A big and recurring issue I hear SaaS leadership talk about is the reliability and predictability of the sales pipeline. Reps are not hitting their commits, and they don’t know where deals are. In short, leaders often don’t trust their own team’s forecasts and pipeline.
In my last start-up, we learnt about Enterprise Sales the hard way. A lot of how we evolved our better thinking came from Mark Smith, who is hugely experienced at optimizing commercial teams. It was Mark that I first heard talk about the idea of being in control of the sale.
How do you know your sales team are not in control?
Here are some of the tell tail signs:
- Sales Reps are missing their commits and sales they thought were definitely going to close consistently don’t
- Prospects are going AWOL and not returning email or calls
- The narrative of where deals is loose and uncertain
- Deals are dragging out beyond the normal sales cycle length
Solutions That Develop Sales Pipeline Trust
I was once told that “sales people do what you inspect not what you expect.” I think there’s truth in that for us all in reality, not just sales people, which is why I like OKRs so much.
But measurement is only part of the challenge. You need to execute.
The activities you can execute to achieve improvement and grow trust, we call Growth Initiatives. Here are 5 trusted Growth Initiatives to achieve control of your sales pipeline.
1. Lead Qualification Definition Optimizations
Sales people don’t want more leads; they want better more qualified leads. Average leads are much harder to sell to and control, and create unpredictable sales results.
Part of ensuring lead quality is having a better definition of a qualified lead by choosing and using a framework like BAMP or ANUM. Take a look.
2. Structured Meetings Increase Control
All good meetings need objectives, structure and outcomes. Good Sales meetings should have:
- A defined start and stop time.
- A defined purpose of the meeting, agenda with AOB.
- Pre-defined / agreed meeting outcome e.g. if this call goes well we might agree that a demonstration is the right next step or that we’re not a good fit for you.
- A mini-agreement verbal agreement between you and your prospect to call it if it’s obvious that the deal won’t go anywhere.
3. Get Execs On Calls Earlier
Execs you’ve never met can slow or even stop deals dead, and you won’t know it’s happening until it’s too late. So, if your reps can get Execs from the Prospect and Execs from your company together on early calls, sales conversions can be higher and sales cycle shorter.
4. Improve Insightful Questions
What questions will help you help the prospect buy as they move through the sales process? Here are some examples:
- What’s your budget?
- Who will be involved in making the decision? How best do we involve [PERSONS] in the decision-making process?
- What factors will be used to evaluate the solution?
- What’s your timeline for decision making and implementation?
- What other solutions are you considering?
- Does our solution meet your needs?
- Have you seen anything that would stop your choosing our solution?
- Note that some of these questions are best asked and more likely to be answered once you have a relationship.
5. Increase Sales Responsiveness
You don’t want to sell, you want to help your prospect to buy, and being responsive is a good way of helping to achieve that. This means providing value fast when they need it. Work out what value buyers need from you (questions, documents, case studies…) and how could you provide it better and faster?
OKRs Increase Trust & Control
OKRs, Growth Initiatives and Check-ins are an established and trusted way of working if you want to create a scalable way to grow without the growing pains SaaS businesses suffer from as you scale.
OKRs define what success looks and drive the right behaviours. Weekly check-in are design to gauge confidence levels in OKRs and Growth Initiatives. If things are off-track you make changes.
The upside of creating a structure that has control baked in is simple. You have confidence in your sales goals and commits, you sell more, and scale fast.
Try these Growth Initiatives. You’ll find more just like them for Sales, Marketing, Customer Success, Product and Engineering in ZOKRI. You’ll be able to see their impact on your OKRs and Sales Pipeline. Try it out.