Don’t Let Early-Stage Pipeline Opportunities Languish


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Humans are wired to take the path of least resistance, absent other motivations. A million years of evolution favored those who want to collect the maximum bounty with the least amount of effort.

But giving into this tendency too often is not good for a sales organization. Our natural inclination is to focus on deals beyond the 50% stage in the sales pipeline because it’s clear those will have the greatest probability of closing before the end of the quarter. There’s nothing wrong with having a great quarter, but what about the next one? When you let the sub-50% deals languish without working on them, you may find that the passage of time has eroded the quality of those opportunities. You might find slim pickings at the beginning of the next quarter.

The solution, of course, is process and metrics. The overall objectives should be to:

  • Continue driving the deal further down the pipeline – or get it out of the pipeline. It may not be dead, but it might need to be assigned to a lower-cost nurturing process until it’s ready to reenter the pipeline.
  • Find out what this deal needs to move forward. Collateral? Dog-and-pony show? Something else?
  • Make sure the right person is working the deal; or ensure that the “right” person is getting appropriate coaching when necessary.
  • Ensure that conversion rates from each sales pipeline stage are in line with norms you’ve established for your industry (or whatever is applicable).

Each organization needs to define its own metrics to support these objectives, but in general:

  • Strive for transparency.
  • Make sure an alarm goes off when a deal has been sitting at the same stage for too long.
  • Make sure someone is actively working each deal.
  • Beware of externalities and unintended consequences of the measures you put in place.
  • Results are great, but not at the cost of efficiency. Quantity needs to be balanced against quality.


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