At all levels, people will do as they are measured.
This principle underlies the purpose of a pipeline meeting.
A group under the pressure of identifying and presenting changes in the status of prospective clients will likely increase sales activity.
What is a sales pipeline?
A sales pipeline is a report that is recorded and published by the participant for review among colleagues and superiors. The real concept is that, if sales progression is written or saved for examination, there will be more sales and business development activity.
What do we measure?
Many firms struggle with determining what, exactly, they will measure with the pipeline. The pipeline report can be based on an accepted, formal business development process. Or it can be a self-designed process based on the firm’s own recognized categories for development of a prospect through the sales process.
The important factor is consistency and regularity of reporting from meeting to meeting. As the individual prospect is compared to other prospects and moves through the development process, the expectation is that the firm’s responsible individual will do what is required to make the sale.
The process starts by tracking basic information on the targeted prospect, including:
- Prospect name
- Decision maker(s)
- Contact numbers
Also recorded and presented should be a definition of the status of the effort. It may include selling stages such as:
- Qualified prospect
- Specific need identification
- Solution presentation
- Concern resolution
The pipeline meeting should include a discussion of future activity needed to move the prospect through the selling stages. Closing is a final category, but once the sale is closed, the prospect should be removed from the pipeline because they are now a client and will be tracked in another effort.
How often do we meet?
Meeting regularity is an important factor in successful pipeline meetings. Whether the meetings are held weekly, biweekly, or even monthly is less significant than that they are being conducted on a regular basis.
Participants should know they will be expected to show the advancement of their prospective clients throughout the process. Whether the pressure is from superiors, colleagues, or even “self-inflicted,” the key is to meet a regular deadline with new activity.
What do you do with the information?
Results from the pipeline meeting should be available to all those who participate in the meeting.
This can be accomplished using a formal software program, a simple spreadsheet, paper reports, or even a “scoreboard” on a wall. It may be appropriate to have the “scoreboard” available in a private office or in a location that will be seen by more employees.
While sales prospects are certainly intellectual property within the firm, the pipeline meeting should not usually be a confidential effort in the office.
This regular exercise can bring out the competitive spirit in your team while keeping them informed of the development process at the firm.
Alan Deichler is the president of CPAmerica International and oversees the association’s growth and development. Prior to being named CPAmerica president, Deichler was most recently chief marketing officer at talent management software provider HRsmart in Richardson, Texas, where he headed worldwide sales and marketing efforts. Deichler has more than 35 years of corporate experience, having held previous management and executive positions with Capital Formation Counselors, Inc., IBM and Ernst & Young, LLP.