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When your sales pipeline looks great, but a revenue target is at risk

No one wants to miss a revenue target, but it happens all the time. Missed revenue targets are often the result of a pipeline that looks big and bountiful, but really, it isn’t. Many times, the pipeline is simply based on hope. When assessing whether your team is going to hit a revenue target, hope is not a strategy!

It is easy slip into the hope/strategy conundrum when looking at robust funnels – even when the sales organization is not converting the funnel to revenue at anywhere near the rate needed to achieve the goals of the organization.

Where should you begin the process to demystify the missed revenue target problem?

While there is no quick answer to this question, there are areas we recognize as first-stops when you begin to peel back the layers of this complex problem.

  • Have you analyzed your revenue enablement plan, where accountability measures and strategic plans eliminate “hope” as the strategy?

  • Has your leadership team identified revenue sitting in the sales funnel – promised as real – yet stalled or living as a muddy opportunity?

  • Is your conversion rate less than you planned, less than what was promised, less than what is needed to fuel your growth?

If driving to an aggressive revenue target or valuation goal, now is the right time to focus on moving deals through the pipeline and accelerating conversion. Symptoms which are indicators you need to improve revenue enablement, include:

  • The pipeline looks good, but conversion is not.

  • Uncertainty around whether deals in the pipeline are real, or potentially dead – yet they remain in the pipeline.

  • Difficulties or delays closing a deal.

  • Marketing delivers plenty of leads, but revenue doesn’t reflect that.

  • Sales is grumbling about leads, or quality of leads.

  • Growth targets are at risk.

Why can’t we close deals?

There is no magic wand to fix the issue of deals not closing. Some search for a magical yet illusive lever. Some blame the economy, the product, the marketing team, the leadership, or just about anything else they can find to blame.

The dirty little secret of successful revenue enablement

Your success is more dependent on excellence in marketing and sales than on the economy, the product (yes even the product!), or ANYTHING ELSE. Your organization can only manifest to its full potential with an excellent revenue enablement process that excels at finding, qualifying, and converting leads.

Marketing may be undisciplined and stuffing the top of the funnel with garbage leads, list purchases, or using other tactics which are delivering unqualified, uninterested leads – which will waste resources from the moment they land in the funnel. Ingesting qualified versus unqualified leads is a great topic for a future blog post; this is where marketing needs to establish a highly disciplined approach.

Sales professionals and sales leaders often suffer from ‘pipeline envy,’ trying to portray their pipeline to be bigger and more robust than the pipeline really is. Pipeline envy starts with sales professionals trying to either show more pipeline to ‘keep the pressure off’ or because they have a hard time being honest to themselves about the real status of their business.

How might you know whether your pipeline is not as good as the number suggests?

  • You don’t know the real reason why your customer needs to buy your product.

  • You don’t know the real decision makers and enough about the company to understand how to reach them.

  • Your deals don’t die, they carry over into the next month, the next quarter, the next year. Often for reasons that defy sales logic.

  • They are dependent on an unlikely occurrence.

  • They were never qualified prospects – just the best we had at the time.

  • The deals don’t change much – same deals, lack of closure.

The last bullet point in this list is usually the symptom of a team or person not working the process (or in some cases not having a defined and proven process). The desire to ‘hug a slug’ because it is one of the few active leads you are working, is one of the greatest flaws in most pipelines.

No one wants to miss a revenue target, but it happens all the time. Often, it is the result of a pipeline that looks big and bountiful, but isn’t real revenue – not wasting time and resources bouncing around the fringes. Success becomes dependent on the ability to have a clear-cut sales process, integrated with reporting tools (CRM), and high accountability.

Marketing leader(s) should...

  • Operate campaigns using new modern tactics to find the best leads and drive them deeper into the funnel.

  • Build a strategy appropriate for prospects at every level of the revenue pipeline.

  • Be held accountable for quality leads, and quantity, with conversion metrics.

  • Work the pipeline of leads to a state where they are deeper in the funnel before handing them off to sales.

  • Maintain a symbiotic relationship with the sales team, participate in sales meetings, sit in or ask for recordings of prospect meetings, listen to what the sales team believes they need from marketing for the purpose of accelerating or supporting the sales process.

  • Never operate with a “business as usual” approach.

Sales leader(s) should...

  • Develop a real and actionable sales process, specific to their product and industry, and the tools to aid with the successful navigation of the process.

  • Maintain discipline around the sales process, where advancing to a higher probability of close requires specific baseline matters to be satisfied.

  • Maintain a symbiotic relationship with the marketing team, and ask for more from marketing – qualified leads, strategic and tightly targeted ‘golden thread’ style campaigns, help with deals in the pipeline, etc.

Business systems should...

  • Ingest lead data to digitally capture the buyer’s journey.

  • Automate workflows to speed the delivery of qualified leads to the sales organization.

  • Provide a real-time pipeline dashboard, as a lens into revenue targets at risk.

About Revenue-Forward

Revenue-Forward provides revenue and growth advisory services, customized training, and university-style customized corporate courses for start-up’s, turnarounds, and for established companies interested in cracking the code on revenue growth

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