In my current role at C9, I help companies and sales managers improve their pipeline and forecasting processes. Because of this work, I’m very familiar with sales managers’ most common challenges. And surprisingly (or perhaps unsurprisingly), – many of these challenges can be traced back to inefficient or unproductive pipeline meetings. Watching sales reps fumble through Excel reports, emails and Evernote to find basic information about their opportunities is an all too familiar scenario. This is a huge roadblock for sales managers as they have almost no time during meetings to coach reps and are often blindsided by obstacles about specific deals.
Many sales managers I work with have said they end up using Sunday nights to put forecast reports together because time has been used inefficiently throughout the week. But it does not have to be this way. For starters, the three questions below will help to foster productive and informative sales pipeline calls so that the actions that follow drive toward what matters: closing deals.
Question 1. Does the rep have enough coverage to meet their target?
This should be where every pipeline meeting begins. If there’s enough coverage, move on to discuss the health of each opportunity. If the pipeline is thin, then develop a strategy with the rep on how to fill it.
Sales teams that utilise predictive analytics are ahead of the game because all the relevant information they need about coverage is already assembled. They don’t have to spend the meeting hunting for information and working the math out in their heads. For example, a rep can immediately see if she’s on track to hit her quota. This sets the stage to talk in more depth about specific deals.
Question 2. What changes in your pipeline occurred in the last week?
Sales teams typically hold pipeline meetings on a weekly basis. Most often, the first part of the meeting is dedicated to providing an update about what happened since the last meeting. Valuable time is burned explaining how deals changed, what opportunities were created in the last week, what deals were pushed to next quarter, etc. This leg work should be done ahead of the call, including pulling charts and graphs that clearly and intuitively outline these changes. With this information done ahead of time, you can fast-forward the conversation to why it happened, and strategise to drive deals to closure.
Question 3. Where are the blind spots?
With a clear understanding of changes in the pipeline, the manager can assess what risks might exist for each deal. Identifying these red flags in advance enables the manager and the reps to proactively anticipate and overcome roadblocks and build a healthy pipeline.
For example, a deal that has stalled for more than 30 days should stand out like a sore thumb. But often it goes unnoticed without an application that visualises the pipeline. If your pipeline velocity is normally faster, you’ll want to flag that deal and discuss it in more detail to determine how you can move it forward. Or, if a manager sees a deal that has been repeatedly pushed out, she can ask the rep for more information and help get the deal back on track to close in the current month.
Sales managers usually have the best intentions for pipeline meetings. They want to empower their sales teams to hit their targets and earn their commissions. The use of predictive analytics software in conjunction with more efficient pipeline meetings can help them to feel more like coaches than administrative wranglers. They’re also more confident about the information they take to the VP of Sales.
And they report one final bonus: they get their Sunday nights back!