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You want your sales team to qualify prospective clients. You don’t want them to pursue prospects not likely to buy from your sales team. Yet, the ridiculous amount of pipeline you require makes it easy to add an opportunity with nothing more than a first meeting.

Many, if not most, sales managers have one foot firmly planted on the side of qualifying and the other foot on the side of adding what is not yet an opportunity. If you make your salespeople qualify the prospective client, you cannot add the opportunity to your pipeline. If you don’t qualify, you worry the deals are not worth pursuing.

Transforming Sales Qualification Processes in Modern Sales Strategies

Because you are straddling the line between qualifying the opportunity or adding it to your pipeline, you cause your sales representatives to add it to your pipeline, as this seems what sales managers value most of all.

The salesperson, forced to choose between disqualifying the prospect and returning from a first meeting with nothing to show for it or logging a new opportunity in your CRM, will add the opportunity to the pipeline, instead of reporting they disqualified the prospective client.

As the desire to have an increasingly large amount of pipeline coverage grows, your sales reps find it easier and safer to qualify everything instead of disqualifying a prospect with a low probability of buying what you sell. Most pipelines now lack any integrity, as sales reps fill them with any prospect that agrees to a first meeting.

Implementing a Two-Meeting Rule for Validating Sales Opportunities

If you want to ensure you provide your prospective client with a poor experience in a first meeting, there may be no better way to offend your contacts than by asking them questions about their ability and willingness to buy what your team sells. To do this, you can use BANT, MEDDIC, or some other approach that ensures you are not wasting the salesperson’s time.

Given the choice between qualifying the client or creating value for the contacts that have agreed to a meeting, you are better off providing an experience that your contact finds valuable. Many sales organizations who practice a modern sales approach have removed the qualification from the first meeting, as it isn’t valuable, especially in a time where there are plenty of salespeople willing to give the prospective client their time and attention.

In The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the 10 Commitments That Drive Sales, the third commitment is the Commitment to Change. This approach allows the salesperson to spend enough time to create value in the first and second meetings before asking the buyers and decision makers about their ability to make the change, including the investment and the consensus of their teams. Which brings us to the idea of what is and what isn’t an opportunity.

Exploring the Role of Sales Pipeline Coverage in Effective Selling

One way to increase the integrity of your pipeline is to refuse to allow a salesperson to add an opportunity before they have had a second meeting. This tripwire will prevent your pipeline from becoming a list of lies, half-truths, wishful thinking, or an optimistic view with no reason to believe the prospect is an opportunity.

Any prospective client that isn’t willing to take a second meeting isn’t likely to buy from the salesperson who conducted the first meeting. Their reticence to give the salesperson more time indicates that they are not interested, and that the salesperson failed the audition, or the client has no interest in change.

You may worry about not logging these first meetings, but you will lose nothing by removing any opportunity that hasn’t had a second meeting. The prospective client with no second meeting provides you with $0 in pipeline coverage.

Maximizing Sales Effectiveness for Better Business Outcomes

A salesperson would have to have 2X their goal. Now, you see numbers like 4X, 6X, or 8X the salesperson’s sales goals. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of how selling works.

Let’s call this approach The lottery view of B2B sales, treating each opportunity as a ticket, each ticket increasing the chance of winning a deal. The odds of reaching your goals by adding additional opportunities provide you with the same odds of winning the Mega Millions by buying additional tickets.

The reason coverage doesn’t ensure your results is that you can only reach your goals by winning enough deals, not by having more opportunities. Those who allow their sales reps to keep these opportunities in the pipeline are deluding themselves, as they have had no forward movement or have aged out by outliving your average sales cycle.

The Critical Importance of Sales Effectiveness

It is easier to add coverage to the pipeline than it is to build a world-class, high-performing sales force, the kind that can reach their goals with 2X coverage, or a 50 percent win rate.

Success in sales requires that your sales team wins deals. There is no success in stacking up opportunities your team will not win. Turn your attention to increasing your sales force’s ability to win deals. The net new revenue you need will only come from winning new clients.

Analyzing the Driving Factors Behind Sales Team Qualification Tactics

Because you require your sales team to build way more coverage than should be necessary, they qualify every prospective client in, even though they know they have little chance of winning these placeholders that sales leaders demand.

The KPIs and metrics show salespeople have declining win rates, and part of this downward trend is because the fake deals masquerading as real opportunities are so great that they skew the numbers.

As an exercise, open your CRM and look for any opportunity without a second meeting or one that is past your average sales cycle. You can remove these “opportunities,” losing nothing that is already lost. Don’t let an opportunity in until it has had a second meeting.

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Post by Anthony Iannarino on November 27, 2023

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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