A Focused Pipeline = A More Efficient Sales Team

Every sales rep has experienced the gut-wrenching disappointment of losing a deal. After months of meetings, engagement and effort — the prospect simply says “No”.

It’s easy for the rep to want to hold themselves accountable for making a mistake during the sales process, or the prospect for having an 11th hour change of heart — and those are possibilities. But what if the prospect should never have entered the sales pipeline in the first place, or should have been qualified out much earlier in the process? Sales reps only have so much time in each day to engage with prospects, and that time is incredibly valuable. All too often, reps waste their time chasing unqualified prospects, only to discover the truth when they lose the deal.

As a sales leader, it’s your goal to minimize those unfortunate and often ill-timed losses by helping your team narrow the sales pipeline and focus intently on the deals that are most likely to close. The aim of this post is to outline a simple method to analyze your business’ historical sales performance data, which will enable your sales team to specifically pinpoint the open opportunities in your pipeline that have the highest probability of closing. Using this data, you can help your reps play to their strengths, engage at the right time, and intervene before a deal is lost.

As a sales leader, it’s your goal to minimize losses by helping your team narrow the sales pipeline.

Imagine that instead of chasing 100 lukewarm prospects, reps are able to focus on 10 incredibly high-quality prospects — focusing their engagement and more efficiently using their time each day. By narrowing the pipeline according to the data, your sales team can drive up win rates and hit even the most aggressive revenue goals.

This isn’t just theoretical: We’ve used this exact playbook for the Mid Market team at InsightSquared. With a narrower pipeline, the sales team was able to achieve 104% of our Q4 goal and increased productivity by more than 25%. I specifically used our software to analyze this data, but you can use Excel or another method to achieve the same results. By combining pipeline-driven metrics and strategic sales coaching, it is possible to achieve maximum sales results with efficient efforts.

Find Your ASP Sweet Spot

The very first step in narrowing your sales focus is to narrow your pipeline. Do a retrospective analysis of the deals you’re historically most likely to win. You specifically want to understand your business’ Ideal Customer Profile, according to the data.

For example, you may find that your ICP looks something like this:

  • B2B, SaaS, Software
  • Employee size of 500-2000
  • $35K-$65K Average Sales Price

Each of these bullet points narrows the sales focus significantly, but the ASP is really the key. If a sales team only targeted B2B software companies between 200 and 2,000 employees, the pipeline would still be massive. By narrowing the pipeline by deal size, we can really zero in on the deals that are most likely to close next quarter. In order to calculate that ASP range, one would analyze the win rate by deal size.

This report specifically shows that the sales team should target deals between $35K and $45K, because the win rate is more than 20% — much higher than the average win rate of 12%. Now that you have your ideal range, narrow your pipeline to JUST those deals in the target range. Rather than chasing prospects that are statistically less likely to close, rep’s efforts are focused on the best possible opportunities.

The only risk with this method is that your pipeline may shrink too quickly. If not enough prospects in your current pipeline fall within your ideal ASP range, it may be necessary to source new prospects to fill the pipeline.

This Inflow and Outflow report will alert you if your pipeline is getting dangerously low, or is declining in value over time. Make sure to keep an eye on this report as you begin to narrow your sales focus to the ideal ASP. If your pipeline is decreasing rapidly, sales and marketing might not be hunting for the right opportunities in the first place. Make an adjustment and target better qualified opportunities to fill the pipeline.

Identify Most-Likely-To-Win Reps

Just as you have deals that are more likely to close, your sales team has reps that are most likely to close those deals. Some reps are specifically best at closing the deals within your ideal ASP range, and they are your greatest asset.

This report shows you which reps on your team have the highest win rate for your ideal ASP, and which need the most assistance. As reps begin to work their opportunities, you should focus your coaching efforts on the reps at the bottom of this report. As a sales leader, your time is also incredibly limited, and therefore, you have to prioritize coaching for those that need it most.

While close rates are vital, time management through the sales process is also incredibly important. Some sales reps will swear up and down that a deal will come in this quarter, only to push it out at the last moment. This can be rough on your sales forecast, and even cause your team to miss goal. Instead of allowing this to happen over and over again, you can use data to identify the reps that are most likely to push target deals out of the pipeline for this quarter.

This report helps you identify which reps most effectively manage a sales engagement timeline, and which are most likely to push deals. Now, you can get ahead of your team, and intervene with the reps that have trouble managing their time.

Intervene on At-Risk Deals

With a narrowed pipeline, you can also give more of your attention to the deals that reps may be at a higher risk of losing. While ASP can show you the deals you’re most likely to win, you’re still going to lose a percentage. However, there are signals within the data that indicate the likelihood a rep is about to lose a deal, such as recent engagement, momentum through sales stages and more.

This report shows the at-risk deals in red, with the on-target deals in green. Some opportunities are easy to spot as being grossly “out-of-lane”, e.g. WNS Holdings. Of the at-risk deals, you can then find out which ones are actively trying to purchase a product like yours. Then, work religiously with reps to map every account on a scale of 1: Active Project, Has Budget to 5: No Project, Does Not Have Budget. It gives you as a sales leader a really easy way to identify the at-risk deals that are also actively trying to buy. If they’re an at-risk deal, but they’re tire kickers, we shouldn’t really be spending time on it.

If it’s worth the effort, then offer coaching, call support, collateral, and more to help win deals at risk of pushing. Get on a call with their C-Suite, bring in your CEO, bring in customer referrals — whatever you have to do to win the deal. With these analytics, you can intervene on these deals before they’re lost to drive up win rate.

Focus on Winnable Deals

Here’s another way to look at it: focus the majority of your time on the deals your team is most likely to close. These are the deals that you should throw the cavalry at, according to the data.

This is a Strike Zone report, and shows you the deals in your current pipeline that you are most likely to win. This report combines a lot of the data in the previous analytics, including deal size, momentum, rep effort, win rate, sales cycle and more. Just like a baseball player, you only want to swing for the deals in your strike zone. By focusing exclusively on deals in the green or yellow zones, your reps will have more time to devote to closing those deals. And with more time, they can be more successful in their efforts.

It’s really a simple equation: a narrow pipeline + intense focus = a higher win rate. Give your team the chance to chase the best possible prospects, and you’ll quickly see higher revenues.

If you have stories or coaching tactics around efficiency measures for your sales team that you’d want to share, I’d love to connect with you. I can be reached at btheriault@insightsquared.com or @rouxdimestore.