Avoiding Pipeline Bloat
Your forecasts are unreliable. Deals look good and then stall. You seem to be wasting a lot of time with prospects who don’t ever make a decision. You have lots of prospects but still struggle to hit your numbers every month. If this describes you, then you may be suffering from a common sales malady known as pipeline bloat. This is a chronic condition among salespeople who do not qualify prospects properly or fully. Here’s a typical scenario. The prospect responds to some marketing material and the salesperson calls to follow up. The prospect says that they have an interest in the product and asks for some information. The salesperson gives some information and skillfully gets an appointment to visit the prospect. The salesperson researches the company online and discovers that they fit their ideal demographic perfectly. The salesperson meets the prospect and discovers what they are looking for and shows them the product. The prospect is excited by the product and indicates he is very interested indicates he has authority to buy just has to ”check with the boss” and requests a proposal. The salesperson emails the proposal and notes in his calendar to follow up in a few days and updates his pipeline indicating a nice sale this month. Two months and 15 phone calls later it still hasn’t closed. The prospect is not quite as excited but still interested. Two months after that the project dies.
This could all have been avoided if the salesperson had done a better job of qualifying up front. Resist the urge to write a proposal until you have uncovered a compelling reason to buy. You need to know more than just what they want. You must know why it is important to them. What problem does it solve? What happens if the problem doesn’t get solved? What have they tried in the past? Why did that not work? When do they need it and why is that date important? Whose life will be affected and how will it be affected if they don’t fix the problem? There are many more questions but you get the idea. Don’t fall for the prospect’s excitement. Of course qualification is not complete until we know how much they want to spend and what the decision process is and when the decisions will be made. Spend more time in the qualification process and you will end up writing fewer proposals because most won’t qualify for one. But you will write more business. You will waste less time with unqualified prospects. You will do less chasing. Your forecasts will be more accurate and you will get rid of pipeline bloat forever.
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Dan Caramanico is a salesforce development expert and he is the author of The Optimal Salesperson® One of Selling power’s top ten books for 2010 and Optimal Selling, Sales Conversations of the Optimal Salesperson.