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Best Practices for B2B Sales - Weekly Pipeline/Opportunity Review

Authored by Ric Ratkowski on October 30, 2020

This is a continuation of the previous blog on sales rep coaching.  The prior blog reviewed how sales rep coaching fits within the sales management process and outlined best practices related to “call coaching”, one aspect of sales rep coaching.  This blog focuses another aspect of sales rep coaching --  sales pipeline reviews and detail opportunity reviews.  The next blog will focus on the third aspect of sales rep coaching, sales rep performance one-on-ones.  

Weekly Pipeline/Opportunity Reviews

In the world of sales, pipeline management is the key to achieving the sales goals and creating an accurate sales forecast.  Sales pipeline reviews and opportunity reviews are one of the most important meetings a sales manager can have with each member of his/her sales team to support sales pipeline management and  to:

  • Understand if there are problems in the sales pipeline
  • Know the key deals likely to close that will support the achievement of sales quotas 
  • Strategize how best to approach each sales opportunity move it to the next stage 
  • Provide a basis for compiling the sales forecast

Beyond giving the sales manager a better feel for the sales pipeline and identifying which deals are going to close, the outcome of the one-on-one sales pipeline and opportunity review is to create purpose-driven activities for the sales rep to advance each of the opportunities and win the business. Without a sales pipeline review, sales managers will:

  • Not have feel for the health of your team’s sales pipeline
  • Not understand the external and internal context of the opportunities
  • Lack insight into sales rep performance and capabilities
  • Miss the sales forecast

A Choreographed Sales Pipeline Review/Opportunity Review One-on-One

A typical one-on-one focused on the sales pipeline and opportunity reviews have the following steps:

  1. Sales rep provides a summary of their sales pipeline, highlighting deals most likely to close and new deals added to the sales pipeline also noting anything of interest or significant changes since last meeting.

  2. Sales rep provides additional detail information into:
    1. Key opportunities that will close this sales period
    2. Opportunities with significant changes since last review
    3. New opportunities
    4. For each opportunity the sales rep should provide
      • What's happened so far?
      • What are the next steps?
      • What needs to happen to close the deal?
      • What's the anticipated timeline?
    5. During the opportunity review, obstacles will arise that jeopardize the deal, that is when we move to the next step
  3. Identify obstacles and help the rep strategize a course of action
    1. When everything is "fine", there isn't much to strategize about, however things described as "fine" may not be if left unchecked
    2. In order to determine the likelihood of an opportunity closing it is important to identify any obstacles that come up our might come up.  It is less about what the sales rep says and more about the sales interaction history, focusing on the following:
      • Are there any gaps in communication?  Has buyer emails dropped off?
      • Is there missing milestone information?
      • How have the objections been handled?
      • What could prevent this deal from closing?
      • Is the decision maker deeply involved in the process?
  4. For each opportunity create an action plan that will move the deal forward and make a list so their status can be measured at the next meeting.  Action items could be:
    1. Getting an executive sponsor on the buying team
    2. Getting an important piece of information that is missing
    3. Targeting completion of a milestone
    4. Sending some content to mitigate an issue
    5. Sending a contract

Coaching Cadence

To see consistent sales results and sales rep improvement it is important to conduct coaching sessions on a consistent basis.  

The prior blog outlined five topics to cover in sales one-on-ones.  It also reviewed best practices for sales rep call coaching, which is one of the five topics.  This is the second key topic.  The next blog will review performance reviews, a third topic.   The other two topics were Sales Training discussions and an approach to using key marketing assets.   

Not all of these topics will be covered in the same one-on-one session or even in the same week.  The sales manager needs to determine the cadence for each of these one-on-one topics.  In some cases the last two topics, sales training and using key marketing assets may be a more passive discussion as part of another meeting or automated as discussed in an earlier blog “Best Practices for B2B Sales - Guided Selling.”  Call coaching may also be its own separate meeting every other week and pipeline reviews and performance reviews may be held in a 3 to 1 cadence.  Three pipeline reviews and one performance review each month.  Maybe the performance review coming at the start of a new month, at the beginning of a sales period with the pipeline and detail opportunity reviews the last three weeks of the month.

Challenges with Sales Pipeline and Detail Opportunity Reviews

To have an effective sales pipeline review it is important both the sales manager and sales rep come prepared.  It is important to have all the information about all of the opportunities so they can adequately be reviewed and discussed.  The challenge is this requires a lot of accurate and timely information.  

The biggest problem we see with pipeline and opportunity review meetings is the meeting starts with the sales manager interrogating the sales rep about each opportunity.  This typically takes up a good portion of the meeting and leaves little time to strategize about next actions.  This is also biased by the sales rep’s impression of the opportunity.   

Also, in many cases, the sales manager and sales rep don’t have an accurate sales pipeline report to work from.  They may be working from memory or notes.  The sales rep and sales manager may be working from different pipeline lists.

Best Practice 

Sales Pipeline Reviews and Detail Opportunity Reviews

Background

Sales pipeline and opportunity reviews are one part of the content of sales manager/sales rep weekly one-on-ones. 

