Brian was able to produce significantly more income from the “active” column of his pipeline, in a shorter average time frame … even though there were fewer company names in that column of the spreadsheet than there had been before his meeting with Francine. The reason? He’d gotten choosier about who he let into his pipeline – and about who got the benefit of his time, attention, and expertise.