Having led goal-beating sales and marketing teams (details: see my LinkedIn profile), I have found that cross-functional synergy to be an essential ingredient in business success. ~Ed
To help keep sales teams focused on essential steps and processes, try using this simple, downloadable Sales Pipeline Best Practice reference chart. Assess any single prospect using this plain-English chart, and you will instantly understand their deal value relative to their place in the pipeline, and pinpoint the next steps you can take to increase that value – or devalue it as appropriate.
- Sales Stage Summary – helps you assess whether your prospect is Qualified, Scoped, Evaluated, post-mortem evaluated, etc.
- Key activities – chores and self-test questions for validating and moving prospects up or down the Pipeline;
- Milestones – Decision points and signposts for verifying your assessments;
- Control documents and tools – essential elements for effective assessment and communication;
- CRM tasks – recordkeeping duties which help your CRM system update the forecast and schedule/prompt you on next steps;
- Probability – relative value of each prospect at each stage of the Pipeline;
- Partner Forecast – analogous information for assessing your resellers and partners
Hope is Not a Strategy. Groom better sales pros using the Best Practice chart
What makes the top 15% of sales pros into stars, another 50% solid contributors, and the remainder only occasionally brilliant? I believe that you can have more top sales pros on your team if they could make this single page Sales Pipeline Best Practice chart into a habit.
No matter how great a relationship builder your top sales pros may be, they don’t stay at the top without attending to a customer’s pain. It requires methodical, relentless focus that can seem intuitive but can definitely be learned. Such learned, relentless focus keeps the client so comfortable that they can’t even imagine alternatives, relying on your top sales pro (“TSP”) for all their resource needs. Your TSP knows how to make him/herself an indispensable, irreplaceable, joined-at-the-hip resource for life, turning the client into a raving fan.
Of course, even TSPs don’t always win, for a variety of other reasons, some of which are covered in previous articles, like:
“Buyer Bias: How Deep is Your Dive?”
“Your Three Constant Competitors and How to Beat Them”
“Accurate Sales Forecasting: The ‘Aim High’ approach”
Over to You
Can you groom more top sales pros? Yes, if they are willing. Are you a good enough coach? It requires a few essentials, like instilling in your team the ability to accurately forecast. I have seen accurate forecasting offset even the limpest personal skills. Customers respect the diligence and focus of an accurate forecaster who gets to the heart of the matter and focuses on the critical path to their satisfaction. A limp but accurate forecaster may receive fewer golf invitations, but they keep the customer and your organization effectively engaged.
Making it Work for You
The Sales Pipeline Best Practice reference chart has been jokingly referred to by colleagues as the “eye chart”. If you can read this chart, you know how to accurately forecast, and you always know what to do next. You can avoid overblown optimism and unrealistic assumptions. You can detect bottlenecks, derailment and other disruptive patterns. You can reduce financial miscalculation. The result is improved situation awareness and a more consistently productive sales and marketing team. Every aspect of this Pipeline Best Practice chart is also rooted in, and links back to, fanfoundry best practice. Diligently applied, it will help your Sales and Marketing team sing from the same piece of sheet music. You will share a common language, a shared mission, and a common set of criteria that maps to CRM, performance management and other processes.
If you are student of your profession, you will likely recognize that some terminology on this reference chart has been borrowed from widely popular sales training programs. This is done deliberately to mesh with your sales organization’s frame of reference, to facilitate understanding and immediate application. I have many colleagues to thank for helping to shape and tweak this chart over time. Your input is welcome.
Enjoy, and if you have a question, call or write.
- Selling is Not about Relationships (Harvard Business Review survey)
- The Vanity of an Enlarged Pipeline (customerthink.com)
- The Difference Between a Sales Funnel and a Sales Pipeline (paceaustralia.wordpress.com)
- Where is Your Sales Funnel Leaking? (customerthink.com)
- Are Top Salespeople Born or Made? (Harvard Business Review)
- Your Three Constant Competitors, and How to Beat Them (fanfoundry article)
- When Sales and Marketing Align, Good Things Happen in Threes (fanfoundry article)