At a high level, the goals of the sales pipeline and detailed opportunity reviews are two fold:

  1. For the sales manager to understand what is real in the sales pipeline
  2. Strategize each sales opportunity so the sales rep knows the next step for each of the sales opportunities

Problem/Business Need

The key to successful sales pipeline and detail opportunity reviews meeting is to come to the meeting prepared.  This requires having a lot of information on each sales opportunity, including:

  • Targeted close date and amount
  • Opportunity stage
  • Opportunity forecast category
  • Previous emails and related content
  • Previous meetings and meeting transcripts
  • Which milestones have been achieved
  • How well the opportunity fits into the company’s ideal customer profile
  • Any red flags on the opportunity
  • Sales timeline
  • Summary of the buyer’s needs, key buyer decision makers and purchase process
  • Change in status from the previous one-on-one 
  • Summary view of where this opportunity fits into the sales forecast based on likelihood of closing

Too often, because of the lack of available information in the CRM system, these meetings start with the sales manager interrogating the sales rep on each opportunity.   In addition to wasting valuable one-on-one time, this information is typically incomplete and biased.

Requirements:

Detailed information on each opportunity, account and sales interaction needs to be readily available for both sales reps and sales managers to review prior to the one-on-one meeting. 

The need is to:

Have a highly visible and graphic sales pipeline report that outlines all the sales opportunities and can be filtered and organized by:

  • Sales rep, sales team, sales territory
  • Current and future sales periods
  • Sales process
  • Any sales opportunity or company attributes
  • Any ideal customer profile attributes

(Refer to prior blog “Best Practices for B2B Sales - Pipeline Monitoring & Closing Deals” for an example of a highly graphic and visible sales pipeline).

Have all the detailed information about a sales opportunity, always up to date so sales manager and sales rep can review it prior to the meeting.  In many ways this is the same report as the postmortem report, except it is only complete through the last sales interaction and does not have “close won”, “close lost” information.  The detailed information about the sales opportunity should include:

  • Sales Process Timeline - with complete detail on all interactions including the ability to review email and meeting content
  • Summary of how the opportunity fit the ideal customer profile
  • Summary of how and when sales milestones were completed
  • Summary of all tasks and activities were performed
  • Listing of the buying team by title and role

As an enhanced feature AI can analyze the current status of an opportunity and all past sales interactions and set both compliance alerts and strategic alerts regarding the current status of the opportunity (review blog post “Best Practices for B2B Sales - Proactive Follow UP & Content Delivery).  The sales rep should try to clean these up prior to the one-on-one meeting to help move the strategic discussion forward.

Baseline

Good

Better

Best

The sales pipeline and sales opportunity reviews starts with the sales manager interrogating the sales rep on the status of each sales opportunity.  Once completed, the sales manager coaches the sales rep on the next best action for each of the opportunities.  Pipeline status is from notes. Any reports/content presented in one meeting may be  inconsistent from other meetings.

The sales pipeline and opportunity review starts by running a pipeline report from the CRM.  It includes targeted close date, targeted amount, current sales stage, and current sales rep forecast category.  It provides a formal list to follow in the review meeting but the sales manager still has to interrogate the sales rep on the status of each sales opportunity before strategizing on next steps.

The sales manager and sales reps prepare for the one-on-one by reviewing the sales pipeline, the deals with the highest likelihood of closing, and detail sales interactions with each opportunity.  At the meeting the time is spent identifying the next strategic action for each opportunity.

Sales rep prepares for the one-on-one meeting by reviewing and clearing any strategic or compliance alerts on their opportunities.  The one-on-one is spent reviewing suggested next action for each opportunity and updating it for the agreed upon next action.

At the baseline level, sales pipeline and opportunity reviews are conducted as they have for the last 20 years.  Sales manager and sales rep meet (virtually) and most of the meeting time is spent with the sales manager interrogating the sales rep on each opportunity.  After that is complete, with the little remaining time left they strategize about next action for the opportunities they have time to review..

At the good level, the sales manager and sales rep have a pipeline report generated by the CRM as an agenda for the meeting.  By using the report, sales opportunities don’t slip through, however the sales manager still needs to interrogate the sales rep on each opportunity before strategizing on their next actions.

At the better level sales managers no longer need to interrogate the sales rep on the current status of each sales opportunity.  That information is available for review prior to the meeting.  Quality time is spent strategizing on the key opportunities.  The sales manager also has time to observe the sales rep’s instincts and how they can best be supported to move the opportunities forward.   The following is an example of what detailed opportunity content might look like:

Detailed Sales Opportunity Information

At the best level the sales pipeline and opportunity review meetings are very proactive.  Both sales manager and sales rep come to the meeting fully prepared for the meeting.  The sales rep has cleared all strategic and compliance alerts on their sales pipeline.  The sales pipeline health score helps prioritize which opportunities should be focused on and the AI assisted next steps for each opportunity is augmented with the sales managers sales acumen and recorded in the system to be reviewed at the next one-on-one.

Sales Pipeline and Alerts

Summary

The results of the sales pipeline and opportunity review should be:

  1. Sales managers and sales reps have more context around the deals in the pipeline
  2. Sales managers and sales reps should be more accurate at forecasting which deals will close and produce a more accurate sales forecast
  3. Sales managers are in a better position to adjust the forecast expectations
  4. Sales reps understand the next strategic step for each opportunities

The next blog will discuss the third topic of sales manager/sales rep one-on-ones,  Best Practices for B2B Sales - Sales Rep Coaching - Performance Reviews.

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