Pipeline generation is one of the biggest challenges to the sales force today.
No matter where you go or whatever the organization is, whether it’s consulting services or SaaS, pipeline generation is the Achilles heel for most organizations.
So how do we solve that problem? That is the topic of this episode of the Modern Selling Podcast with my guest, Scott Walston.
Scott is the President of North American Sales at Micro Focus. In this role, he works with Senior Executives to make sure they are receiving incredible value from Micro Focus’ digital transformation solutions, helping them identify solutions that deliver essential business insights, operational efficiencies, and process automation.
Don’t miss this great conversation about building and managing the sales pipeline.
@scottwalston from @MicroFocus had this fascinating conversation with @M_3jr in this @GoModernSelling ep. about building and managing the sales pipeline, a significant challenge to the sales force today. Click To Tweet
Why is a Sales Pipeline so Important?
For sales leaders, the sales pipeline is the headlights of the business, allowing them to do sales forecasting based on their amount of pipeline and their close ratios.
“Now when you’re thinking about it from a rep’s perspective,” Scott says, “the pipeline is what allows them to make life-changing money. It’s what creates wealth for them.”
For example, if a sales rep knows they have a two million dollar quota and they only have four million dollars in the pipeline, they are not going to hit the goal ― not too many sellers have a 50% close-ratio.
Scott says that sales leaders should coach reps on interpreting the numbers, knowing the statistics of their industry and understanding the volume of the pipelines they need to be able to achieve their sales goals.
@scottwalston from @MicroFocus says that #SalesLeaders should coach #reps on understanding the volume of the pipelines they need to achieve their sales goals. Great @GoModernSelling conversation with @M_3jr Click To Tweet
Now, how much should you have in your sales pipeline?
“That’s a data-driven exercise,” Scott says. “I have multiple product groups that roll up to me and each one has a different data set. One of them actually needs 2.7 coverage from pipeline. So if it’s a million-dollar quota, they need 3.7 million dollars in pipeline if you do the math. Another group needs 6x coverage. So if they have a million, they need six million dollars. So it really goes back to your Operations and Finance teams to inform the sales leaders on really what historically has been closed because once you understand those historical metrics, you can apply those with some rigor and some certainty.”
These numbers can change over time, so sales leaders should look at their pipeline ratios every six months to see if they need to make adjustments.
Listen to the episode to learn how Micro Focus reinforces the pipeline ratios in their sales organization.
Pipeline Generation Best Practices
Scott uses a couple of practices that help his team generate more pipeline.
First, he says you should make pipeline generation easy. Provide your sellers with the right sales prospecting tools so they can easily get a message out to multiple customers.
“If you give them the content and you give them the tool to disseminate the content, that makes it very easy for the reps to send out thought leadership pieces.”
A second practice is what he calls pipeline generation days, which are 2 or 3 days where all they do is attack the pipeline itself in a fun way (with costumes and awards, for example).
Listen to find out the fun activities they do at Micro Focus during pipeline generation days.
Another best practice is for sales leaders to lead from the front when they have a pipeline generation problem, reaching out to their network, making phone calls and asking for and giving referrals.
“There’s no better way to build trust with a sales team than getting in the foxhole with them,” Scott says, “making some calls, talking to some customers. That is a show of your commitment to them to be successful.”
Wow, @scottwalston from @MicroFocusScott shared w/ @M_3jr in this @GoModernSelling ep., about the sales pipeline. The takeaways are fantastic! - Great tips for #SalesLeaders to build trust w/ their sales team and increase results. Click To Tweet
When Should an Opportunity be Entered into the Pipeline?
Scott says there are three areas you need to look at before an opportunity enters the pipeline.
- Metrics – what metrics is the customer giving you?
- Indication – is there an indication of pain and a time to resolve that pain?
- Champion – is there someone inside the organization that will shepherd the deal through?
“Oftentimes that takes three or four discovery calls to get there,” Scott says. That’s not one and done. It’s usually multiple calls to understand if you have an opportunity.”
The Role of Content in Pipeline Generation
What is the role of content in building a pipeline in a remote selling environment?
“If you don’t have good content, you’re just not going to reach your customers,” Scott says.
There are three types of content:
- Content that comes from the sellers that show the buyer that they understand their business and can add value to the conversation.
- Thought leadership content created by marketing to help sellers reach their buyer personas.
- Social media content to develop relationships when prospecting on LinkedIn and other social media platforms.
Our jobs as sellers is complex because we need to figure out what is the channel each prospect prefers to engage with (email, video, text, phone) and we must stand out from the crowd in a world where buyers are bombarded with tons of information.
Managing the Sales Pipeline
So how do we as leaders successfully manage the sales pipeline?
Scott says it must be done through data and inspection. “Make sure you inspect the ingest, that you actually understand if this a real opportunity or not. And then, you know, pipeline gets stale. It just happens and it’s very difficult. So you have to clean up your pipeline and kill stale opportunities.”
Finally, you need to train your frontline managers to identify good opportunities and to look at the data constantly. Only then, you can start building the sale pipeline and creating more sales conversations.
Learn more about this fascinating topic in this episode of the Modern Selling Podcast.