Anybody who has been in sales, at least for a decade, must have conducted sales pipeline reviews, as well as been part of sales pipeline reviews where the manager shows up and says “What are you committing this week?” “What’s your best case?” “What’s your worst case?”
And they take those numbers, and go on to reporting up to their functional leaders.
But, is it what sales pipeline review is all about? Not really.
Anyone who operates with that kind of tunnel vision, is missing a lot. They’re missing out on what those metrics tell them.
Sometimes as sales leaders, we’re all moving so quickly that we just want to grab those metrics because they’re part of the reporting process on a weekly or monthly basis. But there’s more— there’s a story behind those metrics, a set of things we can learn by running sales pipeline reviews, how we can use these reviews to help the Account Executives (AEs) and reps by removing friction along their path.
Through this blog post, we’ll try to understand what a sales pipeline review is, the structure of a sales pipeline review, what to cover during the review, and a lot more.
What is a sales pipeline review?
For starters, a sales pipeline is a visual representation of your sales process where one can see the different deals being at different stages (Qualified, Negotiation, etc.) of the sales cycle. In other words, it’s an overview of all the deals your reps are actively working on.
Therefore, a sales pipeline review is a meeting where AEs and reps report to their leaders about the deals they have in their pipeline, deals that are likely to close, and more importantly use the opportunity to seek help in advancing the deals that are getting stuck.
The misconception about sales pipeline reviews
A sales pipeline review is essential for every business to know where they stand, but it’s not all about metrics and reporting up. Historically, pipeline reviews have been about metrics, and when we do that, we’re focusing on only one side of the coin, whereas the real purpose is supporting the reps from the downstream perspective.
And that means we need to go a level deeper than just asking “What are the deals in your sales pipeline?” or “What’s your best case and worst case?”
Instead when my rep says “I’m committing a deal” we should be asking:
- Why are we committing this deal?
- Why are you committing this deal and what day are you committing it on?
- Why is it that day?
- What’s gonna be the price of that deal?
- Why is that the price?
- Who are the people involved in the deal from the prospect’s side as well as our side?
- What are the indicators that your customer has given?
I think as sales leaders, sometimes we are moving so quickly, we just want to grab those metrics because they’re part of the reporting process on a weekly or monthly basis. We just want to get them done.
The true value of a sales pipeline review is in understanding the story behind every deal in the sales pipeline and what is needed to advance those deals to closure. In fact, it is particularly helpful for the reps in the early days of their career to get a holistic perspective.
Therefore, if you’re not making the best use of sales pipeline reviews:
- You’ll not have an overview of your team’s sales pipeline and its health
- You won’t have enough external and internal context
- You won’t see the potential threats in each deal
- Your sales forecasts may not be accurate
So, while it’s important to hit the numbers—it becomes equally important to leverage sales pipeline reviews to understand the friction points and try to unblock them as much as possible.
Structuring a pipeline review
When it comes to running sales pipeline reviews efficiently, one of the first things that come to mind is—how frequently should you run it? What should you cover during the review meeting? How long should these meetings be?
For starters, there’s no stringent rule on how long or how frequently you should run sales pipeline reviews. If you’re an early-stage startup, or say a series A organization—it makes more sense to run sales pipeline reviews at least once a week to ensure alignment amidst all that’s happening in your fast-paced growing organization.
Here are a few things options you may want to consider:
- Weekly or atleast bi-weekly (in early stages)
- Monthly (depending on sales process maturity)
- Better to do 1:1s in early stages to help individuals
- Meet as a team to review bi-weekly
- 30 minutes for 1:1s
- 60 minutes when you meet as a team
- Review the health of all deals in the pipeline
- Take stock of deals in the Create, Advance, and Close stages (discussed in detail below)
- Discuss what’s need to accelerate the high-priority deals
- Each review should conclude with clear action items for each AE and rep regarding their respective deals. These can be anything from how to tackle an obstacle, negotiate, or kill a deal.
All said, the above structure is not sacrosanct. It’s just a starting point and you can iterate and improve on it as you go.
Tips to make your sales pipeline reviews efficient
1. Encourage inputs over outcome
Typically, here’s the story that a rep brings to the pipeline review:
- What’s happened with the accounts in my pipeline this week?
- Where do they stand in terms of deal stage?
- What are the next steps?
- Inputs on what needs to happen to close the deal
- Expected timeline for closure, etc.
While all that’s important, remember that nobody has complete control over closing a deal. There may be some deals that sales reps run really well, but at the end of the day that does not always happen.
You can’t say with 100% certainty that anybody is controlling the narrative, the conversation, the process from beginning to end, right?
There re so many variables that take place, and although “hope” is not a strategy, as long as you line up everything correctly in your deal cycle, you get to the end of it, and there’s a little bit of hope saying, “I did everything I can, I hope that they go with me”
Most of us recognize our teams only on deal closures and commission retired. As sales leaders, especially during a sales pipeline review, we tend to focus too much on metrics.
At the end of the day, we want to encourage every rep to focus on the controllables, i.e., the way they run their sales meetings to ensure the best possible customer experience.
For instance, sometimes you might do everything right, but the prospect might not be ready to take the leap. Because that’s not in your control.
