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Every sales leader and sales manager prioritizes their pipeline. It is fashionable now to work to acquire enough opportunities that the salesperson has a margin of error, something you know as “pipeline coverage.” This is supposed to ensure that every salesperson hits their targets, even though there is far too little evidence that this strategy is responsible for that important outcome. This is the strategy of the gambler buying more tickets for the Mega Millions to increase their odds of winning.

The mistake most sales leaders and their sales managers make is confusing opportunity creation with opportunity capture. Here is a primer on creation and capture.

The Art of Opportunity Creation: Beyond Cold Calls and Emails in Sales

Your sales force makes cold outreach to acquire a first meeting. In the current environment, your team’s emails are not read and are dead on arrival. The phone, the most important medium, is now being treated like email, with contacts refusing to take phone calls. Cold outreach is time consuming.

The first meeting is critical to creating an opportunity. Most sales organizations demand their sales team logs the first meeting as a new opportunity, however, a first meeting is not evidence of an opportunity. A second meeting would provide greater certainty that the contact is actually interested in a conversation about some important change in their business.

More opportunities are supposed to provide a form of insurance when it comes to goal attainment. The truth is quite the opposite. More opportunities do little to ensure your team succeeds in reaching its goals.

A Practical Insight: Managing Increased Sales Team Size and Its Impact on Performance

You are a sales manager. Your company just lost a sales manager, and you have been tasked to add their 8 sales reps to your 9 salespeople. Now you have 17 salespeople who need your time and energy. Your company’s cadence requires you to have a one-on-one meeting every two weeks, along with all the work you still have to do.

Let’s apply the logic of the pipeline to the sales manager and the size of their team. Now that you have doubled the size of your team, you should have greater odds of reaching your goals.

If this is wrong-headed, try applying this same idea to your pipeline. There is no evidence that more opportunities result in more won deals. More opportunities are simply evidence of more opportunities.

Mastering Opportunity Capture: Strategies to Convert B2B Sales Leads into Wins

After your team creates opportunities, the second major outcome is winning them. Here, we find the real obstacle to reaching your sales targets and revenue goals. Take a few minutes, open your pipeline, and look first at the number of opportunities that have had only one meeting. This should give you some idea about the likely value of the opportunity. Having looked at these low-probability “opportunities,” now look at the opportunities that have crossed over the average days it takes your team to win a deal. Removing all of these will give you an idea of how many true opportunities you have. I apologize if I sapped your confidence in your pipeline.

It is true that you need to create opportunities, but the only way you succeed is by winning those you create. Acquiring a first meeting isn’t particularly easy, but winning the client’s business is much more difficult. If you were to flip your priorities, so instead of creating many more opportunities you focused on capturing the right clients for your business, your chance of reaching your goals would be much improved.

Navigating B2B Sales Strategies: The Reality of the Easy vs. Hard Approaches

What looks like the easy way is creating so many opportunities that the salesperson will have enough chances to win that they will succeed. The hard way, like always, is the easy way. The hard way is to develop your sales force’s effectiveness, but it is an easier path to success than creating more and more opportunities.

Here is an exercise that may shine a light on this idea. First, look at your team’s average win rate. It is probably lower than you imagined. One reason for low win rates is that you are including all the fake, false, and made-up opportunities that have never seen a second meeting. Were you to remove those false opportunities, you would have a more accurate starting point.

After determining your team’s win rate, make a list of each salesperson’s win rate. These metrics provide you with a better understanding of why you struggle to reach your goals. If additional opportunities can’t improve your sales results, increasing each person’s win rate will deliver what you need.

Redefining Sales Pipeline Coverage: Balancing Quantity with Quality in B2B Sales

Yes, you need coverage. But the more coverage you need, the more you also need to improve your sales force’s ability to win deals. If you need 400 percent of your quota, your reps will spend more of their time creating new opportunities, many of which will not be touched, let alone won.

The more time and effort you put into helping your sales force win the right deals, the better your results and your sales force’s experience will be. They want to win deals and collect their commission, as they don’t get paid for creating opportunities. The time spent on a 4X pipeline coverage would be better spent sitting across from their contacts helping them succeed and speeding the sales rep toward their quota.

Striking the Perfect Balance: Enhancing Sales Force Efficiency and Win Rates in B2B Markets

You should do the work to increase and improve your sales force’s win rates. You should also look at what coverage each salesperson may need to hit their goals. The idea that everyone on the team should have the same coverage is almost certain to cause high performers to win fewer deals, as they would do better to focus on the right clients.

There is no one way to balance creation and capture. Your team is your team. What works for others may not work for you. Do good work and help your team win the deals you need.


Sales 2024
Post by Anthony Iannarino on February 20, 2024

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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