I don’t give a rats ass about a sales opportunities status and as a sales manager you shouldn’t either.
What is “status?”
Status is the lame update sales people share during the weekly pipeline meeting. It’s the pathetic review we sales managers accept from sales people when we don’t have a strong cadence and pipeline review process in place.
They go like this.
Sales Manager – “Hey Bob, what’s the status on the Techform opportunity?”
Sale Person – “It looks good, we’re waiting on the results of the demo and for the CIO to approve the solution.”
Sales Manager – “Are we going to close it?”
Sales Person – “Yes, things are coming along. I should hear about it next week.”
Sales Manager – “Is there anything we can do to move things along?”
Sales Person – “No, we’re good. I spoke with them last week and they told me everything is good.”
Sales Manager – “Great, keep me in the loop.”
This exchange is, unfortunately, the way too many pipeline review meetings go. It’s a status, that’s all. It provides almost no value. The only value a “good” status can provide is it sets us up for the real discussion. The real discussion being, what we are doing and why. Status pipeline discussions need to go. They waste everyones time.
The most effective way for a manager to increase sales, next to finding and developing talent, is to help sales people move opportunities through the pipeline. In a nut shell, that’s it. Everything else is a subset of those three things. The sales pipeline represents the state of the sales environment at any given point. It’s dynamic and needs to be managed that way.
Selling is complicated. It’s complicated because it deals with people and people are complicated. Selling is difficult because at the core it’s about solving problems and problems can be difficult to solve. Selling is hard, because it requires influence and influencing can be arduous. Selling is about influencing people to solve difficult problems. When you think about it, we must be crazy to be in sales. It’s hard.
Knowing how difficult sales is only reinforces the importance of replacing the pipeline status meeting with a solid pipeline movement approach. To avoid status meetings and put some meat into the pipeline meetings, get to the heart of the situation, look for evidence, ask probing questions, push the sales person to be creative and connected.
Some types of pipeline movement questions for this sales manager could be;
- Is there a chance the results of the demo aren’t favorable?
- If so, what happens?
- What is the customer looking for in the demo?
- Will the demo provide the results they want?
- How will they be measuring “success?”
- When’s the last time you spoke with the CIO?
- What does she need to approve?
- What evidence do you have that even if we get approval it will close next week?
- You said you are waiting on the results, what are you waiting on?
- What evidence do you have that is going happen?
- Could the results divide the customer into two camps?
- If so, what will we do?
- What is our back up strategy?
- What can we do now, that can influence the decision?
- What is OUR next step besides waiting? Why?
There are a million questions that could be asked. The objective is to not get a STATUS but to understand the issues with the sale AND then formulate a response to them. Remember, selling is about influencing people to solve difficult problems. In order to be successful, you have to be able to understand the problem and the people. Working from a status update doesn’t do that and it doesn’t get you any closer to the sale.
Deals must be moved from stage to stage. A static pipeline is a dead pipeline. It’s a sales managers job to keep the pipeline dynamic and help their sales people move deals from stage to stage. Sales managers need to be maniacal in uncovering the issues obstructing a deal. Sales managers need to be fanatical in identifying the best approach to keeping a deal from getting stuck. Sales managers, you need to be creative in helping solve the sales challenges your sales people face every day and the pipeline is the best tool to help you do it.
Don’t wast time on useless status updates. Get to the core of the sales challenges and figure out how to solve them. It’s the only way to move them to the next stage and that is your job.