To sum up, what matters is how we execute. The buyer experience is everything. In fact, we at Avoma reward our teams based on inputs over outcomes.
2. Practice the Create - Advance - Close Model
Over the years, one of the things I’ve consistently seen as part of sales pipeline reviews is the heavy focus on what deals are closing and what do we need to do to close those deals.
The issue with that is—you focus only on the deals that are moving towards closure, and suddenly your sales pipeline looks empty because the deals you had in the relatively earlier stages don’t get the attention it deserves.
The point is—you don’t build your sales pipeline, empty your sales pipeline, and then start all over again. You don’t want to create those rollercoaster quota metrics.
You rather want to maintain a steady sales pipeline and close rate, quarter-over-quarter, and month-over-month.
So we developed a model that we call “Create. Advance. Close” where we always focused on deals across different buckets:
- Create: What’s coming in top-of-the-funnel
- Advance: Deals that are early in the funnel as well as late in the funnel that need to be advanced to the next stage
- Close: Deals that need to closed, i.e., what’s needed to get the customer signature on the dotted line
It’s the responsibility of every sales leader to make sure that we spend enough time on all the deals across the above three categories.
It’s important because it helps you identify where you need to improve. For instance, you may have a rep that is not focusing on the ‘create’ motion, or maybe you have reps who aren’t the best at advancing deals.
For example, not every deal advances naturally. Sometimes deals stall at different stages. In such cases, the solution that I often suggest to my reps is “let’s make sure we have the next meeting scheduled.” In other words, any deal that doesn’t have the next scheduled event, is considered a “stalled deal” or “deal that isn’t advancing.”
As part of the sales pipeline review, it is the leader’s responsibility to help reps by helping navigate their deals to the next stages. And this is precisely why sales pipeline reviews shouldn’t be all about metrics.
Momentum is the key with deals, and time kills all deals. You want to ensure that deals are progressing as quickly as possible.
So, focusing on each of these three categories helps you identify gaps and train your reps on how to be proficient and effective. The idea is to make sure they’re giving enough attention to deals at each of those stages, thus ensuring you always have a healthy sales pipeline at any given point.
In fact, I would suggest that you have a checkbox on your CRM for deals that are progressing or stalling. You can run reports of deals by those stages and coach them as needed.
3. Control the overall narrative across sales pipeline stages
We all have heard that people buy from those they trust, but what's important is that they want someone who can hold their hand and walk them through the sales cycle. Prospects are in the buying process for different reasons or in different stages, for example:
- They are buying a product in your niche for the first time
- They aren't happy with that what they bought previously
- They haven't been involved in software purchases for years
And for all you know, buying software isn't a fun experience for many people.
Does this sound familiar to you as a buyer?
You've done all the research, and now you've shortlisted 3-4 products with which you want to schedule demos and make your decision based on the one that's the best fit for you.
Although you end up talking to a BDR who asks you a set of questions and then schedules a demo with the AE. Now that you've answered the questions, you hope to see the product in action.
But no—the AE now gets on the call with you and asks you the same questions. It takes a long time before you get to see the product, pricing, etc.
Sounds familiar, right?
Controlling the narrative is about switching this whole experience on its head. And what that means is the BDR telling you something like this:
"Hey, I understand that you've done your research, and thank you for choosing us. We're confident that we can help you. First, let me walk you through how companies buy our product. Then, let me walk you through the process."
The point is you set the right expectations at each stage. By doing that, you've given your buyers an overview of what's to come and guided them through the process.
For example, sometimes, it might be that your prospect wants a quick demo, but at your end, you know that the demo would make more sense once you have enough context of what they're trying to solve.
So you can tell them how a demo would be much more effective once you have some more context on X, Y, and Z factors. It helps them understand why you're asking them those questions instead of coming across as BANT qualifying them.
Ultimately, for a prospect, it boils down to:
i. Do I trust whom I spoke to?
ii. Do I trust the company?
iii. How did they treat me during the buying process?
That is why it's important to control that conversation and narrative. And this is something that every sales leader must invest in to ensure that every rep does it well.
How is this relevant to running sales pipeline reviews effectively?
Great question! A lot of the time, we tend to gloss over the strategy behind deals. When you're trying to help your reps advance deals in their pipeline, you need to know the strategic narrative behind those deals, i.e., how are we controlling the conversation.
Controlling the narrative means ensuring that the value is communicated well at each stage to increase the odds of the deal moving to the next level. It's less about asking permission at each stage but guiding and directing prospects on how they buy our software.
Finally, leverage deal intelligence to make the most of your sales pipeline reviews
Avoma’s Deal intelligence extends the power of conversation intelligence to enhance revenue operations. With Deal Intelligence, you get a 360° view of all deals in your sales pipeline, pipeline health, deals that are potentially at risk, and more. In fact, you can also deep dive into a specific deal to understand:
- Who are the people involved in the deal from your side as well as the prospect’s organization?
- Who are the key decision-makers engaged?
- What stage is the deal in currently? Is it progressing or stalling?
- The number of conversations across meetings, calls, emails
- The last contacted/engaged date and more
If you have context of all the above factors, and are clear about the next steps—your pipeline review was effective! If not, we hope this blog post gives you a solid base to start.