The best part of my job is that I don’t have to go to many meetings. You know the kind: the time-sucking blabber fests where everyone likes to hear themselves talk and nothing meaningful really gets done. I often find that meetings about new business pipelines fall into this trap.
Everyone in the meeting is trying so hard to paint themselves in the most positive light, which leads to talking too much, not asking questions and posturing, all to avoid looking like a loser in front of peers. To generate more productive, honest and positive pipeline meetings, it takes a leader who is more facilitator than boss, someone who knows how to simultaneously support and challenge people. In my experience, I’ve found that you can do three things to improve your internal communication, increase sales productivity and transform your long-term sales culture.
Spend more time talking about your sales “process” rather than your “great opportunity.” There is nothing wrong with getting excited about a potential new client, but your excitement does not help you sell. In fact, it often causes you to make assumptions and skip steps in your qualification process. Then you find yourself surprised when you didn’t get the business, which might have happened because you were mistaken about the prospect’s desire to make a change.
Instead of talking about how great your meeting went, consider discussing the important little things that help you execute a more effective sales process. Have a more tangible, frank conversation using talking points like:
- What you know about this prospect
- What you don’t know or are uncertain about
- The next steps that you and the prospect have agreed to take.
Throw in a little pinch of skepticism and intolerance for ambiguity and you’ll have the first ingredients of a genuinely productive new business pipeline conversation.
Move opportunities more quickly in and out of your pipeline discussion. How many stalled deals do you or your team have in your pipeline that you’re still talking about? Your prospect isn’t returning your emails or phone calls. You have no idea where things stand. You keep them lingering in your pipeline, hoping that at some point maybe you’ll hear back and they will excitedly tell you they want to sign on the dotted line. Some of these will come through eventually. Most won’t. It’s okay to be persistent, but it’s unproductive to hold onto stalled deals too long just because you don’t have enough other activity going on.
As a part of your pipeline meetings, talk about stalled deals. Have a discussion about why things stall, what you think is going on for the prospect at this time, and how you might approach them one more time to get their attention.
Consider that you can learn from stalled deals if you’re willing to talk about them. This topic is relevant to all of us who sell. Challenge each other to do a better job of knowing how and when to let go. You can find examples of why deals stall and what we can learn from them at stalleddeals.com.
Spend time discussing what an ideal client looks like (don’t assume everyone on your team can articulate it). Use your pipeline review meetings to challenge everyone to get clearer about the profile of an ideal client—the kind of new business you’re seeking. You attract what you define. You get more of what you tolerate. I find the more we think, talk and write about exactly what we are seeking, the more quickly and consistently we will attract it as new business.
In your pipeline meetings, facilitate conversations around simple questions like, “What are some of the attributes of our current ‘A’ clients?”; or “Good clients typically come to us when they are struggling with X, looking to capitalize on Y, and are genuinely open to Z.” Paint a picture. Create a compelling snapshot. Talk about it—out loud.
Try out one of these simple ideas at your next pipeline meeting. Build these into the structure of your meetings, and they will be less boring immediately. Focus on your sales process. Move stalled deals more quickly in and out of your pipeline. Use your pipeline meeting as a consistent opportunity to review what an ideal client looks like for you. Sounds simple right? So go do it.