Your Pipeline: Full or Bloated?

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Everyone knows that keeping the pipeline full of new prospects is essential to meeting your sales goals.  As you evaluate your pipeline every month, how sure are you about which opportunities will be converting to sales for the following month?  Do you find you or your salespeople evaluating the same projects that seem to keep rolling over from month to month with little or no progress?  Perhaps it is because the prospect keeps rolling over the decision every month. It sounds like this ? ?We haven?t had the chance to meet and discuss it yet? or ?Give us a few days to think it over and we will get back to you?

Salespeople tend to be optimistic people.  This means that when you hear these things you often believe you still have a good opportunity that deserves to be in your pipeline.  You may justify it by recalling a time when a deal took longer than usual to close, but you finally made the sale. I think if you analyzed all the times you were in this situation, the truth would be that most of these deals turn out to be a no.  You may get different excuses from the prospects which may make them seem to be different, but at the end of the day, the result is the same.

When I interview salespeople for sales positions, and ask if they are ok hearing a no, they usually are not.  They believe that all it takes is hard work and persistence to turn a no into a yes and it is time well spent.  What they are really saying is they want to avoid hearing no at all cost and are convinced that these prospects are really good prospects even when they are not.  

What you want to ask yourself is, ?What is the compelling reason for this prospect to buy from me and if it is so compelling, why didn?t they??  Or perhaps the reason for the stall is because you did not do a good enough job uncovering their decision making process or if the budget is sufficient or even there.  This belief and behavior can lead to a lot of wasted time chasing people with unreturned phone calls wanting to know where you stand.

The first thing to recognize is that you will get no?s and be willing to accept a no as a potential outcome to a sales call (assuming that your sales process is correct and was executed properly).  If you have a proper sales system you should be able to ask the prospect what will happen if you show them a proposal that they believe will meet their needs and meets their budget. If they respond with a positive reply, then you have a project that is worthy of being in your pipeline.  If they do not, or give you a vague answer, you know you still have work to do.  

Here are some rules for you to evaluate your pipeline projects to determine if they deserve to be there:

  • The prospect has convinced you they have a problem that needs to be fixed and you can fix it
  • They are willing to invest the amount of money with you that it will take to fix it
  • You know when they need to have it fixed and you can do it in that time frame
  • They have committed to following through if you show them you have the right solution
  • You have a follow up date to show them your solution and they have said they will give you a decision on that date (or have clearly detailed the process with you)

Remember, you cannot fill your pipeline with new projects if it is clogged.