Epic Sales B2B Hiring Fails

1. Being Emotionally Involved:

They’ll sneak in and get you every time if you’re not careful! Allowing emotions to come into play in the hiring process produces bad sales hires!  Usually, emotions get involved when there is no strategy or process.  You meet someone and you think “wow, they’re great!  They’re smart, attractive, articulate and both they and their resume have said how great they are too.”  STOP, WAKE UP!!!  You may be close to a bad sales hire.  If you’re reading this, you probably know how costly it is!  The time to train and manage, the time putting them on performance improvement, the time needed to start over, and most importantly… the lost opportunities that you can never recover.  First rule… do not rely on gut feeling!  It will get you every time.

2. Not Being Precise with the Sales Role:

There are several roles but the most prominent are the Hunter and the Account Manager.  My experience tells me Hunters do not make good Account Managers and vice versa.  Here’s how to tell the difference.  Ask the Hunter to map out their prospecting strategy they have used in the past.  How do they organize their time, how do they get to the decision maker and what is their contact cadence? Ask them to role play a first call.  Similarly, ask the Account Manager to map out their strategy to expand a key account.  Ask how they network using connections, what research they do and how do they use it? 

3. Decision Maker Access:

This is a make or break for your most important deals.  Unfortunately, many salespeople do not have the self-concept, a strategy or technique to get to the decision maker.  The higher your average sale size is, the more critical this becomes.  Ask your prospective hire how they negotiate to power, and in their opinion, how important accessing power is to win a deal.  If they don’t see it as critical, they won’t do it, and they will deliver to you a pipeline full of bloat (unqualified deals that will not close).

4. Not Understanding Their Money Concept:

This gets into psychology because beliefs drive what salespeople are willing to do and not do.  For example, if you charge more than your competitors because of quality, beliefs come into play.  Here’s an example, your salesperson buys everything on price in their personal life, because high value means the lowest price. Now when fielding a price objection, this belief does not support the right outcome.  You will find these folks are the ones with the lowest margins, asking for the most concessions for the customer. Therefore, it is important to measure these hidden drivers before someone is hired. 

5. Do They Really Know How to Handle Sales Complexity:

Complexity of sales cycle is usually associated with a higher price point.  Not only does it require access to a VP or C level decision maker, but it also requires herding cats (getting everyone on the same page), executive presence, and the ability to understand and talk to the prospects business strategy.  Ask them how they do this and ask for an example of how they have tied business strategy to a solution they have sold in the past. 

6. Are They Showing Off Their Goal Orientation:

The most successful people are goal oriented, particularly salespeople.  It’s more than just writing down numbers.  It’s passion about where you are going and why it is important to get there.  Consequently, evidence of how important a candidate’s personal goals are to them is key.  Also consider if the role offered allows them to achieve their goals, assuming they are at or above company goal.  Salespeople without a “goal mindset” are not salespeople who consistently achieve! 

7. Do They Really Listen and Have Excellent Questioning Skills:

How can you listen if you cannot get people to talk?  You can’t!  Questioning skills always come first.  A great salesperson’s first tool in the bag is their questioning skills, then their ability to listen.  Ask them their top 10 qualifying questions.  They should be able to rattle these off without a second thought.  If they can’t, that’s a problem.  Also, observe their listening skills in the interview.  Do they practice active listening (paraphrasing the key things you’ve said)?  Do you feel like you are being heard and understood by them or are they more focused on getting their own questions answered? 

8. No Excuse Makers Please:

This is an important one!  Responsibility in sales is defined as the absence of excuse making.  If you have a sales team now, I’m sure you have heard “I can’t because…” In sales you must find your way around obstacles.  The minute you say you cannot, in your mind you’re right and you stop trying.  Ask about the most difficult circumstances they’ve had to overcome. If they have not had many or ones that are not impressive, chances are they won’t be impressive in the sales field either. 

9. Don’t Settle. Select the Best:

Remember the top 20% is out there and your job is sifting through candidates quickly with little expense to select the best!  You’ll be glad you did.  

The top 20% of salespeople produce 125% more than average, the top 4% produce 250% more. 

Brad Smart – Topgrading

Your Sales Demos Are Killing Deals – 3 Reasons Why

You’ve sat through painful demos before. The ones that you wish were over shortly after they started.  These demos are deal killers! Could it be that your team may be guilty of the same? 

