During a recent virtual workshop for a client’s global sales leaders, two little words made the entire group of sales leaders squirm:
You could feel the virtual room tightening up at the mere mention of it. The reason why quickly became clear—their teams were struggling to create enough opportunities at the top of the funnel.
Advancing and closing deals? That was not an issue. The challenge was that their teams simply didn’t have enough early stage deals going into the pipe. The worst part? They weren’t exactly sure why their teams were failing to cultivate a healthy pipeline.
Fortunately, the answer is not usually hard to find. So in the moment, I rattled off four potential causes of poor pipeline health and lack of opportunity creation. Each has the potential to make or break sales performance, but few sales leaders invest the time to zoom out for an honest look at these causes.
That’s why I’m writing this post. As you read through the following four “problem areas” of pipeline health, ask yourself how you and/or your team measure up in each one. When you identify the area that’s your biggest weakness, you’ll know where to focus to help your team start creating more opportunities…and a healthier pipeline!
Area #1: Skills
Don’t confuse skills with talent (we’ll get to talent in a second). While talent is innate, skills are developed. You can’t make much of an impact on a salesperson’s talent level, but you can dramatically impact their skill level through proper training and coaching.
If your people aren’t creating new opportunities at the top of the funnel, it’s often because they simply don’t know how. Maybe they don’t have a good message. Maybe they’re unfamiliar with the best ways to prospect. Maybe they’re reading nonsense about sales on the ultimate cesspool of bad advice, LinkedIn.
Whatever the case, it’s on you to identify your team’s skill deficiencies and give them the tools, training, and coaching they need to self-generate new sales opportunities.
Area #2: Accountability
If there isn’t any pressure to create new opportunities and keep the pipeline full, the average salesperson will avoid prospecting and new business development like the plague… So, let me ask you sales leader, are you applying enough pressure? Are you sitting down one-on-one with your people, shining the light of truth into the pipeline, and asking good questions about new opportunity creation and overall pipeline health?
I say it all the time, but I’ll say it again: there is nothing more transformational to sales culture than a simple one-on-one accountability meeting. If you’re not currently holding this kind of meeting, make sure to grab my free guide here.
Area #3: Compensation
Let me be clear—I’m not talking about lack of compensation. If your team is struggling to fill the top of the funnel, it’s far likelier that your compensation plan is incentivising the wrong things.
Do you overreward people with commission annuities from servicing and renewing existing accounts? Then it shouldn’t be a surprise when they’re not hungry to hunt and create new opportunities.
When you reward people for being fat, dumb, happy, complacent account babysitters and territory caretakers, that’s exactly what they will be. Why would anyone do the heavy lifting and hard work if they’re already getting rewarded for far easier tasks?
Reward the hunters, and reap the benefits.
Area #4: Talent
As a sales leader, there is only so much control you can have on your salespeoples’ performance. If your team is full of what I like to call zookeepers—people who love to serve and care for accounts, but hate conflict and rejection—there is a hard ceiling on your results. You can rarely make a hunter out of someone who is not wired to hunt. Let me say that one more time: I almost never see an account service-minded, highly relational, zookeeper-type salesperson successfully hunt for new business.
Is there enough of the right talent on your team to create the volume of new opportunities you need? If the answer is yes, your solution is in one of the three previous areas. If the answer is no, then there’s some heavy lifting ahead for you when it comes to recruiting and onboarding true hunters who can (and will) fill the top of the pipeline with new opportunities
Gut check time: which of these four areas do you need to improve the most?
You shouldn’t need to consult any numbers or think too hard about this question. At this point, you will have a gut feeling on which of these are preventing your team from keeping the funnel full:
Let me challenge you to start tackling the area you identified above as we head into July!
We may be halfway through the year, but there is still plenty of time to turn around your opportunity creation momentum and build the healthy pipeline that will drive the new business development results you need.