According to Harvard Business Review (HBR), companies with ineffective pipeline management experience 15% less growth than companies who report having effective pipeline management.
The difference isn’t made by new sales reps, new managers, or new techniques. It’s made by smart strategies that keep the pipeline efficient and effective. One of the best strategies to keep your pipeline pristine is conducting high-quality sales pipeline reviews with your reps on a regular basis.
A good sales pipeline review will keep your team on track, move deals to close, and inform you of any major issues regarding your team or their prospects.
A great sales pipeline review will enable you to prioritize closing the most important deals in your rep’s pipeline, assign action items and provide resources to help close those deals, and parse out the underperforming reps from the leaders on your team.
All of these granular insights will inform your broader strategic decisions around hiring, firing, training, and overall approach.
To help you reap the full benefits of a great sales pipeline review, we’ll show you the best tactics to use before, during, and after your reviews.
Before a Great Sales Pipeline Review
Before jumping into your sales pipeline review, there are a couple of key success factors to consider.
First, your sales pipeline reviews will be far more successful (and your revenue will grow) if you have a clearly structured sales process. Define stages and milestones with specificity, so that you and your rep are speaking the same language in your review.
Second, have a standard template for each meeting, so you don’t risk missing something important, and your rep can come prepared.
Structure Your Sales Pipeline Review
There’s no one-size-fits-all structure when conducting pipeline reviews, but after testing a couple of different strategies based on your sales cycle and company culture, you should aim for a consistent template you use time and again.
Here’s a simple layout to help you get started:
- Frequency - once a month for longer, more complex sales cycles, and every 1-2 weeks for shorter cycles
- Size - 1-on-1 (see why below)
- Duration - 30-60 minutes
- Discussion - opportunity stage for each deal, which deals to move forward and which to drop, most important deals to close and a deadline for closing
- Takeaways - expert advice, role play, negotiation resources, next steps, and milestones
Meet with One Sales Rep at a Time
We suggested above that you should only meet with one rep at a time. Here’s why:
Group-based pipeline reviews will be full of fluff and BS about general information like what emails were sent or voicemails were left. Salespeople are often uncomfortable asking for advice on tough deals when surrounded by coworkers who might be judging their abilities and achievements.
A sales pipeline review is your time to dig into the details of developing deals and offer all the help you can provide. You won’t be very helpful if your salespeople aren’t open and honest.
A 1-on-1 review will create a safe environment that encourages your salespeople to be vulnerable, present pressing issues, and admit when they don’t know how to proceed on a deal. This will not only make your review more productive but will also help you build a more meaningful relationship with your rep - a key factor in employee retention.
Now that you’re set up for success, let’s dig into how to execute the sales pipeline review with your rep.
During a Great Sales Pipeline Review
Focus on the Strongest Opportunities
There’s a time and place for discussing deals that are 4-12 months out. Now is not that time.
The only deals that matter during your review are the ones that show real promise and have the potential to be closed within 3 months or less.
If a deal has been lingering for months - or even years - on end, it’s likely time to move on to deals with a higher potential for closing. To make this time as productive as possible, identify high-probability and high-value deals that may have stalled or slipped backwards and brainstorm ways to renew them.
Of course, you can encourage your salespeople to go for the white whales in their territory, but remind them to keep their feet on the ground and clinch all the deals they can in the process. Above all, keep your salespeople focused on moving the needle forward.
Ask Important and Measurable Questions
Forget about abstract questions. Ask your salespeople measurable questions that prompt data-driven responses. This is how you help them start solving problems instead of spinning their wheels.
Focus your questions on facts, proof, and next steps. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- What proof do you have that this deal will close this week, next week, or next month?
- What obstacles are preventing you from closing this deal?
- When was the last time you spoke with your prospect? What did they say?
- What other vendors are they considering?
- What are their objections to your offer?
- Who else can you connect with inside the account to close the sale?
- What are your next steps? When will you complete those steps?
And one question that many managers forget to ask:
- Who on our team can help you close this deal or move it closer to a win?
This final question makes it clear that the sales rep is not an island, but is a part of a functioning whole that is dedicated to seeing them succeed. They’re more likely to feel confident and optimistic when they know you’re in their corner.
For every answer the rep gives you, make sure to dig deeper into the nitty-gritty details. Any statements beginning with “Well…” or “Probably…” or “Maybe…” are red flags that need to be addressed.
If you want to leave this meeting with actionable next steps, then you have to draw out concrete answers.
Offer Advice and Foster Morale
This is a great opportunity to share the knowledge you have. Take advantage of it.
Apart from deconstructing a sales rep’s pipeline and making sure they’re on the right track, make them feel hopeful and confident. Share your own experiences and your wins, losses, and lessons from the field. Suggest ways to deal with difficult people. Roleplay future encounters to help your rep overcome objections.
A word of caution…
There’s a fine line between a manager and a babysitter. Your rep shouldn’t be looking for you to solve their problems and close their deals.
Let your reps know you’ve got their back, but you won’t hold their hand.
With the right encouragement and coaching, you can transform dependent reps into independent leaders.
After a Great Sales Pipeline Review
Follow up on Next Steps
Throughout the sales pipeline review, make a note of each next step, the resources required, and the deadline for each step.
Allow your sales rep to offer up their own next steps, and refine them together, so your rep has ownership over their goals and tasks, and begins developing the autonomy you expect from high-performing salespeople.
Each next step should be specific and measurable, so that you can follow up easily. Following up is important for creating a culture of accountability.
Track and Transform Your Reps’ Trends
The final “after” step is to track the trends you’re seeing across your reps so that you’re not just helping fix fires in the moment, but you can also cultivate their best habits and transform their worst practices over time.
To do this, you need to identify the various key indicators you want to track, document performance consistently, and check in on each indicator for each rep regularly. That becomes a lot of manual work very quickly.
Or, you could ensure that your process is automated, consistent, thorough, and scalable.
You could walk into every sales pipeline review with a real-time understanding of your team’s performance, how your reps are tracking to their KPIs, and every opportunity’s health before you sit down. You could walk out knowing that you will be alerted of important events across every indicator you care about.
In other words:
You could use Pathlight.