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Business Oracle

Four Ways To Achieve Your Targets

Nick Devine, founder of The Print Coach, shares the four important levers you must pull if you want your sales pipeline to deliver more new accounts, and help you achieve your targets

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There are four different levers you can pull with the objective of increasing the amount of new business that your sales team produces

How to successfully win new accounts

The role of the sales manager in a business-to-business company is both critically important and extremely difficult. If the sales manager is unable to manage and motivate their salespeople to work hard and sell more, the company will be unable to achieve its growth and profit targets.

However, effective sales managers have mastered the required skills that enabled them to deliver predictable numbers on a repeatable basis. They understand the top five or ten benchmarks that they should use to judge if the sales team is doing an effective job. They know how to hold the sales department accountable during the different stages of the sales process. In short, they have successfully transitioned from being a successful salesperson to being an effective sales manager.

Sales managers have to master a variety of skill sets in order to be effective. The particular skill we are going to focus on in this article has to do with the sales pipeline.

The effective sales manager must know how to manage the activities of the sales team so they can build a robust pipeline that delivers credible numbers.

The effective sales manager must know how to manage the activities of the sales team so they can build a robust pipeline that delivers credible numbers


People traditionally think of a sales pipeline as a visual representation of sales prospects and where they are in the purchasing process. Companies also use it as a forecasting tool so they can see how close the salesperson or sales team is to achieving quota.

The most important thing to understand about your sales pipeline is that it is not simply a forecasting tool. When used correctly, there are four different levers you can pull with the objective of increasing the amount of new business that your sales team produces.

Let us look at each of those levers in more detail.

1) Quantity: the number of opportunities in your pipeline

The most common problem that I see across all the sales funnels and sales pipelines I review has to do with this lever. There are simply not enough qualified opportunities in the pipeline.

If that is the case in your company, your number one priority has to be how you improve your lead generation activities.

The logic is very simple. It is impossible to persuade or influence a prospect to do business with your company if you are not in a sales conversation with them.

To fix a lead generation problem, you can focus on three potential areas:

1. Coaching/skill development: Ensure that your team has the required skills to generate leads on a predictable basis.

2. Sales bandwidth: Make sure you are focusing enough time/resource on business development activities. For example, do not distract your new business salespeople with account management, customer service, or other administrative tasks.

3. Prospecting methodology: In our sales process, we have identified 14 different lead generation methods you can use. Every company should be using a minimum of three consistently. For example, (i) social selling with a particular focus on LinkedIn, (ii) outbound email/phone to an agreed list, (iii) networking with a particular focus on where your ideal prospects congregate.

Once you have enough prospecting activity going on, next you need to focus on the quality of the opportunities coming into your sales pipeline.

2) Quality: the quality of the opportunities in your pipeline

If you want to improve the quality of the opportunities in your sales pipeline, there are two areas you can focus on.

Ideal client list: One of the sales manager’s roles is to ensure that each salesperson is working to a mutually agreed prospecting list. These prospects should be a good match for your ideal prospect profile. You simply cannot afford to have expensive salespeople investing significant amounts of time and resource prospecting for opportunities that are not an ideal fit for what you do.

Qualification process: You must also use a pipeline qualification process in your company. The qualification process should guarantee you have a consistent way of ensuring opportunities are properly qualified. This would typically focus on areas such as budget approval process, talking to the right decision makers, establishing the time frame to close, and competitive threats.

Once you are confident that you have a steady flow of qualified opportunities, you will next need to look at your conversion rate. 

3) Conversion rate: what percentage of opportunities are being converted

It is very rare for a company to look at their overall sales pipeline conversion rates. However, the best-performing companies do it on a consistent basis and the reason is simple.


Great salespeople know how to get to the truth quicker than most, so they can qualify out of opportunities that are never going to close



They understand that if they can improve their conversion rate, they can improve the overall ROI they are achieving from the investment they are making in their sales team.

Let us look at a couple of simple numbers.
 
Company A has 20 opportunities in their sales pipeline. They typically convert 20 percent. The average contract is worth £10,000. That means they will win four contracts equating to £40,000.

Company B also has 20 opportunities in their sales pipeline. They typically convert 30 percent with an average contract value of £10,000. That means they will win six contracts equating to £60,000.

In order to improve your sales conversion metric, you will typically need to invest in coaching and training for your sales team. They need to acquire the skills that are required to persuade and influence prospects to do business with them versus the competition. And that has to be done without sacrificing margin.

And that brings us to the fourth and final lever that will help you improve your sales pipeline performance.

4) Time to close: how long does it take to close a sales opportunity

If you have ever had to manage a sales pipeline, I can guarantee you have had this consistent experience.

A deal that is forecast to close this month slips into next month. And next month the same thing happens. Often, deals that are forecast to close in January are still in the pipeline in December.
 
I refer to this as a pipedream and not a pipeline opportunity.
 
When I am coaching sales teams I often reinforce this simple idea: your goal is to get the truth and get a decision. Your goal is not to get the deal.

When I am coaching sales teams I often reinforce this simple idea: your goal is to get the truth and get a decision. Your goal is not to get the deal


If you think your goal is to get the deal, you will often unconsciously ignore the reality of the opportunity.

You put your optimistic suit on and only hear positive messages from the prospect. You become afraid to ask the hard questions that help you get to the truth of the situation.

Great salespeople know how to get to the truth quicker than most, so they can qualify out of opportunities that are never going to close. 

Take this simple action next

Having read this article, the most important thing you can do next is to clean up your existing sales pipeline. Remove any sales opportunity that has ‘slipped’ on three or more consecutive months. Ask the salesperson to go back and requalify the opportunity before putting it back in the sales pipeline'

If you are having difficulties with your sales pipeline process, why not take advantage of a FREE sales pipeline audit. I am giving three free Pipeline Audits to qualifying companies.

To find out more, send an email to Nick@theprintcoach.com and put the words ‘Sales Pipeline Audit’ in the subject line.



Nick Devine is the founder of The Print Coach. He helps print and packaging companies win new high margin accounts with guaranteed results. Visit www.theprintcoach.com for more information.


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