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This is part four of a series called the No Excuses Guide to Selling Without a Sales Manager (part one). You can read part two,Choosing Your Sales Goals and Accountabilities, and part three, Building Your Sales Activity Plan before reading this post. Or, you can go ahead and work through this one and go back to the others.

Sometimes those of us in sales management can get bogged down looking at reports. We can review pipelines and numbers way to frequently, and we can forget that you increase the score on the scoreboard by playing the game well, not by focusing on the score.

But you do have to stop and take account of where you are, what’s working, what’s not working, and what changes need to be made. One of the most effective ways to do so is through a pipeline review.

Do I Have Enough In My Pipeline?

A review of your pipeline is a review of all of the opportunities you are presently pursuing and where they are in the sales process. One of the primary questions a sales manager would want to answer by reviewing your pipeline is whether you have enough opportunities to reach your quarterly goals. Without enough opportunities, you are unlikely to meet your numbers.

How many opportunities do I presently have in my pipeline?

What is the total value of these opportunities?

What percentage of these opportunities would I have to win to make my number?

Answering these questions, and questions like them, can help you determine how well your plan is working. Is it creating enough opportunities? Are the activities you have committed to take actually producing the outcomes that you need?

But this isn’t all a sales manager would do for you. You will have to do more for yourself here.

Are These Really Opportunities?

A sales manager would challenge the quality of the opportunities in your pipeline. This isn’t to be negative or skeptical. It is simply to determine whether you should really be forecasting the number that you are forecasting, and asking while there is still time for you to do something about it.

You are going to have to be very honest with yourself about your opportunities.

Is this opportunity really in our sweet spot?

Should this opportunity have been disqualified earlier in the process?

If I were to do everything in my power to advance this opportunity, would it move from target to close?

Is this an opportunity that I might win far in the future, but that I am unlikely to win now?

Am I really hanging onto some poor opportunities only because I need a pipeline?

There is no reason to delude yourself. Hoping for opportunities to turn into clients isn’t a great strategy. Being honest and facing the reality that you need more or better opportunities allows you to take action. It allows you to change your plan, to take different actions, and to focus where you really need to make improvements.

Without a sales manager, you are going to have to be brutally honest with yourself. You have to be tougher on yourself than someone else would be.

What Do the Patterns Tell You?

A sales manager would see a pattern in your pipeline.

She might see a pattern that shows that lots of opportunities enter the pipeline with a needs analysis sales call, and too few make it through to a further discovery stage. She might also see a pattern where whole stages of the sales process are skipped and where presentations are given without having done the work necessary to be at that point.

You have to look for your own patterns and discern for yourself where an improvement might be made.

Do my opportunities tend to die at some stage of the process?

Are most of my opportunities grouped in one area, indicating that I struggle to move them forward from this point?

Do my opportunities live too long in some stage, indicating that I am not doing what is necessary to advance them appropriately?

You will see other patterns in your pipeline. You will have other questions. If you want better sales results, you have to learn to ask yourself the biggest and best questions that you can. Look at the patterns, and ask and answer those questions.

Sales 2011
Post by Anthony Iannarino on August 9, 2011

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

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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