How to Turn Around a Skinny Sales Pipeline

Managing Small Sales Pipelines

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Working out how to inflate or accelerate a skinny sales pipeline is an issue we all deal with at some stage.

And because it has a flow on affect on the entire organisation – from sales people to shareholders, and everyone in between – it isn’t something to be ignored or down-played.

Of course, there could be many reasons that your business has a skinny sales pipeline, but here is one definite factor that should be looked at closely – management killers. 

Two critical sales manager mistakes

Mistake #1: When sales managers suffer from a hidden, yet crippling ‘need for approval’, they can inadvertently allow the sales team to run the department, mistakenly thinking they’re empowering their staff to take responsibility for themselves.

Mistake #2: When sales managers get bogged down in daily tasks and crisis management, they neglect vital sales pipeline management.

So why are these two mistakes so vital to identify and understand? 

1. Your sales team cannot improve if they are not held accountable on metrics vital to sales success

2. The CEO/GM/Managing Director has to forecast sales regularly to the board and if their forecast is based on inaccurate pipeline figures due to poor management, they can look foolish and unprofessional.

As a sales manager, pipeline management and forecasting is central to your role. Your CEO depends on it, and you can only do this if you get accurate reporting from your front­line salespeople, and this means that the buck stops with you.

Hold yourself and your team accountable

Can it truly be said you’re a sales manager unless you manage the sales? In order to do this you must hold yourself accountable to measure metrics, and then to hold your team accountable for meeting those metrics.

So the question is, how can you effectively hold your sales team accountable? The solution: conduct a weekly personal review.

Whenever I’ve been contracted as an interim sales manager, one of the most common problems I discover is that the salespeople have not been held accountable. So I institute the new routine of weekly personal reviews every Monday after the sales meeting.

Every one of my sales team knows they must bring a hard copy of their pipeline report listing all current opportunities in progress. This includes everything from initial inquiries through to quotes, presentations and current negotiations.

Yes, I could just review the information on­line from the comfort of my desk. However, the weekly personal review requires salespeople to personally update me on the progress of every single opportunity one customer at a time.

They know I’m going to question them regarding progress on sales that will close this month, this quarter, and beyond. They also know they have to have the answers to my questions, and this means they have to personally manage their pipeline in order to provide such answers.

Yes, by conducting the weekly personal review, my Mondays are completely taken up in endless meetings. But do you know what? It’s worth every minute. Here’s why.

It gives salespeople the right direction as to where to focus their attention over the next week.

Furthermore, it gives me visibility so that I know the health of the business for the next quarter and beyond. I can then take action to increase sales activity if the pipeline is looking lean in upcoming months, and I can report to the CEO in confidence, with an accurate forecast.

Ultimately it holds the team accountable. And without this, you can’t expect to see continued sales success in your business.

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