Sales can be an unforgiving endeavor. If you don’t do what you are supposed to do, when you are supposed to do it, as well as it needs to be done, you will missmaking your number. The clock is always working against you, and you have to bring your A-game every day.
Because there is so little room for error, you need to protect yourself from the risks. You need to inoculate yourself. There is one thing that will inoculate against most sales problems: a full pipeline of opportunities.
Against Losing Opportunities
Salespeople miss their numbers when they count on winning an opportunity that they eventually lose. They needed the deal to make their number, and without it, there is no way to bridge the gap.
Unless of course they have enough opportunities that they can afford to lose any opportunity—or any number of opportunities—and still make their goal. A full pipeline of opportunities inoculates you against the loss of a major opportunity.
Against Poor Sales Skills
There is no reason not to be very good at sales and to not be continually improving. You can learn to sell. Poor sales skills lead to lost opportunities. Whether it’s an inability to ask for and obtain commitments, too little business acumen, or an inability to create value, poor sales skills will sink lots of could-have-been opportunities.
But even a salesperson with poor selling skills with the ability to prospect can still do okay. You have seen it before. The salesperson has no business winning a deal, they do everything wrong, and they win in spite of themselves.
The ability to build a pipeline of opportunities protects the salesperson from themselves. You have good selling skills; imagine how a full pipeline would protect you.
Against a Poor Sales Process
Some salespeople refuse to follow a sales process. They mistakenly believe that winging it means that they are creative, resourceful, and that they can think on their feet. In believing this, they lose a lot of opportunities that they might have won would they have followed a set of best practices designed to stack the deck in their favor.
A big enough pipeline of opportunities sometimes results in a salesperson that doesn’t follow a process still making their number. Would they be even better and even more successful were they to follow a process? Absolutely, they would. But, their prospecting and their ability to build a pipeline protect them, nonetheless.
Against Losing an Existing Client
It’s never easy losing a client, least of all a key account. You can lose them through no fault of your own, but it still doesn’t hurt any less. Losing a key account can destroy your numbers.
I have seen dozens of businesses live off of a single client, never building a pipeline of dream clients that would protect them should something unfortunate happen. They believe they will always have the anchor client that they have presently. Until they lose that client.
The time to dig your well is before you are thirsty (and don’t I know it!).
A full pipeline is an inoculation against losing a key account. It still hurts, but it doesn’t disrupt the business when you continually have new clients being acquired. This doesn’t happen with a pipeline of new opportunities.
It Isn’t Enough
Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that you should live with any or all of these problems. In fact, the demands on salespeople to be more professional, to possess greater business acumen, and to create even more value are only increasing.
It isn’t enough to be good only at prospecting.
But while you are improving, the one thing that you can do to ensure that you buy yourself time is to prospect and build a pipeline of opportunities. With a full pipeline, lots of sales problems can be easily forgiven. But with an empty pipeline, there is little room for mistakes.
What are the benefits of a full pipeline of opportunities?
Why do so few salespeople do the prospecting to develop a full pipeline of opportunities?
What problems do you have that would be remedied by having a fuller pipeline?
What activities could you cease that would give you more time to develop some protection against losing a deal?