Inevitably, as I do pipeline and deal reviews, I see sales people hanging onto too many bad deals. The deals are hopeless, the sales person may reluctantly admit it, but stubbornly wants to keep it in their active pipeline.
These deals arise for all sorts of reasons, some good, but most bad.
There are those deals way outside the sweet spot. Perhaps someone responded to a call or email, thinking there might be a fit or a need. But they are the wrong customer, customers where we have had very little success in the past (that’s why they aren’t in the sweet spot.).
There are those where we may simply be “RFP fodder.” We’re the second or third the customer has to consider, but they’ve already made their decision.
There are often a lot that may be in our sweet spot, but they are poorly qualified. They don’t have a current need, their interest is marginal. They may have gotten into the pipeline as a result of a manager saying something like, “You don’t have enough deals in your pipeline, you are way below your required coverage numbers. You need to fill up your pipeline!” We know how easy it is to hit those ideal pipeline numbers, just stop qualifying, fill the pipeline with junk.
There are those that were really good opportunities, but somehow they’ve drifted. The customer may have been diverted into other priorities, project funding may have been lost. We don’t want to give up, so we keep trying to stir up interest, we keep pushing the target close date out another 30 days, then another 30 days, then another…..
Then there are those that we’re hanging onto out of pure stubbornness. We’ve invested a lot of time, we have our egos tied up in winning the unwinnable. Or the deals where we want to prove something to the customer, our managers, or ourselves. Whatever the reason, we hang onto these deals long after their expiration date.
It’s easy to see these deals, they’re outside our sweet sport, they are stalled in the pipeline and aren’t moving, they’ve been in process way longer than our normal sales cycles. Pipelines get bloated with deals that simply aren’t good or ours to win, but we keep working on them.
We may be afraid to move them into an inactive status and nurture the customer until there’s a better time. Our egos may prevent us from seeing they just aren’t real. We may be worried about our managers saying “You don’t have enough good deals in the pipeline!”
As a result, our pipelines are bloated and we waste huge amounts of time on things that are very unlikely to happen.
The problem is, all this stuff robs us of the time we need to find and pursue high quality deals.
Ego, stubbornness, wishful thinking have no place in our pipelines. If we want to make our numbers we have to focus on quality deals. Deals in our sweet spots, deals where there is a real need or commitment on the part of the customer to change.
Viciously disqualifying deals that aren’t real, investing our time in pursuing great opportunities, freeing out time to find those opportunities are key to productivity and making out numbers.
We want to win every deal as fast as we can—but we need to lose those we can’t win much faster!