For many sales reps, pipeline reviews are like meatloaf. While not the worst thing in the world, they’re also not anyone’s favorite. Much of this stems from reps who see reviews as boring status updates. However, with the right approach, a pipeline review is an opportunity. In addition to deal coaching and forecasting, managers should challenge reps to know their deals and develop plans to close them. In fact, for reps still skeptical, recent research confirms the importance of pipeline reviews. According to HubSpot, companies that spend at least three hours a month talking about pipeline saw 11 percent growth. Also, companies that train managers on pipeline management had nine percent growth. With that in mind, here are some ways to conduct effective pipeline reviews:
As with much of sales, pipeline reviews should be routine. They should not be random, haphazard, or obligatory. Instead, set a schedule, whether weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, whatever works best for your team and sales environment. In addition, managers should set specific expectations based on their KPIs and other indicators and share these with the team. This helps keep reps engaged with the pipeline review and prepare for the meeting, which also ensures they are regularly reviewing the status of deals and the activities pursued. Rather than updates, pipeline reviews should be active discussions of who is doing what to close their deals in the quickest timeframe possible.
For each deal in their pipeline, sales reps should be ready to discuss where they are, how they got here, and what is being done. For example, if a prospect is currently reorganizing but still interested in pursuing a deal, the rep should note a projected timeline as well as most recent activity. At the same time, if a prospect has not moved forward in several months, reps should explain what happened, such as the last contact, and whether anything can be done to bring them back. If they’re beyond saving, it’s time to clear the pipeline. Key to this part of the review is how well reps know their pipeline and understand the actions that can move deals to close.
Achieve Better Outcomes
In addition to the status of deals, pipeline reviews should provide guidance on how to move deals forward and achieve more accurate forecasts. For example, if a rep’s deals experience the same or similar problems, this an opportunity for growth. It means the rep is most likely doing something that results in a lack of engagement, like failing to nurture an account. Once the problem is identified, it can be corrected with coaching or training. At the same time, as with any assessment, managers should ask what they can do to help reps with each unique opportunity. Whether it’s building engagement, strengthening agreement, or creating urgency, an important distinction of a pipeline review is the ability to home in on specific deals and track their progress throughout the sales cycle.
Establish a Plan
Once reps share the status of their deals and managers weigh in on guidance, it’s time for both to collaborate on a plan. What are the next steps? What actions need to be taken? What needs to happen for each deal to close? Defining each of these things is essential for a constructive pipeline review. After all, these are the questions that develop plans, put them into action, and achieve results. In addition to engaging the sales team and holding them accountable, this helps reps and managers assess the potential for each account and develop contingencies for each. Here, it’s helpful to encourage collaboration amongst the team, sharing ideas that apply across accounts or industries and help keep the pipeline review an active and engaging process for all.
Analyze the Metrics
For effective pipeline reviews, managers and reps must have updated data from their CRMs. Managers need to ensure their data is clean and up to date with the most accurate information. From this, each opportunity should have defined stages with estimated percentages so that forecasts are automated. This allows managers to view the pipeline holistically and determine which reps have the best chance to meet their objectives. Do they have enough leads and opportunities at each stage to achieve their goals? Which deals are moving, and which are stalled? Is their close rate tracking? These questions are essential for establishing realistic, achievable goals for each rep on the team, and it provides a complete picture to aid specific activities and the allocation of resources.
If pipeline reviews are the meatloaf of sales assessment, perhaps the problem isn’t the dish but the preparation. Managers who merely pour salt, pepper, and ketchup will produce a boring meatloaf of a meeting that is nothing more than a status update for disengaged sales professionals. Instead, a pipeline review should be so much more, like an opportunity for sharing, collaborating, coaching, and bringing stalled deals to a close. It’s should inspire and motivate reps to do more than merely watch the slow-moving, snail-like deals in their pipeline, waiting for something to happen. It should be a dish worth celebrating because, after all, what’s better for sellers than teamwork, collaboration, and closing deals?