Leverage Your Sales Pipeline Before It's Too Late

Jun 15, 2017 by Bill Golder

sales talent

For many B2B sales organizations, it's halftime.

It's the time of year when there's greater clarity on whether or not the strategy for making the number is working.

For some, it means increasing confidence due to a solid performance year-to-date and a strong pipeline. For others, it means playing catch-up to a behind plan performance thus far.

The good news is that there's still time, but the time to act is now.

If your sales cycles are 90 or more days, then it means largely what you have in your sales pipeline now is what may make or break your year.

If you are like most B2B sales leaders, you may be eyeing a handful of deals that you would classify as "must win" deals between now and the end of the year.

These are the deals in which strategies determined today will shape outcomes such as timing, deal size and whether or not your solution is viewed as a clear winner among all other options being considered.

Whether you are on track for your year or not, I'm a major proponent for instituting a deal review process as an ongoing discipline with your sales team.

While that's not a new concept, I thought I'd share six must-do's in making sure you have a deal review process that actually drives results for the business and brings value to your salespeople.

1. Establishing the Purpose of a Deal Review

Deal reviews are not about reporting out on all of the deals in the pipeline.

That's called a pipeline review and is generally a colossal waste of selling time.

Having a salesperson read the data that resides within the opportunity record of your CRM followed by a report on their next step rarely advances the opportunity.

Deal reviews are about sharpening strategies and actions on the most important deals in the pipeline. These opportunities are the "must win" deals mentioned earlier.

2. Fewer is Better

More is not better here.

It's the death of high impact deal reviews. If you are reviewing more than three deals in an hour with your salesperson or team, then you are simply going through a reporting exercise.

Generally speaking, you need 30 - 40 minutes per deal to do it justice.

Let the reports do the reporting. Make sure there's enough time to analyze the current position of a deal, review strengths and vulnerabilities, explore potential ideas and determine meaningful actions that advance the deal.

3. Implement a Deal Pursuit Methodology

I've been on countless deal reviews in which the sales manager simply reads off the name of the deal and then calls on the salesperson to provide the "update."

The salesperson then proceeds in their own language and terms to describe the deal while others participating struggle to gain context. This often leads to a line of clarifying questions that chew up the time for valuable collaboration and idea sharing.

A common methodology and language for deal pursuits gives everyone a shorthand that creates efficiency and focuses the brain power on strategy discussions versus trying to figure out the current state of a deal.

When there is a deal pursuit methodology in place, it enables better coaching between manager and rep.

It also enables the organization to collaborate more effectively, which brings me to the next key element.

4. Preparation is Paramount

Whether it's a one-on-one or a team of people on the deal review, it's important that background and context can be accessed in advance or viewed easily during the session.

Simply looking at the opportunity record details in your CRM system doesn't cut it.

That's like looking at a compass to go north and not considering the mountains and swamps that might be in the way of your destination.

This process is helped greatly when there is a pursuit methodology and a document/tool that contains a deeper context to the deal that can be used during the session.

Most importantly, as the sales manager you should come to the review session having spent time looking at the opportunity details within the CRM and within the opportunity pursuit tool.

Prepare questions or observations in advance of the review.

5. Establish a Consistent Structure

The structure of a deal review session is an important element for both efficiency and generating ideas.

There are four components to a well-done session: Deal Overview, Discovery, Idea Sharing and Action Planning

The first part of a deal review session is the overview of the deal and should take 5 - 7 minutes. The deal owner should provide a succinct deal story with the following components:

  • What's the company name?
  • What problems or opportunities is the prospect attempting to address or achieve with this purchase decision?
  • Which products/solutions are you selling?
  • What's the deal value?
  • When is the close date?
  • Who is the competition?
  • Who is influencing the decision? Names, titles, roles in the buying process?
  • What are our strengths and vulnerabilities to closing this deal?
  • What actions have you taken and are in process so far?

After 10 minutes of discovery, encourage others who have been invited to the deal review to ask the deal owner clarifying questions. You want to uncover new strengths or vulnerabilities.

At this point, no ideas are being offered.

After that's complete, move onto the idea-sharing component of the review which should take another 10 minutes.

The deal owner stays quiet as others offer up their view on unidentified strengths, vulnerabilities and ideas for next steps.

No idea is a bad idea at this point. Just capture all of the input without debating or vetting the ideas.

Now it's the deal owners turn...

For the next 10 minutes, the deal owner commits to 3 - 5 actions he or she is going to take before the next review.

Depending on the situation, you can conduct the action planning component one-on-one with the deal owner after a team review call if some further coaching is needed to vet out the best options.

Whether you conduct a deal review with a large group or one-on-one, this structure allows for an efficient way to hone in on the most meaningful actions to advance a deal.

Go last during the discovery and idea sharing rounds.

When the sales leader is always taking the lead, everyone else will go quiet. Great managers encourage others to go first and often pull far more helpful questions and insights by getting more people engaged in the process.

You can recap and add to what's already been asked or offered once everyone else has had their opportunity to contribute.

Sales Deal Review-367644-edited.jpg

6. Collaboration Pays Off

Determining the high impact actions for an important deal is no different than problem solving.

I've had the pleasure of conducting and participating in hundreds of deal reviews. There are two things that always jump out at me:

1.) The deal owner is so close to the deal that they have a hard time seeing all of the strengths, vulnerabilities and possible actions they could take to improve their position.

2.) Other salespeople on the team bring tremendous value by illuminating strengths, vulnerabilities and possible actions that wouldn't have otherwise been identified.

In almost every area of the business, problems are solved with teams of people looking at the situation together and sharing their respective ideas until the best options are determined.

Astute sales leaders leverage the power of collaboration to generate game changing actions on their most important deals.

One last thought...

You don't have to be restrained to only conduct deal reviews on a scheduled conference call or team meeting.

Leverage deal collaboration software tools like DealCoachPro that can act like a virtual "war room" for ideas and updates to happen at any time during the pursuit of a deal.

sales talent

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

About the Author

Bill Golder

Sales growth consultant with decades of small and large enterprise experience. Former CSO for Miller Heiman and Bulldog Solutions.



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