The Common Mistakes That Sabotage Your Sales Pipeline

February 3, 2017

Moves like chasing unicorns will destroy your sales pipeline.

Managing a robust pipeline is challenging; training individual salespeople to manage their pipeline is even harder. In a world of email leads, texts, and magnified competition, it’s easy for opportunities to fall through the cracks.

Here are the three most common pipeline mistakes and how to avoid them:

1. Chasing Unicorns

“This could be huge!”

Every sales manager alive has heard about the big deal that’s going to close, sometime. Big sales tend to have a long sales cycle. They can pay off, but how many times have you seen a rep waste time going after something that’s never going to close?

Help your team avoid this trap by asking questions early and often. Ask clarifying questions like, what action has the customer taken to indicate it’s moving forward. Who needs to be involved? Have they ever done anything like this before? What would cause them to act now when they haven’t in the past?

You want to ensure reps aren’t simply making the same sales call over and over again.

2. Neglecting nurturing

Not all leads are hot, but warm leads go cold when you don’t manage them. The case for lead nurturing is obvious, yet it’s the first area sales teams neglect in the rush for daily business. The result is a dry pipeline that takes you by surprise.

Many sales teams don’t have the luxury of being handed pre-qualified leads. Make it easy for your team by creating a simple qualifying system; do they know what constitutes an A, B or C? Do they know the demographics and psychographics of likely buyers?

Make sure they do. Then, set an expectation that your team spend at least a couple of hours each month (or week) qualifying and nurturing leads. It prevents a surprise drought a few months down the road.

3. Ignoring your base

Acquiring a new customer can cost up to 15 times what it takes to keep an existing customer. In many organizations, salespeople are directly responsible for the relationship with existing buyers.

Yet, they often neglect their base because their comp plan – and the internal rah rah’s – are tilted towards new business. This is a costly mistake.

Look at your incentives; is there a win for people who keep business? What’s the expectation for outreach to existing customers? If your team is waiting until renewal time, the customers are wise to this behavior, and you’ll soon find yourself in a bidding war.

Keep your revenue flowing by allocating significant time to existing customers, and you’ll reduce the time your team spends wading through a pool of only semi-qualified leads later.

The Takeaway

Pipeline management isn’t sexy, but it’s critical. You can’t build sustainable revenue or create a high-performance culture in a feast or famine business. Putting a disciplined plan in place to manage the entire sales process will ensure a pipeline that will last well beyond the end of Q1.

Lisa Earle McLeod and Elizabeth McLeod work with organizations to improve competitive differentiation and emotional engagement. Check out their LinkedIn Learning courses here.