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3 Productivity Tips for the Sales Pipeline

by on April 10, 2012  

Track Your Sales Opportunities!

Are you a sales data naysayer? Think that metrics and measurement are “too confining” (that was a National Safety Council ad campaign back in the ‘70s about  wearing seat belts – because that’s how they were viewed, even though wearing them saved lives in most cases). Metrics and measurement save the lives of your sales opportunities.

Tracking your sales opportunities and updating their progress is critical for the success of anyone involved in complex selling, and for anyone who has more than a few opportunities being worked.

Complex Selling is when you have a large-scope product or service that takes multiple presentations or deals with multiple decision makers over a medium-to-long length of time. If you sell commodity items in a single conversation, this would not be a complex sale. Even with a commodity item – as soon as you create a complex scenario with a distributor or seasonal purchasing issues, you can suddenly have a more complex situation and the need to track movement.

Many mid-market companies do not do a good job with their sales reps of keeping up-to-date information as sales opportunities morph and change. The reasons are plentiful as to why – we’ll talk more about that another time. The purpose of this post is to discuss 3 tips to help you be efficient with your sales tracking – because when you track and analyze deals you win more of them.

1. You’ve got to make time in your schedule for updating data and information about your deals and the people involved in them.  I know what you’re thinking – you don’t have time. But you do – you just don’t manage it well. If you did, you’d make time to update important information that will impact your wallet, right? Isn’t it really just more about self management than a lack of time? Block it into your calendar. Block it in daily until you create the habit of updating notes. It is a hard habit to get into but it can be done and here’s why: you’ll miss important small things if you don’t do it. These small things are the things like knowing dates of trigger events, or other important deadlines that will affect your customer buying from you.

2.You need (or your team needs) to do a deal review each week. Not a couple times a month, or when it works out, but EVERY week. This will get you in the habit, and you will glean insight into your accounts like you have never seen when done on a regular basis. For rapidly growing companies, do one at the start of the week and then review at the end of the week so you know what everyone is working on and the progress (or lack of) that is happening. Pipeline reviews can easily be done together in a small team – use a whiteboard if you are in person, or share your screen in whatever software tool you are using if you are online. Everyone benefits from a quick “spot-check” review of what others deals look like. So don’t isolate your reps and just do this one-on-one, but instead do quickly in a group.

3.Review your activity monthly so that you can see the activities you are doing that are leading to new revenues. What is working and what isn’t? What are the trends? Only data will give you this in a distilled manner. In 2012 you need to go beyond “gut feeling” and use data for facts.  Too many reps are wasting time working big deals they have no chance of winning, and too many reps are focusing on any shiny object that comes along which distracts them from clarity and focus toward specific goals.

Skeptical? Try these ideas for one month. Announce it to others and get team support. Try it as an experiment with a start and end date, because this way it won’t seem like a life-long new change, but rather a 30 day trial. Post your thoughts about this or after you put a trial in place. Contact us for more sales pipeline information so we can help support you toward your goals.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

Lori Richardson is recognized as one of the “Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012″ and one of “20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management”. Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for tips and strategies in selling.

  • Toan Dang

    Great tips Lori. 

    Referring to your first point, I think one of the problems is that dealing with data is just not what sales people like doing. We’re good at building relationships and so I feel that most only want to focus on that. Although it doesn’t exempt us from the job, I think there are better ways to motivate and create buy-in for sales to become more data-oriented. 

    What do you recommend to businesses to get their sales teams to be better with data?

    • Lori Richardson

      Thanks for your comment – I agree that we as sellers don’t like to deal with “paperwork” – (updating information, setting follow up dates/times/etc.) So how do you get it done? 
      Some companies have a shared admin resource to help with some of the administrivia – reps still do some but they can direct some work to their shared admin. 

      Inside reps who don’t have to deal with all the travel as an outbound rep should find a way to block out time for updating information every morning and afternoon. We find that it is like going to the gym – once you see the big benefits – they outweigh the hassle of going. No difference with this – except that many companies share the value of this for the company rather than for the individual contributor rep. If there are few benefits, I agree, they shouldn’t do it. 

      Also, we find that companies who have part of a bonus plan based on getting data in yield better results. Go figure. 

  • Practical Social Media

    What an extremely informative post! Thanks for all of the helpful info on sales data!

    • Lori Richardson

      Thanks, Steve – it is the little things – the simple stuff – that can really make a difference when put into practice. Appreciate your visit, and your comment – keep checking back!

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