Big ones, little ones, sharp ones and stubborn ones. I was pulling weeds from the garden when it became crystal clear to me. The various weeds were like the many types of opportunities in most sales pipelines. Big ones, little ones, those that hurt (we're behind the competition) and those who are stubborn (they aren't sharing important information). The flowers in the garden are allowed to remain and are nurtured with sun, water and plant food. Similarly, we must leave and nurture the opportunities that will grow and produce sales, and weed out the undesirable opportunities that distract us from what is most important.
Flower gardens can be large, colorful, impressive and calming to look at. Unfortunately, most sales pipelines are full of weeds, not large enough, and certainly not impressive. From its evaluations and assessments of 1,875,978 salespeople, Objective Management Group (OMG) has found that only 46% of all salespeople maintain a full pipeline. It breaks down as follows:
Elite (the top 5%) 76%
Weak (the bottom 50%) 41%
And when it comes to full pipelines, we must ask, full of what? Generally undesirable opportunities.
Why do those undesirable opportunities remain in the pipeline? They provide salespeople with a sense of security. Unfortunately, what they perceive as a safety net, is really denial of the reality of their pipeline.
Step one in transforming your sales pipeline is to perform a thorough weeding, which leaves you with a smaller pipeline, but with the same number of quality opportunities. This is where a well-built, predictive scorecard will help.
Step two is to determine how many opportunities must be in your pipeline at all times. To find the answer to that question you must know the size of your average sale or account, your closing percentage, and monthly sales goal. Let's assume the following three metrics:
- Monthly sales goal of $100,000,
- 25% Closing percentage
- $20,000 Average sale or account
With those numbers, you must have 20 opportunities worth $400,000 in your pipeline at all times in order to close 5 of them each month. Complete the same exercise using your own historical numbers.
Step three is to determine the gap between what you need and what you have. Using the example above, let's say you actually have 4 good opportunities worth a total of $80,000. Your gap is 16 opportunities worth $320,000 - just for this month!
Step four is to add 16 new opportunities. How? Referrals, introductions, inbound leads, cold calls, whatever it takes. But do it! Today! Now! Referring back to OMG's findings again, only 40% of all salespeople are strong at Hunting. That breaks down as:
Elite (the top 5%): 88%
Weak (the bottom 50%): 26%
When it comes to generating referrals and introductions, only 35% of all salespeople are strong. It breaks down as:
Elite (the top 5%): 48%
Weak (the bottom 50%): 32%
[Update - I was asked whether weak Sales DNA is responsible when a strong rep is weak at getting referrals and introductions. It turns out that for 97% of strong reps, it's not Sales DNA but for weak reps Sales DNA is responsible 97% of the time.]
And as for making cold calls, only 33% of all salespeople prospect consistently. It breaks down as:
Elite (the top 5%): 70%
Weak (the bottom 50%): 25%
If from among the bottom half of all salespeople, 50% of them won't make cold calls, 64% won't generate referrals and introductions, and 82% won't fill their pipelines, then nearly half of your salespeople may not do much of what was laid out in this article.
But there is hope for the serviceable, strong and elite salespeople - the other half. Many of them will be able to do most of this but the key is holding them accountable. Their sales managers must set expectations, designate this as non-optional work, impose a deadline, and enforce penalties for non-compliance.
These four steps are not a one-time fix; they are requirements for continued success in sales that continue into perpetuity.
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