One of the major reasons why salespeople don’t achieve their revenue targets is because opportunities stall or get stuck in the pipeline process. Sales Managers should be playing a key role in helping salespeople maintain momentum of their pipeline and accelerate revenue of their teams. They need to help sales reps examine the early, middle and late stages of the pipeline process and ask questions that challenge the common assumptions regarding why they believe an opportunity has stalled. Managers should also ask questions that help their reps develop alternative strategies to jump start the opportunity again.

Ignite Selling’s research shows that when an opportunity stalls in the pipeline, over 75% of the time it will stall in the early to middle stages of the pipeline. So, what does this mean? One answer might be that sales reps are skipping critical sales activities by assuming they know the answers. Another possibility is that the critical sales activities were never built into the sales pipeline. As a result, sales reps simply forget to focus on some of the necessary fundamentals, like identifying the critical metrics the customer wants to improve in the next 12 months or identifying the key decision criteria the customer is using to compare one vendor to the next.

Check out this podcast between Phil Gerbyshak, from The Inside Sales Show, and Steve Gielda, Managing Partner at Ignite Selling, for more advice on selling, coaching, and accelerating revenue.

Some highlights of the video:

To understand the process better, you must look at your sales and coaching process.

Often sales managers act as super-salespeople – the closer – when really that is only a short-sided plan that does not accelerate revenue quarter after quarter. A good sales manager is one who helps develop their sales team to THINK and ACT more strategically so they can become successful, independent of their manager.

There are two main roles of a Sales Coach:

  1. One role is the Strategic Sales Coach, where the manager knows how to look at the sales pipeline process and ask thoughtful questions that challenge their sales reps’ assumptions and helps develop alternative strategies the sales rep couldn’t come up with on their own.
  2. Another role is a Tactical Sales Coach, where the manager helps their sales reps better execute the strategies they’ve developed. It’s about helping to develop a smart meeting agenda, asking the right questions, talking about the unique differentiators, and closing the conversation with an agreed upon next step.

Most salespeople know that they should leverage advocates to neutralize their adversaries, however, they often don’t think about more than one way to make this happen. They take one attempt, if it doesn’t work, the opportunities stall in the pipeline.

This is where a smart sales manager steps in, proactively, to explore what is working and what is not working when neutralizing a high influence adversary. They ask questions that challenge the critical thinking of their sales rep. They help them develop an alternative plan to ensure the opportunity never loses momentum.

Managers should use these three questions to help reduce the likelihood of an opportunity stalling in the sales pipeline:

  1. What’s the decision criteria your customer is using to compare you against the competition?
  2. How are they ranking that criteria from most important to least important?
  3. How does this customer perceive our ability to meet that criteria compared to the competition? Are we comparably better or worse in the eyes of the customer?