• Duane Cashin

Pull The Weeds In Your Pipeline

Over the weekend I intend to tackle one of the projects I hate the most: weeding. Weeds grow incredibly fast in my neck of the woods, so pulling them is an unfortunate part of the process of keeping a garden looking nice. As it’s been very hot here this summer, I haven’t really kept up with the task. I’ve neglected my garden something fierce, and it is full of weeds.

Maybe you can say the same thing about your pipeline?

You see, I tend to look at pipelines the way I look at my garden: full of exciting, beautiful possibilities provided I nurture it so that sun and food can reach the soil, but unimpressive and non-productive when thorny, troublesome weeds are allowed to take over and choke out the blooms.

Both the flowers and the weeds of a garden are like the opportunities in your pipeline. Either one will take over depending on how you're taking care of the garden. If you nurture the opportunities that will grow and produce sales, you can expect a good outcome. If you fail to weed out the undesirable opportunities that only serve to distract you, you won’t have much to show for your efforts.

Unfortunately, most sales pipelines are full of weeds that inhibit bountiful results.

My partner organization, Objective Management Group (OMG), has evaluated and assessed nearly 2 million salespeople. When it comes to pipeline, OMG has found that only 46% of all salespeople maintain a full pipeline, broken down as follows:

· Elite (the top 5%) 76%

· Strong 65%

· Serviceable 57%

· Weak (the bottom 50%) 41%

But, if we use the garden analogy, then we know that “full” isn’t a great way to evaluate pipelines. After all, my garden could be “full” of weeds, and what good would that do me?

What are most pipelines full of? Generally undesirable opportunities -- a.k.a. weeds.

A “full” pipeline (that’s just full of weeds) provides salespeople with a false sense of security -- that they will eventually land deals with at least some of the opportunities in the pipeline because that’s just what happens.

That is not the case.

To consistently land deals, your pipeline must be transformed like a garden -- free from thorny weeds and full of strong soil and quality seeds (opportunities) that can bloom into something special.

It’s time to transform your sales pipeline. Here are 4 steps to get you started:

1. Pull the weeds.

Big, little, stubborn, you name it. Whatever opportunities aren’t helping you reach your goals aren’t needed. Weeding will leave you with a smaller pipeline, but don’t let that scare you. A small pipeline of qualified opportunities is better than a large pipeline full of garbage.

This is where a well-built, predictive scorecard will help.

2. Determine how many opportunities must be in your pipeline at all times.

To find the answer to that question you must know the size of your average sale or account, your closing percentage, and monthly sales goal.

Let's assume the following three metrics:

· Monthly sales goal of $100,000,

· 25% Closing percentage

·$20,000 Average sales or account

With those numbers, you must have 20 opportunities worth $400,000 in your pipeline at all times in order to close 5 of them each month.

3. Determine the gap between what you need and what you have.

Let's say you actually have 4 good opportunities worth a total of $80,000. Using the example above, your gap is 16 opportunities worth $320,000 - just for one month!

4. Use the data from #3 to add opportunities.

If we continue with the example above, you’ll have to add 16 new opportunities this month. How? Referrals, introductions, inbound leads, cold calls, whatever it takes. Get your great account managers -- your hunters -- in gear, and hold them accountable. Sales managers must set clear expectations, designate this as non-optional work, impose a deadline, and enforce penalties for non-compliance.

I really wish this weekend would be my last one weeding, but I know better. I’ll have to do it again soon. The same goes for your pipeline.

These transformation tips aren’t a one-time deal. They are part of a process to continually improve.

When you’re ready to start the journey in transforming your pipeline into a productive, beautiful thing to be admired, just like a garden, give us a call.

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