What it Takes to Make Your Sales Pipeline Accurate & Predictive


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Yesterday, while speaking in DC, I asked my usual questions but the response to one of the questions left me scratching my head.  It wasn’t a new question; as a matter of fact, I’ve been asking it for years.  And  as you can see below, I’ve been writing about the pipeline in various ways for years.

October 19, 2011  
July 30, 2011
December 1, 2009
September 22, 2009
May 11, 2009
November 10, 2008 
September 30, 2008  
August 12, 2008
September 4, 2005 
August 30, 2005
May 1, 2005

The question I asked again yesterday was, “Do you have lumps of coal in your pipeline or gold bullions and do you have a way of finding out?”  No.  “How many of your forecasts from your pipeline were accurate in any of the last 4 quarters?”  None.

This wasn’t none out of 10 or 20 people.  This was 0 out of 100+ Senior Executives!  And it’s the same response I’ve always received where ever and whenever I have spoken to a non-client group.

You would think that with the acceptance of CRM, companies would be much further along in getting their pipelines accurate and predictive but they aren’t.  Pipelines are still not being properly staged;  Criteria for each stage is not well established and salespeople aren’t meeting the criteria; Salespeople are still doing a miserable job at qualifying – the stage that uncovers most of the criteria for the variables that impact accuracy and predictability:  How much will they spend, when will they spend it, and how sure are we that we will get it?  Until your salespeople consistently get accurate information on those three variables, you will not have a pipeline you can depend on.  

Unfortunately, the problems salespeople have with qualifying are symptoms of the problems they have earlier in the sales process.  They aren’t doing a great job  establishing relationships so their prospects don’t trust them enough to share.  They aren’t doing a great job asking the kinds of questions that uncover compelling reasons to buy, so prospects don’t have the urgency to move faster, nor do they have the incentive to provide answers to qualifying questions.

These issues disappear after 6-8 months in organizations where we provide training and coaching but in most organizations, this is an ongoing challenge.

This is something you can fix and if it was an accounting, operational, manufacturing, IT or an executive malfunction it would have already been fixed.  But sales seems to get a free pass, and mediocrity appears to still be acceptable.  How sad.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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