I speak with a lot of business owners, executives and sales managers who are frustrated with the poor quality of their company's sales opportunity pipelines. They are frustrated because:
Do you share any of the above frustrations?
If you do, read on. This article will shed light on key reasons behind the poor condition of your company's sales opportunity pipeline and what you can do to fix it.
Why do so many sales opportunities stall?
For now, let's define a stalled opportunity as an opportunity that hasn't seen a change in status for a specified period of time. (You get to define the length of this time period.)
There are many reasons why opportunities stall. Let's look at two of the most important reasons:
Reason #1 - Poor Sales Opportunity Qualification
A sad fact of life is that many salespeople do a poor job of sales opportunity qualification.
Why is this such a common problem? Basically it comes down to three factors: lack of training, lack of accountability, and lack of inspection. Let's look at each factor separately.
Lack of Training
What is your company's definition for a fully qualified opportunity? Does the definition exist in writing? Are your salespeople trained to qualify opportunities in a specific way?
In my opinion, a sales opportunity has not been properly qualified unless the salesperson knows (at minimum) the answers to the following questions:
Lack of Accountability
Accountability pertains to creating and communicating clear expectations for sales performance.
If your company does not have clearly defined performance expectations for salespeople, or if those expectations have not been communicated to (and ingrained in) your salespeople, you are likely to be disappointed with the results they produce.
To determine whether your company is truly holding salespeople accountable, do your best to answer the following questions:
Lack of Inspection
Sales opportunity inspection involves sitting down with salespeople on a regular basis (I recommend weekly) to discuss the status of every opportunity in their pipelines. These discussions should have two goals:
NOTE: Don't worry - this is not as time-consuming as it might appear. Once you slog through the initial pipeline discussion and help the salesperson clear the "deadwood" from their pipeline, future discussions are much more streamlined.
How do you determine whether an opportunity has been properly qualified and reflects an accurate status? By asking questions!
The sales manager should ask the salesperson the same questions that the salesperson should ask their prospects. If the salesperson does not know the answers to key questions, or if their answers lack key details, the salesperson should be assigned specific opportunity qualification tasks to complete prior to the next pipeline review meeting.
Sales opportunity inspection is truly a critical sales management activity. Why? Because companies waste incredible amounts of time, money and resources on opportunities that can't or won't close!
The sooner these (poor quality) opportunities are identified and removed from the sales opportunity pipeline, the sooner your salespeople will have more time to invest in finding truly qualified opportunities!
To be continued...
In a future blog post we will examine the second reason why sales opportunities stall: Poor CRM System Utilization/Compliance.