Isn’t It Time for a New Level of Realism?


We are already well into the new selling “season” and as all my clients will confirm at this time of year, I always urge maximum effort: I do not like the “hockey stick” syndrome. You know the one that dictates that we close the most business in the last month of the quarter, or the last quarter of the year.

My preference is to get ahead of the numbers as early as possible, and to come out of the traps flying. There is no room on my teams for those who want to spend the first few months of the New Year either reflecting on their success, or worrying about their failures from the previous year.

In sales, as in sport, you are only as good as your next victory!

But it takes courage, and a real sense of realism to focus in on what is probable – not just possible!

This is not a time to be optimistic. We need realistic.

For example, the ability to leverage your probability for converting potential business in your pipeline is a vital part of the sales process and helps to focus your mind onto getting each prospect to the next milestone.

Speed of follow-through is really important, because it helps to create a momentum that consolidates your relationship with potential new customers.

The following suggestions might help you accelerate your prospects through your pipeline and increase your probability for winning more deals:

Agree the next steps with your prospect and ensure that you are clear on the actions that will take you to the next milestone – and closer to the sale.

Before agreeing any actions with your prospect, ask yourself if these actions are leading you towards a sale. If you can’t see the tangible reason for doing an action, then you could find yourself in a never-ending situation of fruitless discussions that dilute your results.

Send an acknowledgement and confirmation of agreed actions to your prospect within 24 hours, if possible. This conveys professionalism and provides another layer of reassurance for the prospect.

At the end of every telephone call and meeting with your prospect, agree a specific time and date for your next contact. Lots of your valuable time can be wasted trying to get in touch with a busy buyer!

A well-managed pipeline helps to improve the consistency of results achieved and creates a platform for more accurate sales forecasting. If pipeline management is not an integral part of an organisation’s sales process, this can result in a number of problems including: longer sales cycles, reduced forecasting accuracy, inconsistent and unpredictable sales performance, declining win-rates and an inability to pinpoint reasons for decreased results.

You can’t manage what you can’t measure, and if you can’t measure your pipeline, then you can’t improve your productivity. There are a number of Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) that can be measured, monitored and managed to ensure achievement of sales targets:


• Pipeline Opportunities – These should be measured in value and the number of opportunities in the pipeline.

• Opportunities by Milestone – Once these milestones and their different probabilities of closing have been calculated, these figures ensure greater accuracy of forecasting.

• Average Deal Size - This ensures better focus on larger deals and ideally will increase steadily each year.

• Sales Cycle Time – Shortening this can have a huge impact because of the cumulative ‘saved time’ available for prospecting.

• Profitability – Margins can be tracked to ensure that there is sufficient contribution to enable ongoing account handling.

• Conversion Ratio – The number of opportunities won and the % of pipeline potential converted.

Finally, do remember that there are no prizes for having an overly pregnant pipeline – the prizes are reserved for closed business, and for the winners!

The reality is that, for a number of reasons, 30% of the opportunities currently residing in your pipeline will not happen – do you know which ones they are?

If you weed them out early, you will give yourself so much more time to work on those that will happen.

There are plenty of doors out there, but the ability to decide which one to walk through first, could determine your ultimate success.

This post is not an “advertorial” but I can share with you which solution my own teams are using to ensure we have very lean and realistic pipelines, and that is Membrain. I am so much more confident when I see forecasts now. You might want to check them out.


News: It’s February already! Where on earth did January go? Really big month coming up and more about that on Monday. In the meantime do enjoy all the brand new sales management resources being loaded today over in the TSM section on Top Sales World, and look out for a guest post tomorrow.

As ever, bon weekend a tous!

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