It’s not hard to fix, but first you need to know if it’s happening and then have a strategy to get things on course. Read on to diagnose if your sales effort has this deal-killing disease and how to fix it if you do.


1. You are talking too much about you and your product.

Does your team begin the first part of the demo meeting talking about what your company does, how many employees you have or who your customers are? If so, you’re losing your prospect before you get started.  Your audience wants to get to THEIR points fast and they want to stay on those points until they are resolved.  Every minute you spend talking about things that are not important to them, going too deep technically, or not going deep enough, you are losing your audience, eroding credibility, and putting your sales opportunities at risk.  Remember, your prospects have already done research on you. So, when you talk about you, keep it short and wait until the end.

2. There is little interactions.

The best sales presentation you’ll ever give is the one the prospect never sees… because it feels like a conversation.  In a demo, prospects should be doing the talking about 60% of the time. When it’s just you talking to them, they believe it is biased and self-serving, and it usually is. They can smell it a mile away!  They should be telling you what their frustrations are with the current state and why it’s important to get it fixed. By having your prospect talk this out with you, you are allowing them to sell themselves. 

3. You are showing them what they don’t want to see.

Often when I ask salespeople whose agenda is the most important in a demo (or any prospect meeting) they tell me it’s their agenda. WRONG! They believe their job is to show the prospect all the features of the product and why those features are so amazing… WRONG again! Everyone in the audience has priorities for the meeting, what they want to see, in what order they want to see it, and how much of each section they need to experience to feel comfortable about the solution.  There may be great features in your solution that you think are incredible but are just not important to them right now.  However, there are usually some key items that will make or break the deal. Know what they are, stay on point, let them talk it through with you and start knocking down more deals!

sales person looks at computer

I’m Tired of Excuse Making From the Sales Team!

Excuse-making from the sales team drives me crazy!  It’s like saying you give up and you can’t do any better.  The reality is it’s either BS or they just don’t know what to do.  My experience… it’s a little of both.  It’s okay to miss a sales target occasionally, but its never okay not to have a plan to improve.  Excuse-making begins when poor results begin to show, and the sales team doesn’t know what to do.   

So where does that leave you? What does one do with the excuses? The good news is you don’t have to know all the answers.  You just need to know that excuse-making is a deadly sales disease that stops progress cold and is unacceptable.  First, compare what your team is doing vs. what it should be doing. This article should help: Breakthrough Sales Growth for Small Tech – 9 Essentials

Start by asking some basic questions…

  • Do I have the right people in the right seats, and can they get us to our destination? 
  • Am I the right person to be leading the sales & marketing effort or do I need help?

Next, see if your team has a basic plan and a process:

  • Is the lead generation working?  Do they know the quantity and quality of leads we need to have to be successful?  Are we getting enough to make our goal? What are we doing differently today to get a better result than yesterday? What’s the lead gen calendar / plan look like for the month, quarter, and year? Are we getting real leads from our very expensive trade shows or are we just tracking who came by the booth?
  • Is the sales team’s one-to-one sales prospecting plan working?  Do we have a Target Account Profile that is driving us to win bigger more qualified deals? What is our qualifying message and is it compelling, easy to understand and directed toward the decision makers issues?  Are we having real business conversations with these targeted prospects that convert to sales opportunities or are we just taking what is given to us?
  • Is our close rate of sales opportunities near or above 30%? Are the opportunities in our sales pipeline well qualified and sponsored? Are these opportunities moving towards close with commitments from the sponsor along the way?  Are too many sales opportunities stuck in the pipeline with no strategy to move them to close? Why is our sales forecasting always off?

Don’t let your team focus on the wrong end of the sales problem which are the bad results accompanied by excuses to avoid responsibility.  Bad results always point to poor execution. The right end of the problem demands excellent execution of strategy, people, process, and metrics. This combined with coaching and accountability will elevate your team and your revenue fast!

BTW, I have a lot more questions (and answers) if you need them!


Your Big Deals Won’t Close – 4 Reasons Why

  1. You’re talking to the wrong companies, too often.
  2. You’re talking to the wrong people in the right companies.
  3. You’re talking about the wrong things to the right people in the right companies.
  4. Your sales team isn’t capable, yet.

