You’re Over Two Months into the Year…So Now What? Where is Your Sales Pipeline At?

Jamie Shanks
Jamie Shanks

We’re just beginning March. By now, your sales kickoff has been completed, and you have your comp plans in hand. All your sellers are now out in the market.

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However, you’ve also probably gone into your company’s CRM to look at the pipeline reports—and you’re probably getting scared. You’re now staring down the barrel of March and April, and your team has a new, aggressive growth target. But you’re expecting the same pipeline productivity as last year.

March and April—your two most important business development months

If I use the example of a software company, 35-50% of sales bookings for the average software company are booked in Q4. That means those deals happen in October, November, and December.

Based on this, as a Chief Revenue Officer, it’s important to know that your sales cycle is six-nine months long—and that March and April are the two most important business development months for your business.

What are you supposed to do?

The key to making a change in your pipeline productivity is to focus on a problem area you probably haven’t addressed before.

Don’t focus on the masses

If you’re like many organizations, you’ve been focusing on the masses (your sales professionals), but you haven’t been focusing on the leaders who manage them. In the past, you’d probably provide your sales pros with tools, skills and capabilities training, as well as SPIFs (sales performance incentive funds). Essentially, you’d focus all your energy and resources on the sales pros, thinking they’re your #1 source of lead generation.

But that’s not the case. The reality is it’s your frontline sales managers and your regional vice-presidents, who can make or break your year. These are the people who can coach and guide your sellers to focus in the right direction.

I’m reminded of a quote from Command Sergeant Major Scott Schroeder, who said: “Leadership is a responsibility to do more; not an excuse to do less.”

This means that you have to get your frontline sales managers and regional vice-presidents on board. The actions of a frontline sale manager, who might manage eight sales professionals, or a regional vice president, who might control 80 sales pros, can greatly change the pipeline velocity of those eight or 80 sales pros.

So now what?

Take a step back and assess the skills and capabilities of those frontline sales managers, and think about how they are going to change their actions and activities in their 1 to 1 meetings with their sales pros. They’re the ones who meet with sellers every week. Your frontline sales managers need to be equipped with not only asking  the right questions, but also need to show sellers what they need to do in the next two months that will highly influence pipeline creation.

Questions to ask your sales pros—a checklist

Here’s a checklist of the questions frontline sales managers should be asking their sales pros during their 1 to 1’s to get them focusing in on the right type of pipeline.

1. Have you mapped the total addressable market of your territory, and do you know exactly which opportunities we have a competitive advantage to win against in this fiscal year, in the next 9 months?
2. Are you aware of the total addressable market in your territory, and do you know exactly which accounts with competitive intelligence are at high risk? Which accounts can we decide to fail fast on and then get out, or de-emphasize our energy on them?
3. Of the total addressable market, which accounts are you going to focus 80% of your activity against, to highly influence winning those deals?
4. Have you identified triggers, referrals, insights, and further competitive intelligence that are going to shape your sales conversations?
5. What exactly is your engagement strategy against those key accounts that will be bold or different, that your competitors will not be doing, to better educate that customer?

Bottom line: Your frontline sales managers and regional vice-presidents need to give coaching to their sales pros towards pipeline generation in order to achieve revenue goals. And if they don’t know how to do this, you need to figure out how to skill up your leadership team fast, or your sellers will continue to do the same thing year after year—with the same activities, same bookings, ultimately achieving the same results.

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