The Best Way to Triage Your Sales Pipeline

May 27, 2020 | Business Owners, Sales, Sales Leadership

Right now, it can be tough for salespeople to know what’s really going on with customers and prospects. And there’s a good chance no one else in your company knows, either.

Any CEO who wants to keep sales strong during tough times needs insight into customer problems and priorities. Without that insight, you’re left to make decisions by guessing.

While you might be able to get away with that when the wind is in your sails, it isn’t good enough right now. In a tight economy, the CEO (or anyone leading a sales team) needs to get a firm grip on sales.

Now is the Perfect Time to Examine Your Sales Pipeline

That means it is a good time for a pipeline triage. Here are the questions you should consider:

  • Which opportunities are DOA?
  • Which opportunities likely can’t be saved?
  • Which opportunities will be pushed out?
  • Which opportunities are likely to close?

Answering these questions means salespeople can prioritize time and resources on the business most likely to lead to a close and look for new business to replace deals that are gone or unlikely to close.

How to Structure Your Sales Pipeline Triage Process

Triage literally means to sort and prioritize. Start by sorting the pipeline by sales rep and then by stage with “close” at the top and “prospect” at the bottom. Print out the list for each rep.

Sales managers should work with each salesperson to do the following:

  1. Put a line through any opportunity or lead that is dead, no matter why. Get it off the list, out of the discussion, and out of the projections. (In CRM, move it to lost, nurture,” or back up to prospect.”)
  2. Mark the remaining opportunities as “in jeopardy” or “in good standing.”
  3. Update the stage, product, revenue, and close date for each opportunity that is “in jeopardy” or “in good standing.”
  4. For any deal in good standing” also marked as a stage close to closing, map the steps and timeline to get the opportunity closed (start with those nearest to closing). Plan the next action and require a date for that action.
  5. For any deal “in jeopardy,” state the reason, what could change the outcome, and what actions could be taken to move it to close.

Then, talk with each sales rep about the leads that could still reasonably close in the next six months. During that conversation you and the sales reps will:

  • Prioritize opportunities.
  • Decide and prioritize the best action steps to move those opportunities forward.
  • Decide what changes need to happen in the company to support those deals.

Finally, you are going to need to find revenue to replace what you have lost. Your sales growth strategy should include looking for opportunities you hadn’t thought of before. Ask the following questions:

  1. Do your existing clients need something you offer that they didn’t need or prioritize before?
  2. Can you make adjustments in your current offering to support a need that didn’t exist before?
  3. Are there target markets that didn’t need what you sold before, but urgently need it now? How can you let them know you have what they need?

These may be difficult times, but you can salvage more than you thought. Have your sales reps make sure the leads are really dead before they cross them off for good. Look for opportunities that could close sooner because of the current crisis. Open doors you have never opened before and see what is behind them. There may be opportunities that never existed or perhaps, you never noticed before. Help your team stay focused and keep selling. 

Liz Heiman

Liz Heiman


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