Pipeline review meetings are notorious for being dreaded by sales professionals and sales leaders alike. While they might not be appreciated in the moment, they do perform a necessary function as they help sales professionals identify problem areas in their pipelines while also providing leaders a better view of weighted probability and an opportunity to coach. However, as InsideSales.com clearly articulates, there are also several challenges (summarized below):
- When asked a question about a specific opportunity, sales professionals have to fumble through spreadsheets, reports, emails and notebooks so they can share basic information about their deals.
- Sales leaders struggle to coach sales professions during the meeting as they have only a limited amount of time and are often blindsided by obstacles the team member is facing.
- Because pipeline reviews are often inefficient, sales leaders end up compiling data points and pulling reports during evenings and on weekends so the reviews can be as productive as possible.
The overarching problem with pipeline reviews is this: they are reactive instead of proactive.
Pipeline reviews often focus on what the sales professional should have done in a specific deal rather than help the sales professional succeed in future situations based on tangible insights and deal data. Fortunately, by adopting an agile sales methodology, tedious pipeline reviews can become productive strategy sessions.
The Problem with Reactive Pipeline Reviews
In one of our previous blogs, we discussed lag time. In our definition, this is the period between when sales leadership makes a change – regardless of how large or small – and when they should expect to see results from the implemented change or initiative. This concept of lag time can come down to something as seemingly small as a 1:1 pipeline review. If a sales leader takes a reactive approach to pipeline reviews and attempts to help a sales professional turn a deal around mid-cycle, then the results of the coaching may not be seen for weeks, if not months.
Pipeline reviews can be equally frustrating for sales professionals. They spend a significant amount of time pulling data points, but the meetings tend to be more qualitative versus quantitative, making it hard for them to prepare – never knowing where the conversation will go. It’s possible that they may walk out of the meeting with a list of 5 action items, but are those tasks part of a repeatable process? Were they based on intuition by the sales leader or on actual findings? Can the results be measured in an adequate amount of time? Chances are, probably not. And therein lies the biggest problem with pipeline reviews.
Turn Pipeline Reviews into Strategy Sessions
When conducted with the endgame in mind – to help each sales professional proactively identify gaps in their sales processes and constantly improve their approach – pipeline reviews can be incredibly beneficial. The best way to ensure that the reviews are strategic is to focus on the right questions. The more focus the sales leader has when going into a review session, the more likely both parties will find it not only helpful, but necessary.
These questions provide a good place to start:
- What positive (or negative) progression has taken place since the last review?
- What new opportunities have been added to the pipeline since the last review?
- Which objections have surfaced most often, when did they occur, and what was the response?
- What is the level of certainty that the deals are fully qualified to the company’s criteria?
- What is the probability/likelihood of closing each of the deals?
- What new leads have entered the pipeline since the last review?
- How much commitment has been given in relation to each opportunity in the pipeline?
- Are the proper decision makers engaged in each deal, and has a champion been identified?
- Has a compelling event been identified for each opportunity?
Asking these questions during pipeline reviews will add a level of predictability for the sales team and will also allow the leader to coach proactively. For example, if a sales professional is struggling with qualification criteria and they’re letting deals slip through to a demo before the right decision maker is involved, the leader can identify why it’s happening by reviewing the individual’s deals and looking through the notes and questions that were asked along with the responses received. Then, the leader and the sales professional can together identify the reasons why decision makers weren’t involved early on and can work together to create an action plan for future deals.
Keep in mind that pipeline reviews shouldn’t be structured around a leader’s personal preferences or mantra of the month, but should center around real conversations, deal facts, and actual gaps that each sales professional can improve upon. Sales leaders can ditch the ad hoc approach of asking aimless questions and instead adopt an agile sales platform.
Implementing these simple changes can help turn stale pipeline reviews into helpful strategy sessions.