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What Is A Strong Pipeline?

by Doug Davidoff | Sep 14, 2012 8:07:00 AM

One of the toughest behaviors to change when salespeople are working to transform from being peddler to becoming Demand Creator, is the relationship they have with their pipeline.

Having been taught (consciously or otherwise) that sales is a numbers game, peddlers always feel better when the pipeline has more opportunities in it.  As salespeople move up the value chain, they gain an understanding that the quality of an opportunity is far more important than the quantity.

This leads to a pipeline that feels weaker, and  it increases the fears associated with the the necessary change in behavior and mindset.  While the pipeline is actually becoming stronger, it doesn’t feel that way..

In 20+ years working with salespeople and sales management, I’ve learned that there’s little reality in most pipelines.  While there may be many “opportunities” listed, few of those opportunities are real.  A couple of years ago we conducted a comprehensive pipeline review with a new client’s sales team.  The review started with 59 opportunities from 4 salespeople.

When we were done we discovered that 5 were bona fide opportunities, 7 had little to no chance of closing despite the fact that the company was about to invest several thousand dollars of man hours and expenses to prototype a solution, in 33 of them the sales rep was clearly talking to the wrong person and the rest were no better than a lead you could get from a newspaper.

The focus on quantity in the pipeline leads to several bad behaviors, such as:

    • A lot of valuable time is wasted chasing the wrong opportunities or even the right opportunities, but with the wrong people.
    • Reps lack the time to adequately invest in the right opportunities and places to build the business case and move beyond price.
    • Pipeline reports become jokes within management circles, and businesses (especially small and mid-sized businesses) lack the critical intelligence needed to accurately assess their position and make adjustments in a timely and effective manner.
    • An urgency mindset, instead of an importance mindset, is built; preventing salespeople and organizations from making the necessary changes to control their destiny.
Demand Creators firmly believe that all progress and growth begins with an honest picture of reality.  They realize that focusing on fewer, high quality opportunities is the key to standing out and escaping commoditization.

Making the transition from a pipeline with lots of names on it to one with fewer can be quite scary, and it’s necessary to achieve the effortless growth you desire.

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