These are the first four things I look at when I’m trying to help someone who needs to get their sales team on track. 

You would think most sales and marketing teams have #1 figured out… not so much. The good news is this is easy to correct and a big win for revenue.  Give your team the right bullseye to aim for and magic will begin to happen. You’ll become better as a team at knowing where you compete best and why.  Your deal sizes will grow, your sales cycle will shorten, you’ll waste less time and resources, and your team will gain confidence.  Here’s the tool we developed as a guide for our clients to find their “Target Account Profile.” 

Bigger, more profitable deals are always behind the door of the C-suite.  Decision makers make decisions! Everyone else just does what they say. To keep your big deals on track and to close on time with favorable terms, decision makers must be involved early.  The key for the sales team is knowing how to get there.   We call it “negotiating to power” and every successful B2B sales team knows how to do this well.  Make sure your team is learning the important skill of “negotiating to power.” This is a game changer! Here’s a 3-minute video that will help.

Decision makers make big decisions to keep the company growing, profitable and risk free. They think in terms of strategy, risk avoidance, profit growth, customer retention, etc.  They are looking for big impact once their challenges are resolved and are willing to pay big money (AKA the 3X rule) in return.  It is NEVER about our product, it’s about the solution it provides specifically to solve these important issues!  As sales professionals, we generally talk too much, and when we do, we are commonly talking to much about us… a true deal killer habit.  Check out the video above for help with this also.

There are four kinds of salespeople, one is powerful, the rest are not:

  • Those who can’t and won’t sell.
  • Those who can but won’t sell.
  • Those who can’t but will sell.
  • Those who can and will sell.

If you want to experience a paradigm shift when it comes to understanding the makeup of a successful enterprise salesperson, take a 5-minute read on the Modern Science of Salesperson Selection.

globe, computer, mail drawing

Lead Generation Fail – The One Key

No predictability, less than satisfactory volume and poor-quality results! If this is happening with your lead generation, it’s frustrating! The absence of consistent results can leave you feeling like you’re not in control of your destiny and it’s an uncomfortable place to be!

Consider this…

…your prospects are sending you a message. They are saying: You don’t get me; you sound just like everyone else; you’re just trying to sell me something; I can’t relate to you. Here’s a self-evaluation test: Look at your website, does it talk more about YOUR product and who YOU are, or does it communicate to your prospects that you know them and understand their challenges. A prospect needs to believe they are known! If you’re not clearly communicating that you know your prospect, it’s time to take a hard look at things.

Sending out the message is the easy part. The harder and more important element is hitting the right target buyers and getting the message right for them. Here’s our Small Tech B2B Lead Gen Starter Kit if you’d like some basic guidance. It will get you and your marketing efforts headed down the right path.

Knowing and understanding EXACTLY who are your target companies, who are your real buyers in those companies, what they struggle with, and how it effects their daily life, is the lead generation game changer…

Knowing Your Customer is the One Key! Getting these answers is not a one-time event. It’s consistently seeking to understand and testing your communication by monitoring the results of your lead generation. It’s a process. The tools to be successful are right there in your HubSpot / SFDC (or any other CRM).  You just need to have things set up correctly, so you can read the tea leaves and make appropriate changes.  

There are clues amid your company. Start with your wins and losses, look at your open rates, click through rates, and your call-to-action numbers. Ask yourself if your lead velocity and quality are improving and if you can clearly measure it. Your goal is to unlock those clues and continue to tweak until you hit the bullseye.

So, before you spend too much for too little results, get your message and your target right! Earn the pleasure of enjoying their engagement by giving your prospects the things they need to do their job better. Don’t sell them… engage them by being a resource.

leader with flag climbing steps

How to Avoid Sales Leadership Failure

The average tenure of a Sales VP is now less than 19 months, down from 26 months just 7 years ago.  If you have a 4-to-6-month sales cycle, that can be as little as 3 sales cycles. The Sales VP position is the most replaced position on the executive team, for good reason. As a Sales VP, the reality is you must make a tangible and measurable impact within the first 90 days, or your tenure is in jeopardy.  In sales leadership the VP must produce quickly.  

