Here’s some food for thought from Dave Kurlan about the real challenges with pipeline management—for the sales professionals and the sales leaders who read our blog. As I always say, “When it comes to sales, hope is not a productive strategy.”

Let me know your thoughts on this as it relates to your personal—or your sales team’s—pipeline. And, let me know if you need our assistance with transforming these issues.

Happy Selling, Mary Anne

By, Dave Kurlan

Over the past 3 months, my wife and I have been up and down the east coast driving our son to and from baseball tournaments and college showcases. Invariably, each drive back home has taken twice the time it should have because of road construction. On Sunday, Waze, my favorite navigation app, said that the drive would take just 2 hours and 32 minutes. 4 traffic delays because of road construction delayed us for another 2 and 1/2 hours. Delays, delays, delays. Nearly every coaching call with a salesperson is about a delayed closing. Nearly every coaching call with a sales manager is about a salesperson with a delayed closing. Everyone wants to know what to do about the delayed closing but that’s the wrong question. Everyone should be asking these two questions instead.

  • Was it really delayed or were we overly optimistic about if and when this opportunity would close?
  • What steps can we take to prevent delayed closings?

When I begin working with companies, most delayed closings are simply a case of the salesperson and sales manager deciding that the opportunity was closable and would close on a certain date. This assertion was most often made up out of thin air with little to no facts to back it up. Upon further inspection it was clear that these were not closable opportunities so the delays were not based in reality.

How can we prevent delayed closings? I will list the 12 most important factors for preventing delays at closing time along with some links that further explain what I mean, how to do it more effectively, and/or provide statistics. Please keep in mind that the list of factors is not a menu. You can’t choose the factor that seems easiest enough to fix and believe that anything will change. You must fix all of them! For example, suppose you need to lose 30 pounds, and are told to avoid breads, pastas, processed foods, snacks and pastries. If you decide to eliminate only bread, not much will change. However, if you eliminate all of the processed foods the weight will come off quickly and easily. The same is true with selling. If you fix all 12 of the factors below, you will not only shorten your sales cycle, you will quickly and easily improve your win rate too. Here they are:

  • Not consistently executing a formal, structured, staged, milestone-centric sales process.
  • Failing to get the prospect to “must have” or beginning the process with a demo, but failing to get beyond “nice to have.”
  • Not reaching the decision maker early enough in the sales process.
  • Failing to create urgency because compelling reasons to buy were not uncovered.
  • Failing to differentiate by not having the difficult conversation.
  • Needing prospects to like you.
  • Failing to build a case and sell value instead of price.
  • Failing to uncover the actual budget.
  • Failing to thoroughly qualify the prospect’s ability to buy from you.
  • Not bringing up potential objections earlier in the sales process.
  • Not learning about the competition and how you compare.
  • Not pushing back or challenging conventional or out-dated thinking.