Creating an effective sales pipeline can be a massive headache for sales leaders because reps have been known to stuff the pipeline with opportunities that have zero chance of closing.
In a previous life, I took over a product specialist role selling a web-based media monitoring and crisis communications program. My first six weeks in that role was spent culling a $3 million pipeline down to $160,000 of real, qualified opportunities.
Instead of pushing your reps to ABC (Always Be Closing) ask them to focus on ABATS (Always Be Advancing the Sale).
A steady drumbeat of ABC will inevitably result in sandbagging because your reps need to have “opportunities” in the pipeline to close.
ABATS allows your reps to only have real, qualified opportunities in their pipeline. The expectation with ABATS is that unless a rep has a mutually agreed on next step with their prospect locked in both of their calendars for that specific opportunity, then the opportunity shouldn’t make the next pipeline report.
Another benefit of ABATS is that it helps you determine if your newly hired rep is worth keeping.
For example, when you have a six step sales process (first meeting, second meeting, scope meeting, proposal/presentation, negotiation and close/implementation) you know – from historical data – the average time between each stage. During this process, you’ll be able to tell if your new rep is successfully moving opportunities through your pipeline and closing the file of the unqualified ones.
To successfully implement ABATS you must 1) clearly define and publish your sales process where everyone on your sales team can easily see it and 2) create a culture where closing files on unqualified opportunities is celebrated.
Without the former you and your reps have no common language to define if a sale is “advancing.”
Without the latter your reps will sandbag because you make them feel not-OK when they close a file.