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August 18, 2015
3 Things to Prevent Another “Oh sh*t, my pipeline sucks” Moment
A stronger pipeline for a forecast you can trust
The end of Q3 is screaming toward you … and your team’s number is nowhere near being in the bag. And that voice in your head howls that the weak Q4 pipeline means next quarter won’t be easier. Even if you rally your troops to grind out a successful Q3, you know you’ll wake up Oct. 1 wondering what deals will make or break Q4.
It's Groundhog Day every quarter.
Your struggle this quarter and anxiety about next quarter have the same cause: weak pipeline. In the heat of battle closing deals, it’s easy to let pipeline building slide. And even easier to skip monitoring pipeline health. So, even when your reps crush a quarter, you all wake up on the first day of the next quarter in an “oh shit” state of mind.
You run sales. So you’re the one needing the discipline to nail this quarter while being ready for next quarter. Problem is you often feel like you’re bringing a knife to a gunfight.
So let’s dig into what leads to a weak pipeline:
- Poor visibility into long-term work
We’ve all got reports — mostly out of Excel. But they don’t show pipeline health. Do they tell us how long a deal has been in a stage? Do they tell us about reps activity to develop the account? Or customer engagement with our reps? Do they use hardcore data science to tell us which deals will close, which to push to next quarter, and which to drop? No. No. No. And a really big no.
- No leading indicators on deals means too much time chasing bad deals
Face it: as we move up the ladder ... manager → RVP → SVP ... it gets harder to know which deals will close. So our coaching suffers and reps end up working the wrong deals. That means deals we can close don’t get attention and sit forever in best case or pipeline. Beyond that, wasting time on the wrong deals means reps aren’t laying the foundation for next quarter.
- Reps not focused on long term
We want reps following the money. So when they focus on the best deals, it’s no problem. So how do we channel that drive so they do what must be done to get the deals we need next quarter?
- Lousy data overall
We know why data quality is poor — it’s because your CRM makes reps jump through 20 clicks just to document deal status. What rep worth a damn will do that? Did YOU do it when you were selling? I didn’t think so. There are better sources of truth that take zero time away from selling. We’ll get there in a moment.
Enough problems. How do we build a healthy pipeline?
I’m one of you, moving from rep to manager to exec. And the best part of my job now is talking to sales leaders about what works. Here’s what I’ve learned and what you can do NOW to build pipeline:
1. Know what’s REALLY happening out there
This ALWAYS takes multiple sources. CRM is not enough. It’s stale and reps will never add the juicy day-by-day details. How many hours do your managers spend on phone calls with their reps to get the play-by-play? Too many. And the dirty secret is — in those so-called “deal strategy” calls — activity updates (“I met my champion twice, but still can’t get in to see the VP....”) suck up so much time no one is doing much strategy work.
There’s a better way and it takes zero time from selling. Your reps’ calendar and emails are the real source of truth. When you take all these sources and apply the magic of data science and stunning visualization, you and your managers finally know with whom the rep met, when, at what frequency. You know which decision makers are engaged and which have checked out. And our predictive analytics tells you which deals will close at >90% accuracy. Reps love the time savings — no more logging activity. And we only look at the activity flow (e.g. to, from, cc, subject, date…), so you get the story you need while rep privacy is secure. Result? A stronger pipeline … leading to a forecast you can trust.
2. Analyze history to see the future and know what works
I trust my intuition and I know you trust yours. But come on — with hundreds of deals across dozens of regions, our intuition could use some help. Deals have patterns. Reps have patterns. Even product lines have patterns. Machines can’t have drinks with the exec sponsor, but they can sure crank on pattern matching. Try that with Excel. With our predictive analytics, you know what action leads to a close and what leads to a stall. NOW you can set deal strategy and evaluate true pipeline health.
3. Make it a Habit
This isn’t that hard because here’s another secret — when things work, your team will keep doing them. Let’s say you ask your team to focus on future deals every Thursday and Friday. When that meant sending emails randomly into cold deals or new leads, results were underwhelming. When it means re-engaging with a prospect that history and data science say is ripe for making forward progress … and when that effort turns into deals that build a powerful pipeline for next quarter, it’s an easy habit to keep! Prime the pump by making it a requirement, but support your team with a system that makes the effort pay off.
We know a healthy sales pipeline is the stream that feeds the river of predictable sales performance. And yes, we also need to chase this quarter’s deals. To avoid Groundhog Day and skip the October 1 “oh sh*t” moment, we need to work this quarter’s deals smarter and lay the groundwork for deals that can close next quarter.
At Clari, we exist to make selling easier. We reach out to all those data sources — CRM, email, calendar, and more. Then, we apply advanced data science to find patterns that matter and predict which deals are on track and which ones are off the rails. And you’ll be happy to know we do all of this with so little effort on your part that we can show you your pipeline in ways you’ve only dreamed of in < 2 minutes. If you think I might be a little biased, listen to some of your industry-leading peers, who run their teams on Clari. Then give us a call. You’ll wake up more confident on the first day of every new quarter.