Do the Pipeline Shuffle!

With being one month into the new year, it is time to prepare yourself for serious growth in the next three months. Have a look at the opportunities you are currently working on. What is your forecast? Does it look grim or promising? Select the opportunities you believe you can close with confidence and forecast the impact on your performance for the next quarter. If the reality is not to your satisfaction, then read on how the Pipeline Shuffle can catapult you to new heights. You have got to increase your chances to hit your targets.

Although new leads may still come your way from your lead generation teams, it is time to take faith into your own hands. The new way of selling has given you new skills and your sales enablement tool…well, enables you to do things you could not before. Go into your pipeline and select the non-successful opportunities from the last two years. Now do the Pipeline Shuffle to make sure your best cards come out on top.

Prospect /CustomerIndustry SegmentNumber of StakeholdersChange Champion Y/NSituational Knowledge 1-5Insights to take action Y/NOpportunity Value p/m
Name eCommerce2Y5Y4k
NameLife Science & Health Care3Y4Y3k
NameLife Science & Health Care2N2N7k
Name Manufacturing & Engineering2Y2N10k
Pipeline Shuffle

The Pipeline Shuffle applies criteria to ensure you have a real chance when going back to these prospects/customers, this time armed with your new selling skills and sales enablement tool. The first selection is Industry Segment and not Opportunity Value. This may come to you as a surprise because, traditionally, many salespeople go after the biggest opportunities. Your Pipeline Shuffle strategy should not be based on high-reward because often they turn out to be high-risk opportunities. It makes more sense to analyze first what you know about the prospect and the opportunity (you had); The more you know, the greater your chances are.

Industry segment: Based on your experience, you are more comfortable talking to businesses in certain industries. Have a look at your top customers on your books; what industries are they in? The chances are that you are more aware of how they operate and what challenges they face. Conversations with prospects in these industries will have more context; you will show more business acumen, and you are perceived as more credible. You have insightful stories to share about why your top customers chose you as their partner and how you have helped them with growing their business. The sales executive in the above example is more comfortable in Fashion, eCommerce, LSHC, and Manufacturing & Engineering. Her current top customers operate in these industries. (Although eCommerce is often defined as an Industry Vertical)

The number of stakeholders: When it comes to prospecting, the average number of stakeholders known by sales executives is one or two. And as we know now, the of stakeholders involved in buying decisions is likely more than six. Hence, it makes sense to prioritize your opportunities on the greater number of stakeholders you know; It is probably easier to get a foot in the door with them again and build more situational knowledge. You also need to figure out where each stakeholder is in the buying process and their influencing role. When you previously met with your main contact, where was this stakeholder in the buying process? Maybe your contact did like the idea of exploring a change, but other stakeholders thought differently and stalled your opportunity. Can your main contact introduce you to another stakeholder, based on how you can help their company with its challenges? I recommend making your main contact part of the conversation instead of working around them.

Change Champion: Often, you need Change Champions; stakeholders that promote change when you have left the building (physically or virtually). Was your contact compelled to explore change before? Mark the opportunities where you already know a contact who favors change with a Ý; you are going to need them.

Situational Knowledge: Give the opportunities a score from 1 to 5, depending on how much you know about their situation. How much do you understand what the prospect does as a business? How do they make money? Who are their competitors? How well do you know what they are trying to achieve as a business? What is their current focus and strategy? What challenges are they dealing with? What topics do they discuss at their Senior Management Teams? What trends have you identified in their industry? Are they working on these to their advantage? Do they turn these trends into new business? What industry challenges are you aware of? Do the stakeholders see similar challenges? Does that make them think about exploring different avenues, options, and suppliers? Questions like these help build greater situational knowledge at several layers of the prospect’s organization.

Insights to take action: Ask yourself, how can you help the prospect with the challenges they face? Every business wants to grow, make more profit, and be more competitive. How can you help? Apply the ‘Insights in Your Own Backyard‘; Why do your current top customers trust you and your company over any other competitor? Why did recently-won customers change their business to you? What is working better for them now? What have you improved that took their business to the next level? What strategic advantages did you deliver? There’s a high chance that prospects/customers in similar industries face similar challenges. What information can you share that may change the prospect’s perception about their current situation? What risks do you see for their business sticking with their current set-up? If you know, and you have a great story to share, mark these with a ‘Y.’

The Pipeline Shuffle is a great exercise to determine which non-successful opportunities are worthwhile to revisit. With the prioritized ones bubbling up to the top, you are:

  • confident with the industry they are operating in
  • already know more than one stakeholder
  • have a reasonably good idea of what situation they are in and the challenges they face
  • ready to share insights that can trigger their interest to explore a change of supplier

Makes sense, right? Enjoy your Pipeline Shuffle. May your best cards come out on top!

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