Also, being the manager of the Sales VP can be a difficult position. If you do not have a sales background, how would you know how to hire the right Sales VP?  And if you can tell early there are issues, what steps need to be taken?  This is why you hired them, right? It is an unfortunate situation and a major contributor to sales leadership turnover. 

Here is some practical advice from a guy (me) who has been coaching execs and their sales leaders for a good while.  Look for these four things first: 


With low production of sales (usually in the first 90 days), the quality and quantity of your lead generation and sales pipeline should be measurable and growing.  In the absence of strong sales, the pipeline is your first indicator of coming success.  For more insight on how your sales pipeline should be setup and functioning read:  Avoiding Happy Ears and Pipeline Bloat in Your Revenue Pipeline.

Accountability & Coaching

Underperformance from the sales team cannot be left to correct itself, because it will not.  Effective use of lead generation and the sales pipeline should be able to quickly identify failure points.  Then with positive accountability, sales leadership can provide strategic coaching to begin the journey back to revenue success.  Using a repeatable strategic sales process will dissect the why behind failure points. Look to see what documented and dated “next steps” are in each sales cycle and track the results.  This should tell you quickly if the coaching and accountability are effective. 


I learned this one the hard way many years ago.  In 5 years, I built a sales team from 3 to 100, but I almost failed before I got started.  Using resumes and gut feel, I hired salespeople who were required to hunt for new business, it was a colossal failure.  As soon as I hired one person, got them trained and moved on to the next hire, the first one quit.  I was running in place and falling behind very quickly.  If a Sales VP cannot consistently hire the top 20% “flavor” of your sales requirements (hunting, account management, farming, customer service) then failure, underperformance, cost of sale and team swagger will quickly move in the wrong direction.  Read more on the topic Sales Leadership Failure Starts and Stops Here.  

When executed effectively and consistently, these four areas will change the course of sales results, enable scaling to take place, and eliminate many sales team struggles.   

What do you do when these things are not happening?  Get some help! For you and your sales leader, it is important to know if they are the right person for the role and what help they need to be successful.  If the results are not there, the worst thing to do is to continue down the same path.   


Is Your Sales Pipeline a Lie?

Untruthful Sales Pipelines Will Waste Your Resources

Think about it, for every deal your sales team is chasing that will not close, you could be using those resources for finding good opportunities that will.  I’ve seen this simple strategy turn around many a company’s fortune in short order.  Chasing opportunities that have little to no chance of closing raises the cost of sales, squanders resources, and leads to discouragement.

Here is the Truth – There are two winners in every deal!

Those two winners are:

  1. The salesperson who knows that the opportunity is his or hers, and
  2. The salesperson who knows the opportunity is not hers or his, early in the sales process.

When you can accurately determine the deal is not yours early, your win rate and productivity will skyrocket! 

Pipeline Bloat & Happy Ears

Happy ears is the cause of pipeline bloat.  Happy ears happens when salespeople do not know how to qualify opportunities early in the sales process and convince themselves (and the company) that their deal is going to close, when it is not.  Pipeline bloat gives you hope of a dependable future revenue stream but disappoints when it counts… at the end of the month, quarter and year.  How do you know when your sales pipeline has a bloat problem?   Generally, when you are chasing RFPs, your close rates are under 33%, and you have too many deals that don’t ever make a final decision.  

There’s a huge upside to this!

Don’t be too hard on yourself or your team… this is a very common dilemma.  The good news is, that when addressed properly, this problem is very fixable and can literally skyrocket your sales results beyond what you would ever expect! Here’s a rule to remember, “managing a sale cycle is all about getting to the truth, as early as possible.” 

Where do you start to see if you have a problem?

Quality First! Let’s start by defining what quality is.  My first level definition of pipeline quality is: an opportunity engagement at the decision maker level, where there is a problem that has a meaningful consequence (that your solution can fix), which needs to be resolved within “x” period. 

Quantity – There are two pipeline numbers that I consider to be vital indicators to future revenue, they are Pipeline Velocity & Weighted Pipeline Value.  If these numbers are not visible and well defined, chances are the company may be working on the wrong end of a revenue problem.

