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You Can’t Have Pipeline Integrity Without Deal Integrity…..

by David Brock on May 19th, 2015

Actually, the title of this post should be:  You Can’t Have Pipeline Integrity Without Deal Integrity; You Can’t Have Deal Integrity Without A Sales Process People Use!  But it was too long.

This is one of those “hip bone is connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone is connected to …….” posts.

Sales managers seem to be obsessed with pipeline reviews.  They tend to take precedence over deal reviews or anything else.  To some degree, this makes sense.  After all, sales managers are focused on making the number, and the pipeline is the key indicator for making the numbers.

But I don’t know how many pipeline reviews I’ve participated in, where there are real integrity issues.  I see stuck deals, lack of stage/close date alignment, and all sorts of other indicators of integrity issues.

Think of things you’ve seen in pipeline reviews.  I remember a review several years ago, where the quarterly pipeline and forecast were dependent on two deals.  One had been in cycle for over 1000 days, another for over 700 days–in an organization where the average cycle was less than 120 days.  The size and importance of these two deals distorted the whole pipeline metrics and integrity.  When we drilled down into the deals themselves, we found they should have been declared dead months before.  Yet they’d been “carried in and progressed through the pipeline” for years!

Last year I sat through a series of pipeline reviews where over 30% of the deals had slipped close dates more than 3 times in the past 60 days.  You know how that works, “If it doesn’t hit this month, I can slip it a month, then another, then another.”

I could go on, but you get the point.  Consequently, as sales managers, it’s critical that we do deal reviews to make sure deals are reflected accurately in the pipeline.  This means focusing on deal integrity.

Deal integrity involves diving in and understanding deals.  Are they real, do we have a realistic view of where they are in the process—-Uh oh, there’s that word—-do we have an accurate view of where the customer is in their buying process, do we have clear next steps to allow us to achieve the projected close date, do we have a realistic strategy to win the deal, and all the other stuff involved in making sure we have a high quality deal and deal strategy.

But it doesn’t stop there.  How do we know we have integrity across all our deals?  There are only two ways to do this–one manageable, one that’s a total disaster.  Unfortunately, too many organization are operating in the latter scenario.

The key differences in these two scenarios is whether we have a well defined sales process that is aligned with customer buying processes, that sales people use rigorously.

Without this, the way sales people work every deal is completely different.  On each deal, the sales person is doing a random walk through the customer buying process.  As managers, the only way we can “trust” what’s happening is to inspect and be kept up to date on each deal.

Let’s run some simple math on that.  Let’s say you are a manager with 10 people reporting to you.  Let’s say each of your sales people has 10 critical deals they are working  (you know in reality they probably have a lot more).  Let’s say, it takes 30 minutes per deal for you to sit down to figure out what’s going on.  The math says, you are spending 3000 minutes or 50 hours a week just checking deal integrity, so you have a sense of whether you have any kind of pipeline integrity.

Clearly, this is unworkable!  But to have pipeline integrity, we have to have deal integrity!

This is where we see the power of the sales process.  If we have a well defined process, aligned with the buying process, that sales people are using, all we have to do is inspect a few deals.  If the sales person is leveraging the process well, using it to guide their strategies and execution, we can expect they are doing the same with every other deal.  We can expect high deal integrity, and, consequently, high pipeline integrity.

If we start seeing a sales person is having difficulty executing the process in a few deals, then we can expect they have similar difficulty in their other deals (deal integrity issues), and we will also see some pipeline integrity issues.

Summarizing, the sales process drives deal strategy/integrity.  All deals collectively drive pipeline integrity/quality.  Yes, and these drive forecast integrity.  Without all of these, it’s impossible to have high integrity in anything the sales team does, or to drive high performance in the organization.

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