All sales managers know how crucial it is for them to carefully manage their sales pipeline. Yet, many of them continue making the same critical sales pipeline management mistakes that are holding their team back from reaching a high level of performance.
These 3 sales pipeline management mistakes might sound familiar; they are pretty common, and you might even be making them on a daily basis. Stop making these mistakes now!
(For even more detailed information on pipeline management, check out our FREE eBook: The Definitive Guide to Pipeline Management.)
Pipeline Management Mistake # 1: Bigger is ALWAYS better
This is America, where bigger is always better…right? Not necessarily, and certainly not when it comes to your sales pipelines.
The common line of thinking goes something like this: “The more opportunities I have in my pipeline, the more chances my sales reps have to close deals.” In a vacuum, that’s more or less true. More pipeline opportunities equals more at-bats for sales reps. However, those same sales managers who tout ever-increasing sales pipelines are likely not scrutinizing their opportunities closely enough.
In truth, managers should implement strict standards for when a lead or prospect gets converted into an opportunity and enters the sales pipeline. Instead of widening the top-of-the-funnel and attempting to ‘boil the ocean’ – in terms of getting as many opportunities in as possible – sales managers should be focused on getting the best opportunities that are better fits.
This way, your sales reps aren’t wasting a great deal of time attempting to close opportunities that might not have been particularly interested in buying in the first place. Furthermore, an unrealistically bloated pipeline will likely throw your sales forecast out of whack – most of these opportunities are not going to close, yet there they are, sitting in your sales pipeline and being taken into consideration for your sales forecasts. Don’t make this mistake – purge your pipeline immediately!
Pipeline Management Mistake # 2: Managers help reps close deals at the end, not at the beginning
It is common practice for a sales manager to see a particularly valuable opportunity in the latter stages of the sales funnel…and feel the need to jump in and help the rep close the deal. This is an egregious error – sales managers, many of them former reps themselves, should resist the urge to return to their previous jobs.
This type of over-involved ‘coaching’ in the latter stages is not particularly helpful to the sales rep. Instead, sales managers should spend more time coaching or helping out with opportunities on the front end or in early stages. Sales managers should challenge their reps about why specific opportunities are in the pipeline – there should be a good reason for each opp, beyond the “happy ears” of a sales rep.
Additionally, coaching on the front end will help reps think through their strategy for working particular opportunities, building important foundational skills for the future. Work with them on qualifying opportunities, influencing needs and buying criteria and, if necessary, dislodging bad opportunities.
Pipeline Management Mistake #3: Talking about sales forecasting at pipeline review meetings
Many sales managers inevitably combine these two meetings into one, and who can blame them: after all, your sales forecasting should rely heavily on your current sales pipeline. However, these are two different meetings, each with their own distinct focus and objective, and should be treated as such.
Let’s focus on the pipeline review meeting, and what it should include. Some key elements include:
Making sure that each rep has sufficient opportunities in their pipeline to hit their quotas. Every team’s pipeline coverage – the ratio of opportunities to quota – is different, so study your own historical data, instead of simply adopting the industry standard of a 3X pipeline coverage ratio.
Focus on top-of-the-funnel opportunities. As we mentioned above, sales managers often err by focusing more on helping out with late-stage opportunities. The truth is they can have more of an impact – and a long-lasting one at that – by helping out with top-of-the-funnel opps.
Help reps purge as necessary. Reps will be loathe to give up opportunities – the mindset of a sales rep leads them to think that they can win every opportunity. Coach them on the pitfalls of a bloated pipeline, and help them achieve more efficient performances by having a streamlined pipeline.
These are 3 of the most common sales pipeline management mistakes that we’ve come across, but they are far from the only ones. What are some good ones that you’ve seen, experienced and learned from in your time? Share them below!