Yup, I said it. Shitty sales management can kill pipeline movement.
As sales leaders, we spend so much of our time evaluating our teams and the individuals on them, we often forget that our shit can stink too. We can be the reason deals are getting stuck. After all, it is our job to help keep deals moving. This is especially true with first line managers.
The place I see sales management fail the most (just behind hiring “A” players) is pipeline management. This failure has a tremendous impact on revenue. It is sales leaderships job to be the grease that moves opportunities through the pipeline. Unfortunately, too many sales managers just don’t have the skills to help move opportunities through the pipeline. They lack the innovation, creativity and analysis skills required to bring value. On the other hand, however, great sales managers bring alternative points of view that challenge the rep to evaluate his or her opportunity differently and therefore play a huge role in the acceleration of pipeline opportunities.
Opportunities get stuck, move slow or go sideways for a number of reasons. Great sales managers are creative in identifying approaches to solve the problems that are slowing deals and keeping them from getting off track.
When it comes to pipeline movement and getting deals through the process, poor sales management lacks the insight and creativity needed to get deals moving and keep them from getting stuck. Poor sales management is unable to ask the right questions, identify the underlying issues, anticipate prospects reactions, provide alternative solutions or strategies or bring more to the table. They lack pipeline innovation in terms of pipeline movement.
The Challenger Sale suggests innovation is the attribute that matters most in sales management and breaks down innovation like this:
- Identify obstacles that get in the way of a new sale
- Gather feedback in terms of what is and isn’t working
- Identify how to resolve the customer’s problem
- Innovate around new ways to position the offer
- Identify the ideal business outcome
- Define and explore new sales offers and solutions
- Share tactics and best practices
- Develop and sustain cross-functional relationships
- Filter news and information downward
I like how the book (The Challenger Sale) does this. It’s a great breakdown of how great sales management accelerates the velocity of opportunities in the pipeline.
World-class managers today are defined not just by their ability to coach to the known, but by their ability to innovate around the unknown.
Stuck deals and long sales cycles aren’t always just a salesperson problem. Sometimes it can be a sales management problem. Evaluate your frontline sales managers on their innovation around moving a sale to close.
Don’t miss the other posts in my Pipeline Movement Series: