Yesterday, while speaking in DC, I asked my usual questions, but the response to one of the questions left me scratching my head. It wasn't a new question; as a matter of fact, I've been asking it for years. And, as you can see below, I've been writing about the pipeline in various ways for years:
Companies Rush to Get This One Thing in Place for their Sales Teams Before January
This wasn't 0 out of 10 or 20 people. This was 0 out of 100+ Senior Executives! And it's the same response which I've always received wherever and whenever I've spoken to a non-client group.
You would think that with the acceptance of CRM, companies would be much further along in getting their pipelines accurate and predictive, but they aren't. Pipelines still fail to be properly staged. Criteria for each stage is not well-established and salespeople aren't meeting the criteria. Salespeople are still doing a miserable job at qualifying - the stage that uncovers most of the criteria for the variables which impact accuracy and predictability: How much will they spend, when will they spend it, and how sure are we that we will get it? Until your salespeople consistently get accurate information on those three variables, you will not have a pipeline on which you can rely.
Unfortunately, the problems which salespeople have with qualifying are symptoms of the problems from earlier in the sales process. They aren't doing a great job establishing relationships, so their prospects don't trust them enough to share. They aren't doing a great job asking the kinds of questions which uncover compelling reasons to buy, so prospects don't have the urgency to move faster, nor do they have the incentive to provide answers to qualifying questions.
These issues disappear after 6-8 months in organizations where we provide training and coaching, but in most organizations, this is an ongoing challenge.
This is something you can fix and if it was an accounting, operational, manufacturing, IT or an executive malfunction, it would have already been fixed. But sales seems to get a free pass and mediocrity appears to still be acceptable. How sad.