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Focusing on the Wrong End of the Pipeline

by Bill Harrison on June 9, 2011

3 minute read

At W-Systems we get to see the inner workings of many different sales organizations.  Some are organized, goal-oriented, and process-driven, but most are fairly disorganized and unfocused.An easy way to tell great sales organizations from average sales organizations is to measure where managers spend the majority of their time.  Is it at the front end of the sales pipeline, helping reps generate and qualify new deals?  Or is it at the back end of the pipeline, trying to get deals to close as quickly as possible?

In great sales organizations, managers spend more time at the front end, focusing on new opportunity creation. That’s not to say that effort isn’t needed to push deals across the goal line.  But well-trained sales reps will close deals predictably and reliably, if they know how to fill their pipelines with qualified deals. When managers spend too much time trying to accelerate the sales pipeline, two things happen:

  1. The sales process becomes inefficient because an inordinate amount of time is spent trying to get customers to buy earlier than they want to.
  2. The company becomes less profitable because the desperation to close deals causes it to resort to big discounts and other “tricks” to close customers early, many of whom would purchase at a higher price later on.

In our quarterly results-driven business culture, it’s no surprise that so many companies focus on accelerating the pipeline rather than filling the pipeline.  Sales managers are behaving consistently with their compensation plans and often the comp plans are ultimately to blame for the poor results.

If your current quarter sales forecast is coming up short, ask yourself this:

“Am I missing my number because my team doesn’t know how to close deals?  Or am I missing my number because my team didn’t have enough qualified deals in its pipeline in the first two months of the quarter?”

I’ll bet most of you answered “yes” to the latter question.  If so, why not build the pipeline of your dreams for next quarter starting today?  The die is cast for Q2.  Will a herculean effort to move Q3 deals into Q2 have any positive effect on your annual sales results at the end of the year?

Probably not.

Instead, get a head start on Q3 and invest the final weeks of the quarter helping your sales team develop their lead generation, networking, and qualification skills.  With a solid pipeline going into next quarter you will sell more efficiently and at a higher margin because you will be operating from a position of strength rather than a position of desperation.