“Our pipeline is not where it needs to be”, the SVP of Sales said to me, “We need 30% more than what we have now”. “Our immediate focus is on growing the pipeline … How do we do that?”
I hear this type of refrain a lot in my work. It’s also an area that many CEOs are asked about on conference calls – how their sales pipeline is looking, which can be used to predict future revenue performance. The sales pipeline gets a lot of attention from C-suite executives to sales management to sellers. I wrote about pipeline dynamics last year and ‘Pipelies’ before that. Net net, the sales pipeline is the barometer of the ‘future’ for a lot of companies and its current market valuation is derived from future expectations.
In the most prosaic way possible, the pipeline is basically a pipe with lines – the pipe is the sales process and lines are stages. The sales pipeline represents opportunities that are arranged along each of the sales stages or steps that comprise the sales process. The de facto standard today is that your sales process should align to your customer’s buying process, assuming they have some sort of process, which is likely to depend on what they are purchasing.
So if we get back to the question in the title of this post, there is a bit of work to really understand what’s going on with a sales pipeline. First off, are you even assessing the complete picture?