If you’re in sales or sales leadership I have two important questions to ask you:

  1. Is the size/quality of your pipeline sufficient to achieve your personal and/or professional goals?
  2. Does your current pipeline include a lot of prospects who won’t say yes but haven’t said no?

Too many sales organizations/businesses have a false sense of security because of the number of prospects in their pipeline or because of the projected dollars in their pipeline.  That being said, here are 6 best practices to ensure you have built a solid, sales pipeline:

  1. Know your sales metrics (sales cycle, close rate, average order size)
  2. Target the right type of prospects (size, geography and industry)
  3. Up-sell existing clients
  4. Ask for referrals on a regular basis
  5. Target dormant clients to “win back”
  6. Do effective pre-call planning

Pre-call planning is critically important to building a solid, sales pipeline. Please be aware…pre-call planning does not count the drive to the appointment or the walk to the boardroom! Pre-call planning is actually done in advance of the call or meeting.  I suggest the following action steps:

  • Look in your existing accounting, CRM or SFA system to see if you’ve done business with the person or company in the past
  • Visit the prospect’s website to look up the names/titles of key people
  • Go on LinkedIn to see if they have a LinkedIn company page and look at the profiles of the people you want to meet with
  • Go to Google (or your favorite search engine) and search the name of the company and the people you’re planning on meeting with

Effective pre-call planning helps you find information that will allow you to engage in sales conversations versus sales presentations and ultimately will allow you to more quickly qualify/disqualify opportunities to put in your sales pipeline.  Remember…a bigger pipeline is not necessarily a better pipeline!

I also want to touch on sales metrics…specifically close rate.  If your close rate is only 10% you need 10 times your annual goal in your sales pipeline to be successful.  Conversely if your close rate is 20% you only need 5 times, 25% only 4 times, 33% only 3 times and so forth.

In closing, if you want to increase the size/quality of your pipeline make sure you target the right type of opportunities, quickly qualify/disqualify the opportunity and purge your pipeline on a regular basis.

Remember, your job is to move opportunities through or out of your pipeline!

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