Building Sales Pipelines: Coaching Tools

Building Sales Pipelines: Coaching Tools

Categories: Front-line Managers  |  Sales Planning  |  Sales Process

Healthy sales pipelines and accurate forecasts are grounded in structured territory, account and opportunity planning processes. These processes provide sales managers with an unrestricted line of sight into their sales organizations. Without this line of sight, sales organizations often miss quota goals, forecast revenue inaccurately, and close the majority of deals late in the quarter – or year.

A predictable sales planning process avoids these pitfalls by improving coverage of its territories and accounts. The result is a better balance between new account sales, existing account up-sells and cross-sells and an effective renewal process. To effectively lead a sales organization, managers need a repeatable rhythm that guides the sales planning and execution processes. A key part of managing an effective sales team is to coach reps on filling their own sales pipelines.

Here are four questions for front-line sales managers to consider to help them successfully coach direct reports who are struggling to build enough pipeline to consistently hit their numbers.

1. What programs and activities are your reps using to develop their territory? 

Analyze where the majority of your team's pipeline is being sourced. How much of their outreach is cold vs. warm? We encourage sales teams to adopt a franchise mindset when it comes to territory ownership, meaning the seller takes complete initiative for generating business in their territory as if it were a franchise and business of its own. This means leveraging their network to take a warmer approach to cold outreach - John Kaplan explains that strategy here.

Effective discovery is a critical part of developing the territory. Initial sales conversations should be viewed as learning opportunities. By approaching each outreach with genuine curiosity about the customer, the seller can uncover new opportunities for value. Create opportunities for your reps to practice effective discovery with role plays. Observe them on phone calls and listen specifically to their discovery skills. Identify the reps who do a great job of uncovering and developing leads and provide opportunities for other reps who need coaching to observe them. Share these resources on executing great discovery with your team.

2. What resources are they leveraging?

Great deals take a village. Ensure your direct reports are thinking ahead on how to collaborate with cross-functional team members to maximize their territory leads. The earlier in the quarter they can determine the role of other teams, the smoother the process will go. Encourage your reps to involve Business Development and Marketing in their territory plan, with clear definitions on how progress will be communicated and how handoffs are initiated. It's important that salespeople understand that they still own their plan. They should approach collaboration to enable their cross-functional partners to succeed in their roles, rather than shift responsibility. This resource has more strategies for enabling cross-functional execution.

3. Which accounts/divisions are they targeting?

If your reps are responsible for both new business and potential cross-sell/upsell opportunities, help them assess the gaps in existing accounts to identify where you have the potential to add value. To effectively build pipeline within existing accounts, your reps will need to have a strong understanding of your core value drivers and the positive business outcomes they can deliver by expanding the account. How can they capture the value that's already been created and then create new opportunities to deliver value for the customer. Guide them to identify who the key account influencers are and answer these three questions:

    • If they're expanding their solution, what is the business problem they're aligning with? 
    • What is important to the decision-maker in relation to the solution requirements? 
    • How do your differentiators align with those requirements?

4. What are the expected results?

A full pipeline is meaningless if it's not well-qualified. Review your reps' pipeline through the lens of MEDDICC or your organization's qualification criteria. What information has the rep uncovered about the prospect's buying process and potential objections? How have they confirmed the potential size of the deal? Have they defined a path to the economic buyer, technical buyer, and implementation owner, and what is known about each one's priorities/required capabilities? Assessing these factors early on will help you develop a plan with the seller to address possible deal complications before they arise, saving you from delays that lead to scrambling at the end of the quarter. Every deal included in the forecast should have a detailed qualification roadmap that gives you and leadership clear insight into the strength of each deal at a glance.

Build a Stronger Pipeline with a Revenue Mindset

A great sales planning process involves more than just the sales team. Effective cross-functional collaboration requires a consistent approach to delivering value across the revenue organization. We call that level of alignment the Revenue Mindset, and it can help your team not just drive a more consistent pipeline quarter after quarter, but follow that pipeline through for more accurate forecast delivery. This resource dives into how you can enable your larger revenue team for more seamless collaboration and higher-level execution.

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