Salespeople – lesson from entrepreneurs – An STC Classic

A Classic - '63 Corvette

A Classic – ’63 Corvette

“Our sales teams just don’t do a good job managing their pipeline.”  There are many variations of this complaint – a popular one is how long opportunities languish in the pipeline.

As one frustrated sales manager shared: “For some of my sales reps, accounts literally take up permanent residence at Stage 3″.  I hear a thousand reasons why hope is just around the corner.  If it was just an isolated case or two, it would be one thing – but it isn’t.”

Our frustrated sales manager’s concern is clearly legitimate.  Time is something no sales rep has in oversupply.  If accounts are languishing at a stage in the pipeline, we either need a news set of ideas for moving forward or the accounts need to be purged from the pipeline.

Taking this challenge seriously was reinforced in an article about successful technology entrepreneurs and a concept called – Pivoting.

As the author noted: “Technology entrepreneurs of past eras took years to build a product, hire a staff and figure out whether there was a real market.”  Today that luxury does not exist; it is about months not years.

Enter the idea of pivoting – starting something, quickly determining whether it is working or it isn’t and leveraging the ideas learned to develop alternative approaches.

While the worlds of a salesperson and a technology entrepreneur may be far apart, it’s always a good idea to look around for ideas that one might adapt to their business situation.  While not seeking venture capital, time capital is sometime sales reps must manage to be effective.

As sales managers have told us – many salespeople don’t want to cut an opportunity loose.  We would suggest adopting a “pivoting” mentality might lead to more effective and efficient pipeline management.

Imagine a sales manager in a strategic review discussion around an account at Stage 3.  The sales manager would be asking the sales rep what’s been tried to move the account forward – what worked and what didn’t – what was learned that would help determine alternative next steps.  And, if adequate answers were not forthcoming then the decision would be made to remove the account from the pipeline.  If viable ideas were surfaced then the discussion would turn to how to immediately try those ideas out.

There is nothing new about the fundamentals behind the idea of pivoting.  It does, however, represent a banner under which one might rally support for the importance of not ill-investing time capital on accounts that hold little promise.

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©2015 Sales Momentum, LLC

About Janet Spirer

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. Janet has followed two different, yet complimentary paths. First, as a B-School Professor she taught marketing, sales, and business strategy courses. She also managed a consulting practice focusing on sales productivity and marketing – working with a variety of clients ranging from Xerox to IBM. She translated those experiences into a book – “Parlez-Vous Business” – that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully. Since co-founding Sales Momentum® in 2000 with Richard Dr. Spirer received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, an M.P.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College. She holds the appointment of Professor Emeritus at Marymount University.
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