How your pipeline impacts your ability to sell

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Your pipeline is your safety net.

If I came to you with a basketball and said that you had to make 1 out of 3 shots or else you wouldn’t be able to eat for the rest of the week, there would be an enormous amount of pressure on each of those shots.

What if I gave you ten shots to make one? How about twenty? That pressure reduces with the more chances you get.

Many salespeople are constantly putting themselves into situations where they have to make at least one out of three sales due to having a shallow pipeline. Every conversation becomes precious when you have so few prospects in your pipeline. And with so few chances to make one, a lost sale might mean no paycheck for the week.

During a conversation with a friend of mine, he started to complain about a situation he’d just had with a client. He was frustrated that, despite everything he could think to do, the client refused to close. He was spending a lot of time with them and was even offering free work in order to close the deal. After spending all of that time and ultimately giving away a lot of work, he felt entitled to a “yes” from the prospect.

Needless to say, this is a terrible strategy, and I will cover that in another post.

I asked him why he was spending so much time trying to win this one client instead of moving on to the next prospect. He said that he didn’t have that many prospects and needed a win. It had not even occurred to him that this was a huge issue.

I then asked him if he would be as invested in one client if he had twenty-five more potential clients to go sell to. He looked confused for a second and said of course not.

In the past, I have fallen victim to the perils of a shallow pipeline. Hoping deals would close, chasing clients who were giving me stalls instead of a no, and not knowing if I would hit my goal.

It is a very stressful position to be in.

When I was working with my business partner and would feel cocky about how deep my pipeline was, he would take a look and shake his head. His comment was always the same, “we need more in the pipeline.”

I would think that seven or eight deals would be plenty, and they could be. If they all closed.  

“If” is a bad thing to hinge your success on in sales.

So, instead of being cocky, I would go back out and prospect for more deals and conversations to deepen the pipeline.

Here’s the thing though. Honestly, prospecting is the worst part of being in sales. Almost anyone who says that they love prospecting is probably lying to you and themselves.  

Ready for some more brutal truth? You don’t have to love it. But you do have to do it. And do it consistently and efficiently.

Your pipeline is your net. It offers protection.

If you are managing your pipeline out of your head, this is not going to work. Things will begin to fall through the cracks, and you’ll be left with only a few opportunities that you think have the highest potential to close.

You should be building a pipeline so deep that you can’t keep it all in your head, and instead, keep it in a CRM. The feeling that comes from logging in and seeing a pipeline that is full of well-qualified opportunities is one of the best feelings you can have as a salesperson.

It takes so much pressure off!

Relieve the pressure on yourself!

An important part of good CRM habits is taking out deals that are not going to close. Keeping dead deals in your pipeline to make yourself feel better is not going to be helpful. If you have been chasing a prospect for a month and are leaving messages that don’t get returned, it is most likely time to close the file and get it out of your pipeline.

I will go so far as to say that if you don’t have a next step planned with a prospect, then you shouldn’t have the deal in your pipeline. I bet you’re happy that you aren’t working on my sales team now.

That might sound really harsh, but salespeople put themselves into positions where they have no control over the conversation and willingly put themselves into limbo with their prospects. The next step can be any number of things, but creating the habit of getting one set will make your sales cycle tighter and give you more control over the conversation.

And replacing deals that fall out of the pipeline as they become unqualified or for other reasons will make your conversations significantly better. You will be less attached to the outcome and can focus on qualifying them to see if they are a good fit for your company, instead of trying to make them say “yes” at all costs.

The next time you are thinking about discounting your rates, giving away something for free that you normally charge for, or realize that the person you are talking to is going to be overly difficult to work with, ask yourself if you would be willing to work with them if your pipeline was deeper.

If the answer is no, then move on.

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