A big sales pipeline is not always a positive.
One of the biggest drags on your personal sales productivity can be the size of your pipeline. The problem is that you have too many names on that list that aren’t really worthy of your valuable time and attention. You are spending too much of your limited sales time working on sales opportunities that will never cross the finish line.
You might be a skilled salesperson. But if you are trying to apply those skills to a poorly qualified prospect, then it isn’t going to work. It’s like what Robert Heinlein, the world-famous science fiction writer once said about trying to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.
You need to be less focused on increasing the number of opportunities in your pipeline and more focused on increasing the number of opportunities in your pipeline that you can win.
This means that you have to ruthlessly weed out the potential prospects in your pipeline that aren’t truly qualified prospects for your product or service. If you are trying to work on too many prospects at one time, then you will be dissipating your attention and energy among too many opportunities. This means that you aren’t marshaling your focus on your highest value prospects.
Here are a few tips for maximizing the value of your pipeline.
Focus on quality vs quantity
Instead of worrying about building the size your pipeline, focus on making sure that every sales opportunity you are working on is worth that investment of your time. Invest more time up front to ensure that the customer is absolutely qualified to buy precisely what you are selling.
Having unqualified prospects in your pipeline is exactly the same as having no prospects in your pipeline. There is no chance you are going to win an order from either one of them. So why invest even one second of your time on them?
Weed your pipeline regularly
Frequently review every name in your existing pipeline and disqualify those that aren’t realistic opportunities to win. In my first book, Zero-Time Selling, I talked about the need for sellers to disqualify the losers, which means to ruthlessly weed out the unqualified prospects from your pipeline.
Ask yourself this question about each opportunity on your list: “Why am I going to win this deal?” If you can’t identify two unambiguously rock solid differentiators that have quantifiable value to the customer, then the prospect isn’t a winning opportunity and doesn’t belong in your pipeline.
The initial qualification of a sales opportunity should not be an extended process. The goal is to convert shoppers into buyers and quickly shift the customer from a process of discovery to one of intent.
If you are like most salespeople, you are spending a disproportionate amount of your time with customers in the early stages of their buying cycles. In large measure, this is due to indecisive and ineffective qualification. It’s hard to relinquish a potential prospect who has demonstrated some measure of interest in your product or service.
You need to change that ratio. Become focused on quickly disqualifying those potential prospects that aren’t a great fit for your product or service. This will allow you to spend more time in the true value-delivering stages of your sales process with good prospects.
In sum, building a strong pipeline is about addition by subtraction. It’s the antithesis of pipeline mania. You will add to your available selling time, and your ultimate sales success, by subtracting the weak winning opportunities before you waste your time on them.