Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Welcome to Q1!

It’s All About Pipeline

For many companies, it is early in Q1. At the end of last year, deals were closed, opportunities were pulled forward, the pipeline was emptied. Everyone took a breather.

So now we’re in Q1. Kick-off is over, sales people have been reinvigorated, tans are fading, and it’s time to get back to work.

Territories have been assigned, accounts have been allocated, SCs are chomping at the bit.

So…in most sales organizations, reps are conducting the traditional process of separating their accounts into three groups – “A”s, “B”s and “C”s. A accounts hold the most opportunity or promise, B accounts have some promise, and typically, C accounts aren’t well known or understood.

In my experience, most of the segmentation is based on simple (yet flawed) criteria:
  • Prior engagement
  • Good set of contacts
  • Existing install baseStrong revenue growth
  • Easy commute from rep’s house or office
Occasionally a long targeted account will be classified as an “A” because “this year we just have to capture that logo!”

Despite the availability of extensive firmagraphic and intent data, few accounts are appropriately targeted based on their business requirements. Targeting is still an inside-out activity, started from scratch annually or when reps turn over.

So…it’s too late to fix that problem this quarter. Lets assume that we have a defined set of accounts and sales people with time, interest and energy. Now is the time to make the investments that ensure strong customer engagement and a healthy, active pipeline later in the year.

Building A Strong Pipeline

 If you don’t know where you’re going, any old path will do…
A good house requires a strong foundation…
A quality paint job is 90% preparation…

And in the same theme, a strong pipeline consists of individual pursuits based on the identification of real business requirements and engagement with stakeholders. It simply isn’t built on hope!

Many sales organizations count on marketing to deliver sufficient numbers of SQLs for follow up…even though somewhere between one and two thirds of there leads are self-generated.

Building that robust pipeline requires an iterative process for reps and managers – researching accounts, building hypotheses about business value and stakeholders, testing those hypotheses, creating access points, delivering value to the participants so that they stay engaged and supportive. While this process is effective, we have seen it implemented in few organizations.

Selling does not have to be adversarial. With good knowledge of the customer’s business goals, needs and challenges, a sales team can build value-based relationships and help their customer to achieve those goals more quickly and efficiently. In turn, the sales team will shorten sales cycles and improve deal profitability.

Building robust pipe requires executive commitment, experienced guidance, engaged sales management and a bit of patience. So, if the path is understood and the challenges are known, why aren’t more organizations making these investments?

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