Pipeline Velocity – The single most important metric to a healthy, vibrant, and growing pipeline. Pipeline velocity defined, is the quality and quantity of new opportunities coming into the pipeline in any given period (usually month or quarter) to reach a revenue goal.   A salesperson’s first job must be to bring in the right pipeline velocity (quality and quantity) of new opportunities to exceed goal. 

Weighted Pipeline Value – Weighted Pipeline Value (WPV) – Assuming the opportunities in the pipeline meet the criteria for each stage, WPV is a simple formula that will tell you the future real total value of your revenue pipeline, e.g. take all your opportunities with a close date of × period multiplied by the probability amount of each opportunity = your revenue forecast for that period.  If your pipeline is giving you an inaccurate revenue forecast, it can be traced directly back to your sales strategy and process and whether your sales team has the competencies to execute on it.

Pipeline Review Basics – Keeping the pipeline clean and accurate is an ongoing required discipline to keep your team held to the right standards and your revenue streams on track.  To keep it simple there are seven data points to a meaningful opportunity review, they include:

About the author – Actionable, inspirational and real “JJ” draws on 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur, sales coach, trainer and motivator to wage war on sales mediocrity to deliver stellar results.  Jeff has been instrumental in helping his clients win multi-million-dollar opportunities from the likes of Siemens, BB&T, Caterpillar, Southwest Airlines, Luxottica, Grupo Modelo, and Ferrero while competing against the Goliath’s of their Industry. 

happy ears

Avoiding Happy Ears and Pipeline Bloat in Your Revenue Pipeline

Happy Ears & Pipeline Bloat

Happy ears is an insidious contamination that runs rampant in many sales organizations and causes a fatal revenue disease called pipeline bloat.  

Pipeline bloat gives the sense that you have a future revenue stream that will meet your goals and expectations but often disappoints when it counts…  at the end of the month, quarter and year. 

How do you know when your team has been contaminated and you have a full-blown plague on your hand?

Typically, your team is relying on what they think and what your prospects / customers are saying… not on what they are doing.  There is one rule you must always apply, “it is not what the prospect / customer says, it is what they do.” Salespeople tend to become emotionally involved in their sales cycles.  

They want their deals to close so they can earn a commission, not have to do the hard work of prospecting, and imagine a future state of bliss. Unfortunately, too many salespeople live in a dream world of hope versus knowing (based on evidence) that an opportunity will close. 

The larger and longer the sales cycle, the deadlier this can be to the salesperson and the company’s future health.  This is both a sales strategy and process problem along with a leadership problem. Don’t be too hard on yourself or your team… this is a very common dilemma. 

The good news is that it’s very fixable and can literally double your sales results when addressed properly!  Remember this truth, “managing a sale cycle is all about getting to the truth, as early as possible.” 

Being Shrewd & Innocent 

A well-defined and executed sales strategy with a process is essential to having a truly “Killer Sales Organization” that produces a rock-solid pipeline.   An accounting department uses GAAP (an accounting strategy / process) and has been trained in its application. 

An IT department has been trained and uses strategy and processes in similar ways depending upon on their technology platform and the applications they deploy.

This is the reason that they can always get results, resolve the difficult problems, and scale their organization to whatever is required to reach a defined goal. 

Given that your sales and marketing department is your single source to revenue achievement, ask yourself if they are being trained, coached and mentored in an effective sales strategy and process.  Without it, chances are you will be challenged to reach any increasingly defined revenue goal.

Sales strategy and process begins with being both shrewd and innocent.  Shrewd means you know what is happening (during an interaction with a prospect, not after), how it will positively or negatively influence the future outcome of the opportunity, and how to respond to either leverage the positive or change the potential negative to affect a future positive outcome.  

Using a simple example… when a prospect asks for a quote, proposal or RFP this can mean several things. It could be a way to get your information, to compare and negotiate with your competition, whom they have already chosen to do business.

Since most customers and prospects don’t like to say no, they often ask for information (brochure, proposal or quote) and then disappear.  However, and fortunately, sometimes it does mean they are ready to buy.

 The question is, do your salespeople know which of these are happening to them and what to do when it does? This, among many other sales pitfalls, are happening to your sales team every day. 

What’s important is that these pitfalls don’t continue to go undetected and opportunities with little or no merit continue to end up in your pipeline.  The key is to spot these pitfalls immediately and take corrective action. If not, you will be wasting very expensive company resources and give everyone a false sense of the future.

