#gxmxp Series

Opportunity and Pipeline Management

Welcome to the final phase of #gxmxp: Market Results! It’s time to go beyond your initial market outreach and begin in earnest your customer outreach and pipeline building.

The first step here is what we call Strategic Opportunity and Pipeline Management.

Consistent pipeline management is one of the most singularly important regular habits you can do to start building revenue.

It’s now crucial to have a regularly scheduled time where you and your team monitor all of your conversations, data and efforts in one place.

The action item from this first step is to schedule a weekly meeting where you sit down with your market development team, review all of the past week’s revenue activities and plan for next week’s revenue activities (and only those activities!).

The information you gather from this regular time together is going to help accelerate your business growth and help you find problems before they cause your sales and marketing efforts to implode.

The CRM: Your Single Source of Truth

The success of this meeting is heavily dependent on data from your CRM. That means your team needs to come to this meeting with all of their notes organized and updated beforehand in the CRM.

For the best go-to-market results, treat your CRM as your single source of truth. Click to Tweet

If your CRM isn’t updated and well organized, then you’re not going to have a productive or well-informed conversation.

Getting the data right is not only important for gathering insights and making good decisions. It’s also about setting the tone and accountability. 

Data = Reduced Friction and Increased Accountability

The regular pipeline review meeting is not the time for feelings or opinions about revenue opportunities. Pipeline review meetings should be data driven.

As you’re bringing new conversations, new leads and new opportunities into your pipeline, you want to reduce friction within the customer journey. If you see the same piece of friction coming up over and over again, this meeting lets you ask the questions that will help you understand whether this is a process or a people problem. 

A big word to keep in mind during this regular meeting is “accountability.” Somebody has to own the responsibility of holding others accountable, and at the same time, the people in the room need to be comfortable with being held accountable for doing what they said they were going to do.

In a way, this is almost a weekly performance review which can feel uncomfortable, but it is absolutely necessary for success.

The Meeting Agenda 

The Strategic Opportunity and Pipeline Management meeting should be a mandatory, standing meeting that is scheduled on a regular basis. Protect this meeting on your calendar at all costs. 

Avoid moving it or changing it. As we mentioned above, part of this is about setting expectations and building behaviours. Everything communicates. If you move or cancel this meeting regularly then you are communicating that revenue is not a priority.

Every week, this meeting covers the same, straightforward information. Start at the bottom of your pipeline with the accounts that are closest to closing.

Go through every opportunity in each stage line by line. Don’t skip anything. For each opportunity or lead, you’re asking the exact same set of questions:  

  • What did we do last week?  
  • What did we say we were going to do?
  • What are we going to do next and by when? 
  • Are there any problems/feedback/concerns/blockers?

The ideal scenario for every opportunity is that you can open up your CRM and answer all of those questions without talking to anybody.

That’s how current your CRM should be before the meeting starts. You should be able to see a note, a task, an email or other documentation of what happened last week. There should also be notes about what’s next and who’s responsible for it.

If nobody’s listed as responsible for it in the CRM, assign someone and a due date ASAP or it won’t happen. 

You should spend less time per opportunity as you move further and further up the funnel. In the first few (the opportunities closest to close) you’re mining the details and getting deep into specific account strategy. As you move up to less qualified leads, spend less time talking about them. 

Leverage this exercise to actually honor and learn from information about the quality of your own conversations. Most founders aren’t trained salespeople.

We call the CRM the single source of truth because it tells you information about the quality of your effort that you might not see on your own.

For example, does every opportunity have a close date and contract amount? If you have a lot of opportunities sitting for more than four-to-six months and they still don’t have a target close date or potential contract value, that tells you that you’re having “interested” conversations, but you’re not having sales qualified conversations. If you do have these details, that means that you’ve at least asked for the person’s budget, authority, need and timing (BANT). 

Also, keep an eye out for a stalled pipeline. If you have 10 opportunities in January, and then 11 opportunities in February, March and April, that’s probably a stalled pipeline. You’re starting to see no new opportunities come in and the same opportunities from before are not moving down the pipeline.

Losing pipeline momentum and hoping for something to shake out is a seriously risky strategy for your business. It will take months to rebuild your momentum.

If you’re doing this review every single week, you can quickly identify momentum slowing down before it comes to a halt.

The regular meeting provides a proactive opportunity to go out and find new opportunities to refresh the ones that are stalling. Some opportunities might close quickly and others might be interested but not close for several months or a year because the timing isn’t right.

You want those opportunities in your pipeline because pipeline diversity reduces pipeline volatility. Yes, you want to focus on the deals that are closest to closing. But you also must keep a finger on the pulse of deals that could come to fruition six-to-twelve months from now.

Pipeline diversity reduces pipeline volatility. Click to Tweet

People vs. Process

Rinse and repeat this meeting week after week. The more you do it, the more you can remove friction from your process and streamline it. If you’re not able to remove friction by changing the process, then you know it’s a people problem.

Before the meeting, your team should know that they shouldn’t have any overdue tasks and the CRM should be completely updated. It’s fine to occasionally remind people to do that.

If you’re seeing a whole week’s worth of tasks not getting done week after week, that’s an attack on your business from the inside.  If the work isn’t getting done, it doesn’t automatically mean that someone on your team has a bad attitude or work ethic. Maybe you just have a resource allocation problem.

Is this the wrong time? Are you in a bandwidth constraint? Have you done too much? Is the person in the wrong role for their skillset? You might need to slow down some efforts or focus only on the opportunities that are the most pressing. 

Regardless, if you notice that people on your market development team aren’t able to stay on top of their duties, then you need to address it head on and solve for it fast.

Listen to the Data

This regular meeting is going to show you where the cracks are, where you’re successful and where you’re still learning. That’s going to impact hiring decisions, scale decisions and product development decisions. 

The pipeline management conversation will show you what the market is trying to tell you. This is a concentrated conversation where all your feedback is in one room.

Make sure these learnings are captured, but don’t just capture the “what.” How does this market feedback impact your customer acquisition strategy, your messaging and even your customer onboarding? 

Pipeline reviews are not just about the “what.” They're also about the “so what” and the “what next.” Click to Tweet

Once you have customers, make sure you’re still acknowledging them in these meetings. The work doesn’t stop once the contract has been closed. Quite the opposite. As we’ve mentioned before, in order for you to build and scale a pipeline at some point you are going to need customer stats, logos, quotes and references.

Closely track whether or not things are going smoothly with your customers and just as you are doing with your pipeline, identify problems and stop bad trends before they spin out of control. It’s much easier to keep a customer than it is to acquire a new one. 

Customer success starts with a well documented and streamlined process for customer onboarding, implementation and adoption. And that’s up next in #gxmxp!

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