Stop Dreading Sales Pipeline Meetings

Sales pipeline meetings are an essential part of the sales process. Not only do they update you on the progress of opportunities as they move through the pipeline, but they can also identify potential problems in time to address them before they cost your company the deal. Even more importantly, they can be instrumental in the development of your sales representatives – but only if they're done correctly.

If you or your team dreads sales meetings, then something isn't working. Sales pipeline meetings may never be fun, but they should be helpful. These types of meetings can often turn into interrogations between managers and sales reps which doesn't help anyone. Tough questions should be asked, but there should be more to the meetings than that. An excellent way to get your meetings off on the right foot is by starting on a high note.


Weekly wins

Start the meeting by asking your sales reps to share a win. Yes, you may have sales reps who aren't doing well, but the odds are that at some point since your last meeting they had some sort of win. Whether it's a one-on-one meeting or a group, ask each sales rep to share a win. It might be a big win, like finally closing that deal. Or a smaller win, like landing a meeting with a notoriously hard-to-reach CEO. Even the tiniest win is worth celebrating here to set the tone for the rest of the meeting.

For some wins, it can be helpful to go into detail. How did that sales rep finally land that CEO meeting? Did they go through a new communication channel or simply persist through more traditional methods? What exactly went into closing that big deal? Exploring what went right can be just as helpful as what went wrong.

And there are always ways deals can go wrong. That's why the next topic on the agenda is reviewing opportunities.


Reviewing Opportunities

The truth is not all deals are closable. We've all experienced those painful interactions with potential customers. You know the ones – they drag on for months and don't end successfully. That's why it's so important to evaluate all current opportunities to try to determine which ones are closable – and which ones might be at risk.


Review Closable Opportunities

How do you know if a deal is closable? The easiest way is using a CRM software like Collabspot Connect Pro, which reviews the strengths of each opportunity through deal assessment questions. This kind of software also can rate the probability of a deal's success as high, medium, or low based on the frequency and type of communication and engagement with the prospect.

Of course, you shouldn't solely rely on software to tell you if a deal seems likely. There are all kinds of factors that go into closing a deal, and some of those can't be tracked online. That's why it's important to review opportunities in your meetings. You can review the quality of online communication that is tracked through your CRM software, but also find out how the deal is progressing in other ways directly from your sales rep.

As you review opportunities, you might come across some opportunities that could be closable but are at-risk at the moment. This is the part your meeting should focus on, as these are deals that could be put back on track with a little help.

Review At-Risk Opportunities

There are several factors that could put a potentially closable opportunity at risk. The most common – and easiest to remedy – is a sales rep dropping the ball when it comes to communication. If you are using a CRM, you can track how the activities your sales rep is doing to close the sale, see who the sales rep is contacting and how often they are doing so.

That kind of information makes it easy to spot red flags like a decrease in activity level. Making sure you review these at-risk opportunities with your sales reps helps them understand how the pipeline works and hopefully be able to spot these kinds of issues on their own. Plus you may be able to point out less obvious obstacles that might be standing in the way of a successful deal.


Identify obstacles

There are all kinds of obstacles that come up when reviewing opportunities, but the two most common types of obstacles that derail deals are lost contact and lack of coverage.

Lost contact

Most prospects don't buy immediately. In fact, 80% of sales require at least five follow-up calls after a meeting – yet many salespeople give up after only one follow-up. That's why losing contact with prospects is one of the best ways to lose a deal.

And it isn't always about the number of follow-ups. Some prospects require time to let the deal work through their channels. 63% of people who request information don't buy for at least three months. Up to 20% will take more than 12 months to purchase. That's why it's so important to for sales reps to stay in contact with prospects and keep them moving through the pipeline. But staying in contact isn't always the problem. Sometimes it's staying in contact with the wrong people.

Lack of coverage

Some deals require a lot more coverage than others. A sales rep may be in constant contact with the VP of Sales, but that person isn't the decision maker for the company. The sales rep can do everything right. It still won't close the deal because he isn't talking to the right person.

Sales reps should understand who they need to be talking to with each account. Sometimes it might be the VP of Sales. It could just as likely be the CEO, CFO, AE, or anyone in the executive suite. Lack of coverage could cost your company the deal just as easily as losing contact, so make sure you help your sales rep determine the coverage they need for their accounts.


Create action items

Helping your sales reps is the entire point of these meetings, which is why you need to go beyond just sharing information. You can have a wonderfully informative meeting, but if your sales reps don't know what to do with the information you've covered it was a waste of everyone's time. That's why you should always create a list of action items. These items should help the sales rep understand exactly what they need to do to keep the deal moving forward.

Action items could be as simple as developing a response to overcome an objection or as complicated as negotiating a contract. The important thing is that the action items are things that can be done immediately. To help keep the sales rep accountable, consider setting deadlines and alerts in your CRM. Not only will this help your sales rep know exactly what they need to do and have reminders to do it, but it will also help you keep tabs on their progress. And the sales rep should be able to report on the success – or lack thereof – of the action items at the next meeting.


Follow up on previous pipeline review

These meetings should inspire action in your sales reps, and following up on their progress since the last meeting is one way to do that. At every meeting, review what happened at the previous meeting and ask the sales rep to evaluate their progress before you do. This will allow you to see how they feel they've done in the time between meetings.

If they don't offer the information, ask them if they completed all the actions items. If they have not, ask them why. Maybe the items weren't as clear as you thought, or they needed assistance to complete them but didn't want to ask. But more often than not, knowing that they will be asked to justify not accomplishing their action items can be enough to encourage them to do it next time. But what if it isn't?


What to do if reps are unprepared

Everyone makes mistakes. If a sales rep shows up unprepared once, find out why. Maybe they had extenuating circumstances at home, or an unexpected snowstorm knocked out power for days. There could be a very valid reason for their lack of preparation.

But if a sales rep repeatedly shows up unprepared? Dismiss them. At first from the meeting, because they are wasting everyone's time by not doing their work beforehand. This lets everyone know that being unprepared isn't an option. If a sales rep refuses to prepare for meetings time after time? It might be time to dismiss them from the company entirely.

When your sales meetings are more productive, your sales reps will be more productive. By taking the time in each meeting to celebrate wins, review opportunities, create action items, and follow-up on previous meetings, your team should have a better grasp on what is expected of them. They'll also learn what to watch for as opportunities move through the pipeline, allowing them to take on more responsibility instead of relying on you to guide them. And as a bonus? No one will dread the meetings anymore!