Sales Pipeline Management – The Necessary Purge

Yesterday, we touched on some of the key sales pipeline management considerations for sales managers looking to grow their sales pipelines in Q4. Pipeline growth is typically what sales managers and VPs strive for; however, there are situations and circumstances when this is not the case.

Sometimes, sales managers have to hike up their pants, get their hands dirty, and begin the necessary purge of the sales pipeline.

Why the pipeline must be purged occasionally

The sales pipeline is one of the most critical sales metrics and reports for sales managers to study, especially when forecasting. It is important for sales managers to have accurate, data-driven sales forecasts that tells them if they are going to hit their monthly, quarterly or yearly quota…or not. If the forecast looks to fall short, then they can take the necessary steps to ensure that it doesn’t happen.

But what if their prediction is not accurate? What if the sales forecast calls for sunny skies and smooth sailing, when dark and stormy clouds are looming on the horizon? A bloated pipeline full of opportunities that are scheduled to close in this reporting period, but are in actuality already dead, will lead to just such an inaccurate sales forecast.

A clean, regularly monitored sales pipeline is much more likely to produce an accurate sales forecast.

Additionally, a cleaner pipeline will help reps be more organized and work more effectively. They will not have to suss through dozens of opportunities to find the right ones to prioritize. This means not only being more efficient with their time, but also being more effective at working valuable opportunities.

What to look for when purging the sales pipeline

When a sales manager goes through the dirty job of purging the sales pipeline, some red flags on opportunities to look out for include…

  • Opportunities that have shifted close dates frequently – Constantly shifting the close date back could be an indication from the opportunity that they are not ready for your product now, or that they are merely jerking your rep around, with no serious intent to purchase. PURGE THESE!

  • Exceptionally large opportunities that you have been working for months – When you think about killing these opportunities, your rep convinces you that they are absolutely confident that next month is the month when they will finally close. That rep needs to be honest with themselves, and with you. These opportunities don’t deserve to be on your immediate radar. PURGE THESE!

  • Opportunities that have languished in stages – You know how the sales funnel works. Opportunities are supposed to be nurtured down the sales funnel stages, progressing from one stage to the next as they get closer to buying. On the other hand, opportunities that are less likely to closed-won suggests that they are stalling, or simply not interested in buying. PURGE THESE!

  • Opportunities that have not been worked on in some time – First, get an answer from your reps as to why this is the case. If appropriate, perhaps these opportunities should receive some attention. However, they might just be stagnant or even dead, and are simply cluttering up the pipeline. PURGE THESE!

The sales pipeline is meant to guide you and your reps, letting you know what opportunities are currently being worked on, which ones should be prioritized, and what your sales forecast is going to look like in this time period. Bloated or stagnant opportunities in the sales pipeline can be extremely misleading, causing many problems further down the line.

Avoid this issue. Purge your bloated pipeline. A cleaner, more streamlined and more accurate sales pipeline will make you feel much better.