Building Your Best Pipeline

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Building Your Best Pipeline

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In sales, tomorrow’s revenue is only as certain as the quality of today’s pipeline.

Many of us have plenty of potential deals, but how many of them are truly qualified?

Or, in other words, if we were going to prove the quality of our deals in court, would there be enough evidence in our pipelines to convict us?

Too many salespeople are tracking opportunities that aren’t really opportunities because many of their companies aren’t applying consistent standards to how their salespeople qualify one prospect over another. If we’re leaving our qualification process to chance, then we’re letting hope creep into today’s pipeline and tomorrow’s performance.

To show us how we can ensure each deal we’re tracking belongs in our pipeline, we sat down with Paul Butterfield, founder of Revenue Flywheel Group, a sales leader with a history of growing the performance of sales teams. He showed us a simple system for qualifying prospects today so we can ensure increased sales in the future.

Because we’re trimming hope from our sales strategy, we’ll use the acronym TRIM to guide us through creating a system with a trigger, ensuring it’s repeatable, building in ways to improve it and of course, ensuring it’s measurable and getting us results.

T-Trigger: To trigger this system, Paul recommends beginning by training salespeople as early as possible, during onboarding. The earlier we understand what qualifies a deal to be in our pipelines, the better.

However, understanding that many salespeople will be applying this system against existing accounts, he says that we must begin at the top of the funnel when we first receive an account or a prospect to pursue. We can begin at that point to ensure we’re preparing ourselves and the new prospect for success.

R-Repeatable: To make this system repeatable, Paul recommends establishing the questions you’ll be using to qualify the prospect’s business. These don’t involve the typical questions salespeople ask around budget or even urgency. Rather, they’re all about ensuring this potential business is good for the future of our company’s business.

For instance, we can begin by learning about the current state of a prospect’s business, department or industry. Is this prospect in a mode of growth or retraction?

If they don’t change to fix their problems or adapt to the future, what will be the negative impact on them, personally and professionally?

And if they do change by solving the problem or adapt to the future, how will that benefit them, personally and professionally?

Only if we can get answers to those questions – either by learning them through conversations with the prospect or through dealing with enough people with similar job titles and KPIs – can we justify having that deal in our pipelines.

Once we have initially qualified the deal, we’re not ready to send quotes or proposals. We still need to learn who makes decisions for what we purchase in this prospect’s organization. If there are multiple decision makers or beta-testers, we need to stand up contact profiles for them and multi-thread conversations. If this information isn’t captured and is in our CRMs, it doesn’t exist.

Only when we have qualified the organization and begin conversations with each decision maker can we begin a formal evaluation for alignment. Just because we see a fit and a prospect has the budget doesn’t mean it’s a match. We still need to ensure their organization has the internal resources to implement our product or service and that expectations on ROI are clearly understood. Without that critical step, we could make a sale but lose customers due to bad publicity.

I-Improvable: To improve this system, Paul recommends we focus our improvement on our salespeople. And that starts with coaching them to build cases of their own, so that they learn to justify why each deal is in their pipelines with objective evidence. The more they’re expected to be able to prove why each deal is there, the more they’ll do the work early on of qualifying accounts so they don’t waste time on accounts that aren’t of the highest quality.

M-Measurable: To measure the effectiveness of this system, Paul recommends tracking the quality and amount of data across each deal. The more data we have in each of our qualification categories, the higher probability we’ll have of closing our deals.

Another innovative metric to track is the amount of data being gathered during the sales process that is also being used by the client success/delivery team. There will ideally be 100% crossover – so that no data is gathered during the sales process that is also not leveraged by the delivery team in ensuring client success.

With great qualification and the data behind it, we’ll also see a higher closing ratio on those accounts, so ensure you’re examining what data is in your CRM on the accounts you win.

Sales success doesn’t start at the sale – rather, it starts with great qualification.

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