At Sports Business Solutions, we have run more than 150 unique sales training and consulting sessions for more than 80 teams across the US and Canada. And without question, “Pipeline Management” is one of the most popular topics we’re asked to cover.
Why is that? It’s because we all know it’s an important part of the sales process. But even once mastered, it remains hard to consistently stick with it.
Below are four things to focus on to manage a reliable sales pipeline:
Be Selective with Who’s Included
Young sellers want everyone to be an interested buyer, but we know that isn’t possible. Someone who says “send me information” may not actually be interested. It’s possible they knew that showing interest would be a great way to get off the phone. So before adding anyone as a “quality prospect”, make sure you can defend your reasoning for including them. Be selective. Not all opportunities are created equally. It’s better to have less people in there that are more qualified than lots of people who aren’t.
Set Definitive Next Steps
As a seller, you want to play offense, not defense, and you always want to be in control of the next step in the sales process. We don’t want to wait for prospects to act (they usually don’t), so you need to know when you’re going to follow up and what’s going to happen between now and then. You might ask, “When will you have a decision? When can I expect to hear from you? Ok great, so if I don’t hear from you on X date, I’ll try you on Y morning. How does that sound?” You want to be clear with next steps so everyone knows what’s happening, and you can be organized with your follow up.
Pipelines Should Be Fluid (and Realistic)
With every prospect touchpoint, the status of that account should be adjusted. If you pitched them season tickets at $10,000, and they said they’d have a decision the next day, you’d probably put that opportunity at 75% likely and project 10K in revenue. If you call, email, and follow up, and they don’t respond, you should decrease the likelihood of them buying to 50% or lower and drop the projected revenue amount as well. You want the opportunities in your pipeline to be realistic. If they are not and your pipeline isn’t up to date, you’ll project more money in future sales, and it’ll look like you’re further ahead than you are.
Don’t Be a Prisoner of Hope
Remove emotional connections to each prospect. As sellers, we have an infatuation with big sales. We obsess about them every day. We call, email, and continue to track them down, sometimes paralyzing us. We’ll keep them in our pipeline longer than normal because we’re holding out hope they’ll come through. So put everyone through the same process, and then if you haven’t heard back after multiple touches, make a final call, leave a breakup message, and move on. You must invest your time and energy in people that invest in you.
No one is disputing the sales opportunities in your pipeline are important. They are. However, you must hold yourself accountable to managing these opportunities efficiently. It’s like a relationship. If it’s one-sided, it isn’t worth continuing. And if you’re spending too much time on the wrong activities, it takes time away from potentially meeting the next “one”.
To learn more about this topic, join SBS trainer Adam Vogel at the Sports Sales Training Forum on July 1 during the 29th Annual ALSD Conference and Tradeshow in Chicago.