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You need to keep a clean pipeline. There is no benefit to cluttered pipeline full of junk.

You might let your pipeline get messy because you are too lazy to invest a half hour cleaning it up, but that’s not probably true. The real reason you don’t clean it up is that you would lose the sense of security that comes with having a nice, full pipeline of opportunities. But unless your pipeline is clean, the sense of security it provides is a false sense of security.

You’ll Have Something to Talk About

It’s embarrassing to work in sales and not have deals to talk about. There are pipeline review meetings, forecast meetings, and opportunity reviews. You can’t show up with nothing. You need something to talk about. You need to show you are working on something, even if it is really a non-opportunity. Without opportunities, you are exposed.

A pipeline full of non-opportunities is usually the sign of a prospecting problem. The clutter is normally a list of receptive contacts or leads with little potential to buy. Their receptivity means that they are willing to talk to you about their business and what you sell, but it doesn’t mean that you have a real opportunity. It’s not enough.

If you talk about the same prospects over and over again without any real movement to speak of, these non-opportunities are really just providing you with a false sense of security. They don’t belong in your pipeline.

I Don’t Want to Miss Out

Some of what is in your pipeline may be companies that used to use a lot of what you sell. They used to be your dream client. But their business changed, and now they no longer use as much of what you sell—or maybe they don’t use any at all.

When you visit with these former dream clients, they share an optimistic vision of their future. Someday soon, they tell you, they will come roaring back from their downturn. They are full of hope and confidence. Just like they’ve been over the last three years. But, no movement.

You hope they do come back from their downturn. And you want to be there when they do. So you spend a lot of time with them so you know you are first in line to get orders when they come back to life. You don’t want to miss out.

The uncomfortable truth is, you aren’t missing out on anything. Past users, regardless of how much they spent, aren’t opportunities. Their past isn’t always an indication of their future. And keeping clients that fit this description in your pipeline is about you having a full pipeline, not about you having a real pipeline.


How old are some of the opportunities in your pipeline?

How many conversations have you had about opportunities that still haven’t moved?

Do you have what used to be good prospects in your pipeline? Prospects that haven’t spent in your category in years and no longer have a need to?

How do these non-opportunities provide you with a false sense of security?

What do you have to do to have real confidence?

Sales 2012
Post by Anthony Iannarino on October 10, 2012
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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