If you’re in B2B sales in a medium or SME business, then it’s highly likely you will have a focus on both finding new business as well as servicing and retaining your existing accounts.

A lot of prospecting advice given out to sellers is around building out a strong pipeline to make sure that when a deal fails, regardless of how far through you pipeline it is, there will be others to replace it. I agree multiple high-quality deals in your pipeline can be the answer. However, what I often also see is too many deals in pipelines which are overloaded and risk becoming stale. The common focus on having 3 – 5 times pipeline volume as a metric often drives the wrong activity. (As managers, we need to be careful what we inspect/ expect).

If we compare a reps available prospecting time versus the activity levels required to advance those deals, most sellers in this situation have too many deals in their pipeline versus the amount of time they have to develop those deals. This means that many deals are never developed and become wasted opportunities.

Prospecting versus Nurturing.

If you’re operating at the front of your pipeline and you’re trying to generate interest from prospects? Then we know it’s going to take about 7-10 touches across a specific time frame (say a 60day block). I calculate it takes nearly 6mins per single opportunity per week to prospect across multi-channels. PROSPECTING!

If the prospect (deal) is engaged and it’s a matter of waiting for the prospect’s ‘buying window’ to open. For example, a contract renewal, a new need to develop, the existing supplier needs to stumble, or even the sales process is long and tedious, think enterprise sales. Then we could be said to be in the NURTURING stage, and this takes around 4mins per week, per opportunity. These times exclude attending sales meetings.

If you’re one of the many salespeople who need to manage their time across both creating new business and servicing your existing clients, you need to calculate the time you have available for both prospecting and nurturing. Then take that available time and allocate that time per opportunity. I believe, if you don’t have the time to work a prospect into a lead, you shouldn’t even start. Instead, leave it sitting ‘on the shelf’ until you have the capacity. Leave it for another day.

Consistently good, beats occasionally great, in sales.

Consistency is also important for deal progression. Reaching out once or twice and giving up on a prospect is a sure way to be unsuccessful, regardless of how good your outreach is. (Occasionally great) We now know that we need to map-out a valid multi-touch strategy to get a robust conversation started with our prospects. (Consistently good)

Having 100 leads who are pursued through just two touches is likely to be much less successful than having 25 leads who have a deliberate allocation of 6-8 careful touches. Those 25 leads are more likely to develop into conversations and move through to a conversion than those 100 leads. In this scenario, at the completion of this prospecting block, we will still have 75 lovely leads left to pursue.

As a more in-depth example, if you have 13 prospects at the front of the pipe and 12 further along, this can take around 4hrs and 8mins, per week, to stay on top of. Most Sales Leaders/ Account Managers/ Executives I talk to are surprised that it can take this long to work so few deals. If you were to multiply this by 4 to cater for 100 leads, this means you’d be spending more than 45% of your total work time working these leads (Plus you still have to add in sales meetings).

When we need to measure pipeline volume, I suggest we deliberately allocate sub-sectors inside your pipeline by size. Taking the 25 leads as an example, where appropriate, this pipeline could have five deals with a very large deal size, 5 with a large deal size, 5 with an average deal size, 5 with a lower value and finally 5 with the minimum value. The total of these leads volume hits the 3 – 5 x quota ratio. The exact ratio is dependent on your selling situation, but I think you get the idea.

The other reason smaller deals are essential to include (Small fish are the sweetest fish) is that it helps us to maintain sales momentum and sales practice. We get to stay in ‘practice’ the process of moving sales to completion with deals of all sizes. This way, we are less likely to ‘mess up’ when we get to those more important deals. (Again, being consistently good, rather than occasionally great).

Only managing the volume of a salesperson’s pipeline is not always the best approach. If we have too strong a focus on driving these volume numbers, we risk sellers, either consciously or unconsciously, loading the number of deals to meet those metrics whether they be real deals or not, or whether they have the time to develop those deals or not.

Both scenarios are less than ideal. How does your pipeline stack up?

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Mark McInnes
Mark helps businesses to find and engage with new customers in today’s business environment. The # 1 ‘sales’ problem most companies complain about is that they do not have enough volume in their pipeline because their current sales strategies are no longer working as well as they once did. A sales trainer across APAC with a strong focus on the top of the sales, funnel, Mark helps his clients to find more customers and engage with them credibly and ethically – be it online or via traditional sales channels. Ranked Australia’s # 1 Social Seller by LinkedIn on LinkedIn (2016). Mark draws heavily on his time in the Australian ARMY as an Assault Trooper where, amongst other things, he guarded the Queen of England. He leverages some of the techniques and disciplines he gained while travelling the world with the ARMY in the development of his unique approach to his business dealings & sales philosophy. Mark has experience across industries such as Financial Services, FMCG, Entertainment, Hospitality, B2B Business equipment, Management Consulting, Marketing and SaaS.