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Discover how focusing on winning deals, rather than merely accumulating opportunities, is the game-changer in achieving B2B sales success.

Misunderstandings in Pipeline Coverage for Sales Goals

The idea that pipeline coverage is the most important factor in reaching your sales goals reflects a misunderstanding of how goal attainment works in B2B sales. You can stack up all the opportunities in your territory and still fail to hit your sales targets. While opportunities are important, they do nothing for you until you win them.

Certainly, it is much easier to have a meeting with a prospective client and log a new opportunity in your CRM than it is to do the work necessary to win the client's relationship and their business. Let’s agree that it is easier to get a meeting and call it an opportunity than it is to create a real opportunity. Let’s also agree that winning a deal is far more difficult than logging an opportunity.

Why Sales Leaders Prioritize Pipeline Expansion

Sales leaders want more pipeline because they lack the confidence that any salesperson will win any single opportunity. Having more coverage in their pipeline gives sales leaders the sense that their salesperson will win at least one of the opportunities. The truth is failing to win is a sign of a conversion problem, not a lack of opportunities. You wouldn’t need 4X your quota if you were able to win the opportunities that you created.

In any single sales force’s pipeline, most of the “opportunities” are false. This is the outcome of requiring excessive coverage. When sales leaders prioritize opportunities, they do so at their peril. Only winning delivers net new revenue.

Challenges in Closing Deals in Modern Sales

In the third decade of the 21st century, sales leaders have lost their way. Instead of working on improving the sales force’s ability to win the opportunities they create, they treat the pipeline like a lottery, believing more opportunities increase their chances of winning deals and reaching their goals.

The reason Johnny and Jenny can’t close involves several factors. First, spending much of their time creating new opportunities takes their attention away from pursuing the opportunities they have already logged in the pipeline. Second, many sales organizations are still beholden to the legacy approach that decision makers and buyers reject, making it easy to dismiss salespeople who are unable to provide them the help and experience they need. Third, most salespeople are not provided a development plan and the training and coaching they need to improve their sales results.

When Johnny and Jenny complain about being ghosted or the large number of contacts that stop communicating with them, it's evidence that what they are doing isn’t working, making it next to impossible for them to win any opportunities. Even though the sales force struggles to win any single deal, today’s sales managers seem to believe that creating more opportunities is the answer. It is a mystery why they think this will work.

Focusing on Winning and Improving Win Rates

There is no reason to create an opportunity if you cannot win it. The most important initiative for sales leaders, sales managers, and salespeople is winning deals, not creating opportunities. If there are a large number of “opportunities” that you didn’t win, that is evidence that more opportunities aren’t the answer. Instead, the answer is to win more of the opportunities in your pipeline.

As their leaders prioritize opportunities above winning, two generations of salespeople are now lost, failing to succeed. As these salespeople become sales managers, they will ruin another generation of salespeople by allowing low win rates, even though their sales teams have many opportunities.

The most important metric for sales leaders who want to grow net new revenue is win rate. Your win rate tells you more than any other metric. It also makes visible how effective sales managers build sales forces that can win deals.

If you are a sales manager, you should know each of your salespeople’s win rates. Once you know that, it’s your job to help each person improve their win rate. The greater the win rate, the more deals you win. The low win rates you see on surveys are mostly the result of stuffing pipelines with non-opportunities that provide coverage without revenue.

Advice for Sales Organizations on Winning

First and foremost, use a modern sales approach, one that creates value in the sales conversation. If you are still using legacy methods, you may need a transformation to modernize your sales approach. Modern methodologies have evolved to match what buyers want from salespeople and their companies.

You may find it helpful to identify the salespeople with the highest win rates to understand what they do differently from the rest of the sales force. Some salespeople are easy to buy from, but you are looking for those who win because their approach is effective, not because they’re charismatic.

Your win rate measures how effective your sales force is, both together and individually. You make it easier and more certain to reach your sales goal by increasing each salesperson’s effectiveness, helping them to make the behavioral changes that will improve their win rates.

The Essential Role of Winning in Deal-Making

Your focus should be on winning deals. Once you improve your win rates, you will need less coverage because your conversion rates increase. Leaving this article, look at your win rates and build a plan to increase them to a number that will all but ensure you hit your sales targets. Winning is a better strategy than a pipeline of deals you can’t win.


Sales 2024
Post by Anthony Iannarino on January 23, 2024

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. He is the author of four books on the modern sales approach, one book on sales leadership, and his latest book called The Negativity Fast releases on 10.31.23. Anthony posts daily content here at TheSalesBlog.com.
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