Ahoy! Actively managing and maintaining the health of your sales pipeline is critical in sailing toward smooth, ongoing success in closing sales. An unhealthy pipeline or a less-than-healthy opportunity is most often mapped back to one or more factors that can and should serve as red flags to you and your organization.
The first step in regaining control and protecting your pipeline is to simply recognize these threats, while keeping in mind that they rarely appear in isolation. The typical progression usually starts with a single concern that may raise some questions, but will then likely move toward a second and then a third, before resulting in a change to the priority or status of that particular opportunity. Consequently, you need to be choosy, safeguarding the path of your pipeline by filling it with only high-quality opportunities, and flagging or purging those that are not.
Beware of the following:
1. Suspicious Opportunity Size
An opportunity’s size dictates a lot about how likely it is to progress within your pipeline and how likely your sales team is to convert it into a closed/won deal. General rule of thumb: flag any opportunities that are more than three times your average deal size.
2. Excessive Deal Size Changes
Another indicator of a deal that’s unlikely to succeed is one that keeps changing in value. This is because it tends to suggest that the customer is either not fully engaged and/or not really clear about exactly what product or service is needed to solve their problem. Under these circumstances, if a sales opportunity has changed in value three or more times, it should be flagged.
3. Age in Stage Woes
Stalled opportunities convert at much lower rates than quickly progressing deals. Remove sales opportunities from your pipeline that have stayed at the same stage for as long as your average lost deal, or at least flag them as at-risk and in need of sales rep action.
4. Non-Linear Stage Leaps
One of the great things about a sales pipeline is that it matches the buyer’s journey. Therefore, if an opportunity goes through the pipeline haphazardly, or without a linear progression, it is less likely to convert.
5. Time Slippage
If the close date keeps getting pushed back, the deal is unlikely to close at all. This is because the customer may be finding it difficult to tell the salesperson that they have changed their mind. A good sales manager will flag the opportunity and ask the salesperson to speak to the customer.
It may feel easier to turn a blind eye to one or more of these threats when part of an otherwise exciting or lucrative opportunity, but it’s crucial to remember that these can eventually and completely stall your efforts. This is significant as you aim to create a more cohesive pipeline, fully understanding that a bigger one is not necessarily a better one.
If it feels as if you’ve been walking the plank when it comes to your own pipeline maintenance, contact Exact Market today. We can steer your path through any choppy, unsafe waters toward a smooth sales track ahead – avoiding the common threats that may be harmful, and ultimately supporting your team’s ability to hit quotas while maximizing deals-won percentages.