That old management adage rings especially true when it comes to managing sales pipeline. We see it all the time but it still amazes me how some companies don’t have a unified process for tracking, measuring, and forecasting business opportunity. First off, I’m talking about companies with sales people governed by at least one level of sales management; by definition, the function of sales management implies you are measuring some level of sales performance.
You will rarely hear a company say that measuring sales pipeline and accurate business forecasting isn’t important. But you will see a lot that don’t actually instill a sales culture to support it. If sales performance isn’t defined by measurable goals and governed by consistent, regular business reviews how can you ever manage it? More importantly, how will your sales people exceed expectations or be held accountable for underachieving expectations?
I like to use the Olympic sport of pole vaulting when describing the feat of any sales executive and performance benchmarks – after all, this is a competition and these athletes are in it for the Gold. Using this analogy, the Olympic Committee is the governing body or Sales Management function in your organization. First, you need to set the height of the bar but also communicate it to your athletes! Second, you need to communicate the importance of jumping over the bar. Regular business reviews of actual performance vs. expected goals are critical to instilling a culture and sense of importance around effective pipeline management. Third, you need to instill a culture that rewards your athletes but also holds them accountable for their performance. By identifying performance issues early you will have time to coach your athletes and give them the tools they need to be successful. In most cases, coaching to an end result is a lot less expensive than hiring a new sales person – especially if you end up in the same predicament four quarters from now. In the sport of pole vaulting, three consecutive missed vaults eliminates the vaulter from competition and there are no surprises by the third missed attempt. Ok, enough about pole vaulting – but you get my point.
Managing sales pipeline does not need to be difficult and the simpler the better. The most important, but also the most challenging, is to make sure you instill a regular operating rhythm around business reviews. Just as important, everyone in the sales organization needs to be fluent in your internal sales language – if Pipeline, Forecast, Upside, Booked, Sales Stage 3 are words you use in your business vocabulary then it’s crucial everyone understands the meaning of each definition.
by AbleBridge, a