Why don’t sales people pivot? Lessons from tech entrepreneurs

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One concern we often hear from sales management is: “Our sales teams just don’t do a good job managing their pipeline.” There are many variants of the complaint – a particularly popular one is how long opportunities languish in the pipeline.

As one frustrated sales manager related: “For some of my reps, accounts literally take up permanent residence at Stage 3 in their pipeline. I hear a thousand reasons why hope is just around the corner. If it was just an administrative recording keeping type detail, it would be one thing – but it isn’t.”

Our frustrated sales manager’s concern is clearly legitimate. Time is something no sales rep has in oversupply. If accounts are languishing at a stage in the pipeline, we either need a news set of ideas for moving forward or the accounts need to be purged from the pipeline.

Taking this challenge seriously was reinforced when we recently read an article about successful technology entrepreneurs and a concept called – Pivoting.

As the author noted: ” Technology entrepreneurs of past eras took years to build a product, hire a staff and figure out whether there was a real market.” Today that luxury does not exist; it is about months not years.

Enter the idea of pivoting – starting something, quickly determining whether it is working or it isn’t and leveraging the ideas learned to develop alternative approaches.

While the worlds of a sales person and technology entrepreneur may be far apart, it’s always a good idea to look around for ideas that one might adapt to their business situation. While not seeking venture capital, time capital is sometime sales reps must manage to be effective.

As sales management have told us – many sales people don’t want to cut an opportunity loose. So adopting a “pivoting” mentality might lead to more effective and timely pipeline management.

Imagine a sales manager in a strategic review discussion around an account at Stage 3. The manager would be asking the sales rep what’s been tried to move the account forward – what worked and what didn’t – what was learned that would help determine alternative next steps. And, if adequate answers were not forthcoming then the decision would be made to remove the account from the pipeline. If viable ideas were surfaced then the discussion would turn to how to immediately try those ideas out.

There is nothing new about the fundamentals behind the idea of pivoting. It does, however, represent a banner under which one might rally support for the importance of not ill-investing time capital on accounts that hold little promise.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Janet Spirer
For more than 30 years Janet Spirer has worked with the Fortune 1000 to craft sales training programs that make a difference. Working with market leaders Janet has learned that today's great sales force significantly differs from yesterday. So, Sales Momentum offers firms effective sales training programs affordably priced. Janet is the co-author of Parlez-Vous Business, to help sales people have smart business conversations with customers and the Sales Training Connection.

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