So Your Sales Pipeline Is Soft; 4 Plays to Firm It Up
Most sales leaders will appreciate the mixture of satisfaction and alarm that comes with asking some tough questions and finding out that the deals your rep is forecasting are not as much of a sure thing as you had been told.
If you find out early enough that you don’t have enough quality deals in the pipeline to make your number, consider yourself lucky. Take these steps to rectify the situation and save your blushes in front of your CEO and board.
1. Pull Deals in From Future Quarters
When you near the end of the quarter and it’s obvious that you’re not making your original forecast, you should immediately look at what future-forecasted deals you can close sooner. Try to focus on opportunities that are scheduled to close near the beginning of the next quarter. A sales rep might be sandbagging a deal or lack the confidence to ask the decision maker to get it done sooner. Have a more experienced sales rep or executive look through the pipelines for these deals, as they can do what’s needed to close. It’s a good idea to have them do this on a regular basis so you can avoid the need to backfill in the future.
Be careful about how often you use this tactic, as you can cannibalize the health of your future pipeline for the sake of short-term gains. If you have to borrow deals every quarter, you’ll end up in an endless catch-up cycle. The debt makes it difficult to stay motivated, which has its own negative impact on the sales team.
Audit your pipeline as soon as you get the opportunity to figure out why you ended up in this situation to begin with. Use this insight to make long-term changes to your sales strategy and minimize the chances of this situation happening again.
2. Grow the Deals That Are Still Looking Healthy
You don’t necessarily need more deals in the pipeline to meet the quota. If you increase the deal size of the opportunities that close before the end of the quarter, you can compensate for last-minute deal slips.
Sales reps have several strategies available to improve the revenue generated by each deal. You may be tempted to close these accounts as quickly as possible due to your impending deadline, but that could be the worst move. Some extra time spent nurturing these prospects and guiding them into higher tier products or services can solve your problem even if your pipeline isn’t properly filled.
Another way to increase the client value is through upsells. You can create product bundles that work well together, value-added services that help customers better achieve their goals or consulting after the initial onboarding process. The exact type of upsells you offer depends on your market segment, target audience and other factors, but almost every business has some way to incorporate this tactic.
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3. Go Back to the Customers You Sold Last Quarter
The hardest part of sales is getting through all the barriers standing in the way from initial contact to conversion. Once you build up enough trust to overcome prospects’ buying objections and get them familiar with your process, you’ll have a much easier time closing deals in the future.
Go through your current customer list and figure out whether you have opportunities to sell more to them. A simple outreach campaign could end up filling your pipeline for the current quarter and then some. Let clients know about new products and services, add-ons to their previous purchases, and other useful solutions.
These customers also provide excellent opportunities to generate referrals. Ask whether they know other decision-makers interested in what you have to offer. When you get the glowing recommendation from your happy clients and a warm introduction, you can move these deals through the pipeline quickly.
But remember, this approach will only work if you have a great Customer Success team in place and a proven way of quickly delivering value to new customers.
4. Point Your Marketing and SDRs at the Lower Hanging Fruit
The big-name deal is attractive, but you can’t focus all of your resources on a slow-moving account when you near the end of the quarter. Focus your marketing team and SDRs at the lower hanging fruit that has a shorter sales cycle or higher conversion rates. The name of the game right now is how quickly you can generate revenue, so a series of quick wins is the best-case scenario.
You’ll always have time to give those bigger accounts the attention they deserve, but dealing with dozens of decision-makers or many layers of approval simply takes up more resources than you can spare right now.
Your standard sales funnel may not fit the pace required to go through all the low-hanging fruit. Do everything you can to shorten each stage without hurting the customer experience or the win rate. After all, there’s no use in bringing in a lot of easy-to-close deals if you end up dropping your conversion rate too drastically.
Bonus Point: Lost Deals Can Be a Win Waiting to Happen
Finally, not all who wander are lost. As a sales leader, you should make a habit of digging into lost deals. Reach out to the people who said no and find out why they didn’t go with your company. You have the power to change their answer into a yes, so figure out how you can rectify the situation.
These methods help you fill up your current quarter pipeline and identify gaps and other problems that contributed to this stressful situation. This information also helps you remedy the problem in the future, so you’ll always deliver as promised to the company.