Over time, your CRM becomes a junk drawer of stalled and stuck deals, lies, exaggerations, half-truths, neglected prospective clients, and falsehoods. Even though you want coverage over your sales team’s quota and your sales goals, much of what you believe is coverage is not.
There are six major signs that can help you recognize what is an opportunity and what should be moved out.
- Aged out: These deals are just like the leftovers you didn’t eat three days ago because they had aged out. Here is the best way to safely remove the opportunities from your pipeline: First, calculate the average sales cycle. Second, double the average sales cycle. Third, remove from your pipeline anything that old or older. Those opportunities are now spoiled and have no place in your pipeline.
- Perennials: Every spring, perennial flowers return, blossoming once again. These are like the prospective client who tells your sales rep they want to buy from you, then once again they complain your price is too much for them to pay. After a few years of repeating this pattern, remove this poor opportunity from any opportunity stage with no harm to your coverage.
- No motivation: Some days you are motivated, and other days you must force yourself to act. You want to motivate your sales force to motivate their prospective clients to act. When you identify a new opportunity in your pipeline, ask the sales rep two questions: 1) What is compelling this client to change now, and 2) What will happen if they don’t do something? Without clear answers to these questions, this isn’t likely to be an opportunity.
- No second meeting: The first date went well, but then this special person has not answered your phone calls. A first meeting does not indicate a new opportunity. Without a second meeting in sight, odds are there is no new potential deal. If you allow these opportunities into your pipeline, you are making it harder to manage your team and hit your targets because you may be counting on deals that are not real. You can safely evict these from your pipeline.
- The big deals: Your uncle Enrico tells you should buy shares in a particular stock. He got this information from a guy who knows the guy that started the company. This is a sure thing, and you should bet the house on it. As a salesperson, you should want to do everything in your power to win big deals. But when days turn into weeks, and weeks turn into quarters with no forward movement, it’s time to replace this big deal. If the sales rep says they are still working on it, they can tell it to Uncle Enrico.
- Too few contacts: You were invited to your neighbor’s party. He’s a little weird, but harmless, and when you walk in with a nice bottle of wine, you are the only guest. Now you must stay for an appropriate amount of time. If the salesperson has only ever met one contact, this opportunity may not be a real potential deal for you, or for the contact. The longer the deal goes with only one stakeholder, the more certain you can jettison the non-opportunity.
A Set of Filters to Keep Your Pipeline Clean
As a sales leader, you are responsible for your pipeline. Most sales managers allow their sales force to log anything in their CRM, but you want to filter out anything that isn’t a real opportunity. These filters can help you keep your pipeline pristine.
- The compelling reason: You use the same toothpaste you have used since forever. Unless you find out your favorite tooth cleaner is no longer safe, you will keep brushing with your lifelong tube. People don’t change for no reason. This includes the contacts your sales force calls on. No reason, no opportunity.
- Your delivery model: You like certain things to be done a certain way, like the starch your dry cleaner uses on your shirts. You want to be crisp. The opportunity the salesperson puts in front of you needs you to deliver something in a way you cannot deliver. If what the prospective client needs is something you can’t or shouldn’t do, set it aside. It will only clutter your sales pipeline and waste time.
- Too small: Seemingly overnight, teenagers outgrow their clothes when that growth spurt makes their clothes too small. The problem with too-small deals is that they take the same or more time and effort as larger, more substantial deals.
Cleaning Up Your Pipeline
You spend a lot of time and energy on your pipeline. You want it to be full of the most attractive clients, your dream clients. But, over time, your pipeline becomes more like a sewer line. No matter how much coverage you believe you have, if the deals will not cross the finish line, they don’t count as coverage.
To protect your ability to hit your sales goals, you must have coverage of the same quality as the deals your team should pursue. When you let in anything without filters, you allow your sales team to believe that anything with a single meeting is an opportunity.
Once you remove the non-opportunities, you will want to keep your deal board clean and honest. Knowing what you need allows you to build a better pipeline. I have rejected hundreds of millions of dollars of deals that, had they been allowed in, would have cost my company money.
Leaving this article, take a deep dive into your own pipeline and test the quality of each opportunity to ensure you know where you and your team are and the gap you need to address by acquiring additional, real, desirable deals. When in doubt, sit down with your sales team and ask the questions that move the deal in or out. You might also have a conversation with your team about what you want and what you will refuse.