A salesperson’s biggest problem is they act like a salesperson talking about their product, focusing on their agenda, not understanding the prospect’s goals and therefore are treated like a salesperson. 

 How do you treat salespeople? Probably like me, give them little to no evidence you have a problem, try to get the information you need as quickly as possible, and then get rid of them fast. This is where innocence comes in, your people need to be innocent, i.e., trusted from the very start.  

This all starts with breaking down that mental script we all have and use to manage salespeople, because we don’t trust them (many times for good reasons).

 Most salespeople don’t even know this is going on, how they are actually causing it, or what to do about it when it is happening to them! To have opportunities in the pipeline that are solid and well-sponsored from our customers and prospects, we tell our salespeople to go out and listen well.  

The problem is our salespeople don’t have a strategy with a repeatable process that gets the prospect to lower their guard and then motivates them to talk so we can listen well and get to the truth. 

Is it any wonder that we have bloat in our pipelines? Being both shrewd and innocent during each phase of a sales cycle is foundational to being the dominant market player in your space.

Pipeline Velocity

The single most important metric to a healthy, vibrant, and growing pipeline. Pipeline velocity defined, is the quality and quantity of new opportunities coming into the pipeline in any given period (usually month or quarter) to reach a revenue goal.   

A salesperson’s first job must be to bring in the right pipeline velocity (quality and quantity) of new opportunities to exceed goal. In absence of this, they WILL NOT be successful.

Let’s start by defining quality.  My generic definition of a Stage 1 pipeline opportunity is, an opportunity engagement at the decision maker level, where there is a problem that has a meaningful consequence (that your solution can fix), which needs to be resolved within “x” period.  

If you are selling $1,000,000 software and not speaking to the person who is responsible for solving it, your win probability is unlikely (unless you’re selling pencils). Hold your salespeople accountable to getting to the decision maker, but make sure they have a solid strategy and process to do so first.  

Next, a meaningful consequence is generally defined as 3x value of the problem. Therefore, if you have an average deal size of $100,000, then the problem should be worth $300,000 to get fixed. 

The key here is not just finding out what the problem is, it is understanding WHY the problem is worth $300,000 to fix, and what are the consequences if not addressed. Ultimately, this is what will drive every sale cycle to close and without it there is little hope for success.

Learning how to find and qualify this type of prospect is the first most critical step in any sales process. If your sales playbook does not have a clear path to accomplishing this, it’s important you get one as quickly as possible!  The final Stage 1 qualifier is timing – when will it close. 

You don’t want extended close date opportunities in the pipeline for two reasons. First, a long close date means there is a strong probability of no compelling and meaningful reason to solve the problem that will drive the opportunity to close, and second, long future close dates will bloat the value of your pipeline.

Lastly, the quantity… based on the quality above, it is reasonable to give a close probability of this Stage 1 opportunity of 25%.  

Assume we have an average Stage 1 opportunity size of $10,000 and we have a quarterly goal of $50,000. $50,000 ÷ $10,000 = 5 Stage 1 opportunities needed to close $50,000 of business each quarter.  Since the Stage 1 opportunity probability is 25%, we need 5 (Stage 1 opportunities) ÷ 25% = 20 (Stage 1 opportunities) coming into the pipeline per quarter, since only one in 4 will close.

We now can determine the required Stage 1 opportunity pipeline velocity needed per week and month to be successful.  As an example, if the per quarter Stage 1 opportunity requirement is 20 then divided by 12 weeks in a quarter equals 1.66 (rounded up = 2). 

I now know I need each of my team members to deliver two Stage 1 opportunities per week that meet the quality definition above, to be successful. All I need now is an aligned and repeatable lead generation and sales strategy with a process to make sure I am consistently accomplishing the goal.

Pipeline Review Basics – Keeping the pipeline clean and accurate is an ongoing required discipline to keep your team held to the right standards and your revenue streams on track.  To keep it simple there are six data points to a meaningful opportunity review, they include:

  1. Age of the Opportunity;
  2. Decision Maker Name and Role;
  3. Stage of the Opportunity,
  4. Articulated Pain;
  5. Next Step (with dates for its accomplishment);
  6. Close Date: and finally
  7. Weighted Pipeline Value.  

