Business Growth & Strategy

Are you Managing Your Pipeline?

We have all seen them: the caveman sales manager. They are Neanderthals, like something from a Geiko commercial. The old school sales manager comes from an age where business was primarily built from business relationships, long before the Internet and eThis and iThat.

While interpersonal relationships are still pivotal, they are simply not enough to sustain sales growth with key customers. Quality, price and other attributes are the cost of admission and sales organizations must have all of the tools necessary to compete in a brutally competitive environment.

The contempary sales manager proactively manages a company’s value proposition, marketing, selling opportunities and pipeline. He (or she) knows how many “A” opportunities the organization has open, the average sales cycle and close rate. The caveman won’t even consider tracking such statistics, but he doesn’t know they exist, or thinks it would rob his salespeople from face time where they will close the client.

The rules have clearly changed, and every dollar of marketing spend must be defended as companies expect to quantify their return on marketing investment.

Marketing itself is in the midst of a revolution, where activities can be fully integrated with the sales effort  (marketing should enable greater sales productivity).

The advance of customer relationship management and salesforce automation tools have created a level of integration and productivity unseen by past generations.  Within a standard CRM package, an organization can easily track and scorecard sales productivity, from sales calls to close rates.  When combined with other data that allows more precise targeting, organizations can better clarify its audience, and make better investment decisions that will result in more revenue and profit.

For example, our firm assisted a company in the consumer electronics space to identify what products were being imported by major CPG (consumer package goods) manufacturers. Based on the market volume, category growth and geography of potential customers the client was able to create a target reach sales segmentation strategy, organizing clients in their CRM as A, B, C, and D. The number of salespeople hired, the number of sales calls that were required, reporting and operational decisions such as cycle time were driven by the segmentation.

A direct marketing effort was coupled with the sales segmentation.  Based on the schedule of sales solicitations, specific marketing pieces were sent to prospects, including new product introductions, invitations to trade shows, etc.  The marketing plan was specifically written to improve the success of salespeople in specific niches at specific times.

The company’s incentive plan was built not only to reward sales and margin but also to reward activities that would present the organization in a particular light, and to drive volume to categories that were high margin. All activities and statistics were measured and tracked in the CRM, and promoted publically for other salespeople to see.

Such integration and pipeline management has additional benefits. Operations managers who are informed about a company’s prospects can better manage inventory and capacity.  Finance can make better decisions on investment of salespeople, marketing, and equipment.

The contemporary sales manager has another skill, he is a great leader. He understands developing others and giving them resources and time. Success is not defined only by a relationship he built 20 years ago, but by the ability of his organization to compete and provide customers with value added services, and information.  While he manages the pipeline, he does it as a coach and not as a dictator.

Make sure your sales manager is not a caveman.

Category: Business Growth & Strategy


About the Author: Marc Emmer

Marc Emmer is President of Optimize Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in strategic planning. Emmer is a sixteen-year Vistage member and a Vistage speaker. The release of his second book, “Momentum, Ho…

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