I always appreciate Tibor Shanto’s blog posts on cleaning out the pipeline, focusing on real business. He always seems to find the right time to remind us to do this, In January, he encouraged us to Clear Out The Clutter, can’t start the New Year with garbage in our funnel. In March, he reminded us of Spring Cleaning. I’ve been anxiously waiting his third quarter post and reminder.
I agree with Tibor, over the course of time, sales people tend to let their pipelines get cluttered. Opportunities that looked good a couple of months ago are languishing. Deals we hoped for are no longer there. Somehow, stuff just starts piling up. Tibor is always diligent in reminding us to clean things up, focusing on real opportunities and good business.
Somehow, though, in the back of my mind, Tibor’s quarterly reminders have bothered me. Don’t get me wrong, Tibor is absolutely right, but somehow the fact that he has to remind us every quarter means that we haven’t gotten something right.
Somehow, it seems our pipelines and funnels have become repositories (some might argue similar to the all too familiar round file in our offices). But isn’t the funnel really supposed to be a tool that we use every day? The real value of the funnel is it gives us a snapshot at, any point in time, of the state of our business. I can look at my funnel and see:
- Do I have enough opportunities to achieve my goals, quota, business plan?
- Where are the big deals? What’s happening with them?
- Are thing getting stuck? What’s causing that, how can I fix them?
- Are there any emerging patterns or trends that give insight into my performance—for example, am I not qualifying correctly and letting a lot of bad deals waste my time.
- Am I being as competitive as possible? What are my conversion and win rates?
- What’s my sales cycle look like? What can I do to reduce it?
The list of things can go on. My point is the funnel is a key tool to help me assess my progress and keep me on target to achieve my goals. I look at it virtually every day and at least once a week I spend time looking at most of the issues I have outlined above.
Using your funnel like this means you have to have an accurate and updated pipeline. If you have it cluttered with all sorts of garbage, then it’s impossible to get an accurate assessment of your business.
So while I understand what Tibor is doing and why he encourages us to do Spring Cleaning (potentially soon the Summer Refresh), the fact that he has to remind us to do this means we are doing something wrong. It means that we aren’t using the funnel and pipeline as a tool to drive our performance. We aren’t using the funnel to help us win more business more quickly.
Tibor’s been rather polite giving us quarterly nudges. He really needs to be shouting at us, weekly, saying, “Don’t you get it, this is one of your most powerful productivity tools, why are you cheating yourself of the opportunity to perform at the highest level?”
A clean funnel is not next to Godliness, but a clean, accurate, updated funnel is the most important tool to keep you on target to achieving your goals.