More. More. More! More emails. More cold calls. More opportunities. More pipeline. I don’t suggest that activity isn’t important, nor would I argue with you that too many salespeople do too little with their time and energy, but there is a difference between activity and effective activity.
More emails and cold calls by themselves aren’t enough to generate additional meetings. When a sales rep sends emails and makes calls to their prospective clients, but sees little or no results, it’s clear why activity isn’t the answer.
The fully automated prospecting sequence sends thousands of emails with a low number of opens and even fewer responses. This proves that activity by itself isn’t efficient or effective. Whether a salesperson or a robot performs the activity, if it isn’t effective, it is the same as doing nothing. You should abhor waste. Wasted time. Wasted energy. Wasted client attention.
A first meeting is important, which is why you want your team to create more of them. It’s common for sales managers to believe that more meetings equate to more new opportunities. This leads most sales organizations to require that their salespeople log an opportunity in their CRM after a first meeting, including a placeholder of the potential revenue.
This is a terrible practice. It allows the salesperson to believe they have a real opportunity when they’ve barely gotten started. A first meeting may result in a new opportunity, but as more buyers and decision-makers ghost salespeople, fewer first meetings are successful. To get a true sense of your team’s opportunities, open your CRM and remove all the opportunities that have never made it to a second meeting. This is a more honest and effective approach.
Why More Pipelines Fails to Ensure You Reach Your Goals
You require your sales force to always have many times their annual quota. More opportunities seem to be the best hedge when reaching for your goals. If you have this mindset, you have good reason to hedge because you know your team will lose far more deals than they will win. The more coverage you need, the more your plan is built on losing many more opportunities than the few deals you will win.
It’s wasteful to add to a pipeline of opportunities you can’t win. You should want a pipeline of opportunities you believe you can win. You may get credit from sales leaders for the size of your pipeline and still miss your goals. The activity of adding opportunities without converting is wasted.
Worse, losing an opportunity can lock you out for years or decades if your competitor wins the opportunity. It is a mistake to believe that a larger pipeline is more important than the ability to win enough opportunities that will allow you to reach your goals.
Why More Is Less and Less Is More
We want to believe that more is better than better. The truth is that more is often less because the yield is too low. Less can be more when the outcome is achieved through effective activity. To make this case, I would challenge you to compare your top two sales reps with the rest of your team and notice that their results are far greater, not because they have the most activity, but because they have the most effective activity. They can produce more with less because they are highly effective. You worry less about your top sales reps and worry more about the rest of your team, regardless of the number of deals in each person’s pipeline.
Prospecting and Effective Activity
To improve your sales results, more emails and cold calls are not enough to produce that result. To improve your number of first meetings your salespeople must be highly effective in this critical step. The only way to get better results is by ensuring your team can succeed in the sales conversation. It never makes sense to scale up a process that consistently fails to produce the desired result. This is folly.
Before you scale up the size of your pipeline, you need to build a process and an approach that results in your salespeople being able to convert first meetings to second meetings. Until you can build an effective process, you are wasting your time and annoying your prospective clients.
Converting Second Meetings
Five large, well-regarded companies have told us that their teams can get a first meeting, only to fail to acquire a second meeting. The first meeting is easy to book by virtue of their reputation and name recognition. But the sales force’s approach doesn’t create value in the first meeting, so clients decline to give any more time to the salespeople.
It is more difficult to help salespeople improve their conversion now that they work from home and in their territory, as it is more difficult to observe them in the field. The solution here is to provide a sales methodology that ensures they create value in the first meeting. Anything less than this will fail. First meetings are too precious to waste when your team is unprepared. You need to be able to create real opportunities in the first meeting to hit your sales targets. Again, it isn’t a good idea to scale a failing process.
The Big Pipeline Problem
A big pipeline might provide you with a sense of security because it seems as though you have enough opportunities to reach your sales goals. However, many opportunities are suspect especially in the early stages, pushing real deals into the next quarter makes your pipeline fragile.
You want momentum. When deals continuously move forward from week to week, you can easily do two things. First, you have a good idea of what you will win. And second, you know what deals aren’t really deals.
Activity versus Effective Activity
Activity isn’t enough to ensure success in sales. Only effective activity can provide you with your sales goals and sales objectives. The reason leaders choose more activity is because it is easier than improving the activity and increasing sales effectiveness.
To get this right, you need to build a process that reliably produces the results you need. Once you are certain what you are doing is working, then scaling up the effective activity that will help you and your team succeed.