Get Real with your Sales Pipeline: 4 Steps to Managing that Pipeline

For many startups or small companies the CEO is the salesforce.

The good news? Most CEOs, by nature, have strong sales instincts. CEOs are passionate, accustomed to pitching ideas (and their companies) and can usually determine which relationships to target and what solution to pitch. The downside? The CEO is the sales force.

For all companies, but particularly for startups and small organizations, it is critical to forecast revenue. Investors want updates, budgets have to be managed, and talent acquired in tight alignment with growing revenue. Being able to deliver a solid sales forecast is the answer to that cliché CEO interview question – “What keeps you up at night?”

Two major challenges companies encounter when the CEO is the salesforce are bandwidth constraints and the lack of a formal sales process. These challenges can make managing the sales pipeline tough.
Introducing and committing to an ongoing process for managing and accessing your pipeline will go a long way to helping you address these challenges.

If you want a forecast you must accurately assess and manage your pipeline. Implement this 4-step plan and you’ll see the accuracy of your sales forecast improve:

1. Assess the strength of your sales opportunities so that you can focus your efforts on the right ones.

2. Determine what actions to take for each of your target opportunities: to move it forward to close, or qualify it out of the pipeline.

3. Prospect Weekly: aka, finding or engaging new opportunities – so your funnel doesn’t dry up.

4. Commit to a weekly review of your pipeline. It is dynamic and you must be disciplined to keep track of where you are and what actions are needed to move each opportunity forward.

Oh, and the last thing is most important! Don’t do this process in a vacuum. A pipeline review is not a solitary activity. If you are a small start-up or even a sole practitioner, you will need to find a teammate or a coach to participate in your weekly pipeline review.

Stay focused on the right things!

This post is the first in a series on Sales Pipeline management. Subsequent posts cover the 4-step pipeline management process in detail, and will discuss activities and specific questions that you can apply to your sales calls to help you continuously assess your opportunities and generate accurate forecasts.

About Lilly Ferrick
Lilly Ferrick LLC offers services in part-time or fractional sales management, contract sales, sales process consulting, and one-on-one sales coaching. We help companies win larger, more profitable engagements, decrease length of sales cycle, manage pipeline, and improve closing rates. Please contact us to learn more, or to schedule a complimentary session.