December 1, 2021
We talk to a lot of sales leaders. One of our favorite things to ask them is “what do you do when you need to fix your pipeline?” It’s a purposely vague question but it helps us get to the core of how they view their job as sales leaders. Not surprisingly, most managers say the fix is to spend more time talking to their reps to figure out what is going on in deals. That is, they have more meetings: more one-on-ones, more quick check-ins, and longer pipeline reviews. Just what everyone wants in their life - more meetings.
That was my experience from my last startup too. When deals were slipping or not closing, I amped up the meetings and reporting. I started daily team standups, extended the weekly sales pipeline reviews, scheduled early morning or late evening one-on-ones with sales reps, and more. And then I did follow-up meetings to address action items. That’s not counting all the prospect calls I help out on. I had a lot of coffee too since sales meetings and coffee work well together.
Now if you love coffee that all seems wonderful. But that’s not the point. Rather, what’s interesting is that we also asked sales leaders how confident they were in picking out the winning deals in their own pipeline after all those meetings and effort. They still have serious doubts.
So why don’t more meetings help fix their pipeline? Personally, I believe a well run meeting can be effective for gathering information and communicating decisions. But meetings also have some serious downsides:
When you’re at a small scale, meetings can help you understand what is going on in your pipeline. Yet the larger your pipeline and the more complex your sale becomes, the less likely it is that meetings will improve your confidence in identifying and closing winners. You will hit a tipping point pretty quickly as your pipeline grows.
Meeting time gets eaten up more and more by recapping the basics of a deal, typically in an inconsistent and inefficient manner. As a result, not enough of your time goes to determining your path forward in the deal. Your meetings end up having the opposite effect of their intention. They dilute the influence you as a leader can have on the deals you are most likely to win.
As sales leaders, we are still left not really knowing what is going on with our pipeline and with a nagging realization: we can not influence what we cannot see.