Audit your pipeline generation

Todd Busler
June 29, 2023
Audit your pipeline generation

Optimizing activity metrics alone won’t help you become a top-tier sales performer

Why you should audit your Pipeline Generation Strategy every 6-12 weeks:

Companies optimize their sales strategy through a variety of different meetings. Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs) help to hone forecasting and identify blockers in strategic deals and markets.

Pipeline conversion metrics such as Marketing Lead (MQL) -> Sales Lead (SQL), or SQL -> closed-won help identify points of friction in the sales process and quantify just how much pipeline is needed to hit revenue targets. Pipe generation teams even track metrics like how many emails or phone calls are needed to set a meeting. 

When it comes to sourcing your own pipeline, these metrics are helpful, but optimizing for these metrics alone is unsustainable. If your cold-outreach response rates are dropping (most teams’ are) - do you actually have enough free time to make up for this decrease in hit-rate with an increase in volume? The odds are adding activities alone won’t drive the results you need and will cut into the time you should be using to drive your deals forward. 

A pipeline strategy review is one way for you to drive efficiency and ensure you still have the time to focus on your inflight deals. 

Think of your pipeline generation strategy as running marketing for your own company/franchise. You only have so many dollars (for you, hours) and thus, you should periodically analyze: What is going to give the best return (pipeline) on hours spent prospecting? 

For this guide, only focus on factors of your outbound strategy. This consists of five distinct sources:

  1. Cold outreach
  2. Abandoned Free Trials: This is only an option at companies where sales teams have access to customers who have abandoned free trials
  3. Nurturing previously lost deals
  4. Referrals: Warm intros through your company's network, partners or customers
  5. Previous Customers: Directly prospecting into previous customers (users or buyers) at new companies

How to start

Step 1 - Develop a baseline:

Go look at two metrics for both yourself and the top 1-2 performers within your organization or segment:

Number of meetings, opps, and revenue by source over the last 3 deal cycles.  For example, if the average deal cycle is 2 months, pull this report for the last 6 months

Export this to an excel sheet or google sheet so you can easily analyze the opportunities

Step 2- Categorize your outbound pipeline:

Much of your Salesforce reporting may just say “outbound” or “AE sourced.” To categorize your outbound pipeline, add another column and bucket the revenue/pipeline into the 5 categories above: could outreach, free trials, nurtured lost deals, referrals, and previous customers. 

This exercise is worth the time.

Step 3 - Analyze this pipeline:

Now that you have categorized data, dig into the data: 

  1. Where is most of your self-source pipeline coming from and could you spend more time optimizing outreach there?
  2. Which of these categories are converting best?
Once you’ve done this, now it’s time to self-reflect

Ask yourself: How does my time spent prospecting align to these 5 buckets? Am I investing a relevant amount of time based on the success of these buckets? Am I still blindly still focused on random “activity metrics?”

Many times, after running this exercise, most reps find they spend an outsized amount of time working in bucket 1-2 (cold outbound and trial converts) from above, where an out-sized portion of quality pipeline and revenue is coming from 3-5. This may be due to management telling you to focus on activity metrics, never taking the time to do this exercise, or simply “doing what other reps do.”

Most sellers know how to prospect into each of 1-5 above. This typically isn’t a knowledge or skills gap. The question becomes, how can you have the discipline and rigor to continuously invest the ideal amount of time in each category to reach your main objective: Generate the most pipeline (and eventual revenue) from every minute spent prospecting. 

Take the time to do this exercise and make sure you are investing your time in the right places to wrap up 2022! 

PS: If you want to learn more about how to tactically schedule your calendar, check out this recent, no-fluff webinar from Nick and Morgan (LINK).