Nothing Matters Unless You Are Working With a Qualified Pipeline Opportunity

To be successful in sales you must invest your time on qualified pipeline opportunities. All of the training and knowledge in the world will not help you if you are working on ugly deals that will never close.

Don’t Swing At Nothing Ugly

Back when my son played little league baseball, we were in a critical game at the end of the season. It was the bottom of the 6th inning and the game was tied. We had two outs against us and the bases were loaded. All we needed was a hit to win.

If we won the game we were off to the playoffs. If we lost the season was over.

With everyone on both teams on the edge of their seats, our next hitter walked out of the dugout. On his way to the plate, one of our coaches, Coach Sandro, pulled him aside for a last bit of sage advice.

He took a knee, looked the young man in the eyes, and said, “What ever you do, don’t swing at nothin’ ugly.”

As Coach Sandro walked back to his position on the third-base line, it struck me just how profound his advice was when applied to sales.

Salespeople Waste Time Swinging At Ugly Deals

If you’ve ever played baseball or softball, or your kids do, you’ve witnessed a batter chase a wild pitch way outside of the strike zone. The results are predictable and embarrassing. The fans, coaches, and players just echo a collective groan, “How in the world could he swing at that pitch?”

It is no different in sales. Each sales day salespeople swing at ugly deals:

  • Unprofitable
  • Not a good fit
  • Too small
  • Too big
  • Too risky
  • No budget
  • Wrong industry
  • Not in the buying window
  • Without an identified decision maker

From the outside looking in it is obvious that these low probability, ugly deals will never close and will be a drain on energy, emotions, and time.

Yet, in spite of the obvious signs, salespeople forge forward, placing these deals in their pipelines and forecasts. Then, waste endless hours working on ugly deals that will never close.

The results are predictable. The vast majority of these salespeople strike out.

Meanwhile, frustrated sales managers look on in dismay, pleading with their salespeople to let these ugly deals go. It is an ongoing battle that is a core part of the sales manager’s job as a coach– just as it is the job of the baseball coach to keep players swinging in the strike zone.

How to Qualify Pipeline Opportunities and Keep it In the Strike Zone

So what can Sales Professionals do to keep from chasing ugly deals and how can sales managers help them?

Define the Strike Zone:

Here is a blinding flash of the obvious, if you don’t define the strike zone, you will waste a lot of time chasing ugly deals. Far too many companies and sales organizations have failed to develop the profile of an ideal prospect or customer. Therefore, the first step is to develop an Ideal Qualified Prospect profile (IQP).

Pipeline Discipline:

Make a commitment to measure every prospect, deal, and customer against your IQP. When they don’t fit, develop the discipline to walk away.

Leverage the Team to Keep it Real:

Not every deal is going to fit your profile perfectly. This is not how the real world works.

In some cases it may make sense to take some risk and swing outside of the strike zone. But there is a difference in taking a risk and chasing an ugly deal. Analyzing pipeline opportunities as a team is a powerful way to move forward with calculated risks and keep it real.

Working as a team gets everyone engaged in pipeline management and is an excellent way to help new salespeople how to qualify opportunities.

Salespeople can be so close and so committed to an ugly deal that they cannot see the obvious and will not listen to their sales leaders. However, they’ll often get a wake up call when the entire team tells them that their deal is ugly.

Coaching and Pipeline Reviews

It is crucial that sales leaders conduct regular pipeline reviews and look at each opportunity in the forecast. Good sales managers coach their sales pros: “Don’t swing at nothin’ ugly.”

The End Goal

The end goal is to keep your pipeline full of viable, qualified deals that have a high probability of closing. When you do your pay check will get bigger, you will have more fun, and ultimately you will have more time to spend on other things in your life.

This week when you hit the phones, get in your cars, or board airplanes to meet with prospects and customers remember Coach Sandro’s words, “Don’t swing at nothin’ ugly.”

Learn more about effective qualification techniques and strategies for sales pipeline opportunities in Jeb Blount’s #1 Best Seller Sales EQ. Download two free chapters of Sales EQ here. 

About the author

Jeb Blount

Jeb Blount is one of the most sought-after and transformative speakers in the world…

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