Age of the opportunity – generally I would not allow an opportunity to stay in the pipeline that was over 1.5 times the length of an average sale cycle.  Slow moving sales cycles that linger in the pipeline usually do not have adequate sponsorship or business consequences to move it along to close.  

There is a high chance that your salesperson has happy ears and is relying on a strategy of hope (which does not close deals). For a strategy to follow on determining which of these languishing opportunities are real and which are not, read my article here “Sales Revenue Tail Spin, Read Quickly Before You Have To Jump.”

Decision Maker Name & Role – it can be difficult to get to a decision maker.  However, once there and after a good discovery session on business strategy, along with how your solution can resolve it, the sale is yours to lose.  If you are one level below and your competition is at the decision maker level, you’ve lost already. 

A quality opportunity has all the key stakeholders involved and an understanding of their individual pain points (AKA problems that have consequences).  If you are getting excuses from your sales team that they can’t get to that level, it’s because they don’t know how and they need help.

Stage of the Opportunity – We’ve defined (Stage 1) by addressing its quality and quantity components.  There are 3 other stages equally as important and key to pipeline management. 

These are, (Stage 2) Resource & Money Requirements – 50% probability, (Stage 3) Decision Making Process with go / no go steps – 75% probability, and finally (Stage 4) Close-ability 90% probability. Each stage has unique quality and quantity definitions that align with a repeatable sales strategy and process for its accomplishment.  

Articulated Pain –    A problem with a consequence equals pain.  As stated previously, the key is not just finding out what the problem is, it is understanding WHY the problem is worth X amount to fix, and what are the consequences if not addressed.  

Often, I find inadequate pain statements in the opportunity pipeline like, he wants a new machine because he does not like the way the old one works, or she is tired of hearing complaints about how hard the software is to use.  

A salesperson with pain statements like this in the pipeline is an indicator of someone who has not had the right coaching and training to ask the right questions. Unfortunately, companies don’t spend good money to fix these kinds of problems.  

I’m not saying the company does not have real pain, what I am saying is the salesperson does not know what the real drivers are.

Therefore, we cannot accurately judge the opportunity. Further, how could the salesperson be considered a trusted advisor to their prospect if they do not understand the business issues at this level? 

Companies spend money to solve liability issues, or quality control challenges that are losing customers and keeping the company from growth.  

Make sure your team gets to the heart of the matter. It will make them trusted advisors with your prospects, place them head & shoulders above their competition, and provide the influence needed to control the sales cycles until the check for the order clears the bank.

Next Step – A sales cycle is not a sales cycle unless it has a clearly defined and agreed to meaningful next step towards closing the opportunity between the customer and the salesperson. Sale cycles are not one sided, both parties must be involved. 

Remember, it’s not what the prospect says, it is what they do. If your salesperson is doing all the work and your prospect is doing little to none, don’t fool yourself, you have an opportunity with little to no merit. 

Make sure each opportunity has a current next step (that the prospect must complete) with dates that are being met. Whatever is not growing forward is shrinking backward!

Close Date – What is the projected close date?  Because all the details driving an opportunity are not known, early in the sales cycle the close date is an estimate and should be conservative.  By the end of stage 2 the close date should be mutually agreed upon by the buyer and seller. 

Most importantly, an understanding of what the customers internal drivers are that make this date vital should be clearly articulated. The close date should never be an arbitrary date. Ask yourself the question… is the driver for this close date important enough to keep the opportunity on track? If not, don’t be surprised if the opportunity keeps getting pushed out.   

Often projected close dates are driven by the wrong reasons, e.g. the salesperson’s desire for the deal to close so they can make their quarter or year. 

A strong opportunity has the customers reasons driving the close date, not the salespersons.  In absence of this, you will find your salespeople will resort to creating drivers like discounting, begging and chasing your prospects… not a solid strategy to achieve company goals.

Weighted Pipeline Value (WPV) – Assuming the opportunities in the pipeline meet the criteria for each stage, WPV is a simple formula that will tell you the future real total value of your revenue pipeline, e.g. take all your opportunities with a close date of this quarter × the probability amount of each opportunity = your quarterly revenue forecast.