For best results, the process of using a sales pipeline should be intuitive. This means it should be constructed to optimize time spent working opportunities, versus managing the process of working opportunities. While this is aspirational for many, achieving it is fleeting.
Reinforcing these beliefs are practices and situations I've lived through and observed over the years.
Fake It 'Til You Make It.
There are more individuals responsible for conducting Business Development activities, than have been trained to do so, at all. From what I've seen, this is largely not their choice. Little to no training means a greater inability to understand important processes, recognize terminology, or utilize important tools and resources. This unfamiliarity by many of those "doing Business Development" is driven by a lack of respect for the Business Development Life Cycle, or the sincere belief that "it can't be that hard." No matter the cause, it is a recipe for inefficiency that has companies spending significantly more time and more money to find and win business, than is necessary.
Parlez Vous Business Development?
Do you have team members with roles outside of traditional Business Development Life Cycle responsibilities interacting with pipeline information? By this I mean, do they have direct or indirect influence on what happens in the pipeline? Do they consume the outputs to support decision-making? Are they responsible for macro-level acquisition of information? Think about what I said about faking it and imagine you are the person receiving a message cited as being timely and important. Now imagine it's written in a language completely unknown to you. This happens every day, and also contributes to companies spending more time and money than needed.
Knight to C3 (The Dunst Opening)
If you have never played chess, the first, and even the tenth time doing so can be daunting, especially if you don't know the rules. Knowing how the various pieces move, when they move, and the outcomes of those moves is paramount to not falling victim to Two-Move Checkmate. The parallels between chess and establishing and working opportunity pipelines are many. Just like having rules for how the pieces move in chess, there are (or should be) rules for information entering, moving about and exiting from your organization's pipeline. Does your current process have you making too many moves, offering an unintentional advantage to your competition? Do some leads linger too long in your pipeline when they should have been "taken out" in two moves? Are the same rules in effect for partner opportunities, or do your standards relax when someone else is doing some or most of the work? If the answer to this is Yes, my next question is Why?
I recently introduced GovCon Geek Squad subscribers to Frankie the Doorman at Club Pipeline. Frankie is a fictional character representing challenge filters at the entrance to a company's pipeline. If you think of your team as an orchestra, and items in your pipeline as musical notes, the beautiful harmonies you hope to produce are revenue and profit-generating wins. Processes like Frankie, the entry filters, are critical for keeping bad notes from getting on to your teams music sheets, and ruining the sound. One missed beat can throw off the tempo of productivity, resulting in lost focus (due to shiny objects), lost time, missed opportunities, and a lower team morale.
The 3n + 1 Problem
Also known in Mathematics as The Collatz Conjecture, it is highly regarded by mathematicians as a simple but widely unsolvable math problem where everything ends up in a loop. That kind of sounds like the movement (or lack of movement) in many sales pipelines. Consider this. How much time is wasted simply trying to figure out what the math means in some pipelines?
In speaking with business leaders of growing small and mid-tier companies in Government Contracting, I continue to find common ground with them in the area of pipeline scoring. In short, many of them have moved to eliminate the unnecessary calculus in their pipelines, and instead focus on getting answers to questions, and using those answers as keys to unlock their decision gates, right up to the response. Thus, they eliminate a step that is questionable in reliability, and costly when the clock is ticking. In a world where timeliness is a critical factor in capturing customers and requirements-based revenues, saving time without jeopardizing accuracy, is a win.
Pipeline processes should be efficient and empowering, and they should enable your company to visualize its growth while you are achieving an upper-hand in the areas of knowledge and positioning.
Who's for making pipelines more user and growth-friendly?
Peace, Joy and Success,