Does Your Sales Team Have Enough Pipeline to Make Quota?

JulieThomasToday’s post is by Julie Thomas, President and CEO of ValueSelling Associates.

Sales managers, there’s no way to sugar coat this: Most B2B sales leaders (69%) reported that their teams did not have enough pipeline to hit quota.

Don’t get me wrong — I realize that sales managers have the hardest job in our profession: Revenue executives have an insatiable appetite for data; HR demands ongoing coaching and training; and the sales reps themselves need assistance daily with customer issues, moving deals forward and crafting proposals.  

It’s extremely easy to lose sight of fundamentals when you’re swimming in a sea of demands, data, and deteriorating sales productivity.  

What’s the solution? A strategic prospecting strategy that enables you to separate the shoppers from the buyers. 

Building a Sales Prospecting Cadence 

B2B buyers are inundated with messages from individuals who do not know the first thing about their business or unique challenges. To break through the noise, your sellers will need to build cadences that leverage the way our brains work and present themselves as a value-added interruption.  

Step One: Consistency 

Encourage your team to carve out non-negotiable blocks of time on their calendars — aiming for two hours daily or 10 per week. 

Sure, fire drills will inevitably come up, but remember that you’re aiming for habit creation. Stress the importance of never cancelling that prospecting time but, instead, moving it to later in the week.  

Step Two: Research 

Sellers need to know industry trends, company finances, and likely business challenges that are already on an executive’s radar.  

Research practices can be as simple as setting up Google alerts and listening to the latest earnings call or as complex as leveraging AI-driven tools that comb search engines and aggregate vital information such as likely pain points and recent technology investments.  

At the end of the day, company intel only gets you so far. Top performers know to research the role/individual, and develop messaging that resonates on a personal level.  

Step Three: Structure 

Sales reps should incorporate phone calls, requests to connect, InMail messages and voicemails — and never forget to add value. The first few touches are all about thought-leadership and sharing valuable content from third-party resources — reps must resist the urge to immediately ask for a meeting.  

To stay top-of-mind, sellers should never go more than five business days between touches — and while length and frequency will vary according to sector, product type and sales cycle length, a typical cadence involves 15 to 17 attempts across 20 to 24 days. 

It’s advantageous to automate cadences so that you run these at scale, but be careful not to sacrifice personalization — volume won’t help if you alienate your target buyers along the way.  

Separating the Shoppers from the Buyers 

We’ve all seen salespeople waste weeks — and even months — clinging to opportunities that will never close. Whatever the reason, the result is a padded pipeline and a false sense of security that can prove disastrous come Q4.   

To avoid this fate, drive home the fact that prospect qualification is an ongoing process. Recent research by LinkedIn shows that 82% of reps lost or delayed at least one deal in the past year because a prospect or key client stakeholder had changed jobs. Your CRM is not the single source of truth. Help your team continually evaluate opportunities with these questions: 

Should they buy? 

  • Consider where your organization has had success in the past. Is there a match in terms of business issues? 

Is it worth it? 

  • No matter what you’re selling, you’re selling change — which is frightening. To counteract this, reps must uncover meaningful value — the kind that solves high-level business issues and creates urgency.  

Can they buy? 

  • All too often sellers cling to prospects who do not have the authority to allocate funds or sign the purchase order. 

When will they buy? 

  • Build a plan to realize value: Modern selling is all about understanding the buying process and mapping to it.  

For more information on the behaviors that fill the funnel with winnable opportunities and how to instill these habits across your sales force, check out our latest playbook: Your Guide to Powerful Sales Prospecting. 

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