Pipeline or a pipedream – they may be in your pipeline, but are you in theirs?

I have lost count of how many times I have heard; “we have got lots of great opportunities in the pipeline but no one is making a decision”. This leads to the obvious question; they may be in your pipeline but are you in theirs?  In other words, you think they should be excited by your proposal and what it offers them but were they in a position to make a decision when you decided to send your proposal?

Read our case study on how a globally acquisitive business brought consistency and accuracy to their sales pipeline

Read our case study on how a globally acquisitive business brought consistency and accuracy to their sales pipeline

Too often proposals and quotations are presented because the supplier feels that their selling process has arrived at that stage.  However, the proposal or quotation should only be presented to the prospect when they are the right point in their buying process not when you are at a particular point in your selling process.

Your sales process should be built around qualification and quantification profiling that tells you what buying state the prospect and the opportunity are in at any point in time.  Knowing where the prospect is in their buying cycle enables you to accurately plan and execute your next action and you will be pushing against an opening door.  This can then provide a reliable means to calculate probabilities which in turn provide a dependable source of forecasting information (timing, value and likelihood).

Some tips to implement this approach to pipelines;

  • Your actions must be based on the status which is a direct reflection of where the prospect is in their buying cycle.
  • The qualification and quantification rules must be consistent across all sales people, territories and regions.  Most sales people will have their own approach to probabilities, e.g. “I feel this one will drop”, but you need a system that provides dependable leading indicators as to future potential business.
  • Apparently contradicting the previous point the evaluation approach should allow both objective and subjective inputs but the objective appraisal should dominate.  If the sales person feels strongly that something will happen then they should be challenged to justify their position by providing tangible evidence.
  • Some may argue that sales people are individuals and depend on their gut feelings and experience.  We have already discussed experience.  There is nothing in a systematic approach to selling that prevents the sales person being an individual in fact the process means they do not have to spend a lot of time on the day-to-day leaving them free to be creative and inventive with their solutions.

If you have a rigorous process you have a pipeline. If you do not it may well be only a pipedream.