Let’s cut to the chase: for front-line sellers, time is money. So to make pipeline review meetings actually productive, sales leaders need to communicate that they really do respect everyone’s time. Your job is to find the right balance of accountability and maximizing selling time. Communicating that and sticking to that goal is what will command respect from your team.
Why? Spending time in meetings takes sellers away from working deals. AEs and even managers may consider these calendar fillers a waste, but they don’t have to be. There’s a lot you can uncover and discover during sales pipeline review meetings, and they can be a source of value for reps, too.
Think of these meetings as a time to check the fuel gauge of your sales pipeline. You want to know where you stand and check your engine efficiency if needed. Keeping it full means more revenue for you and your company and reveals where coaching effort is best applied. A pipeline review doesn’t have to pump the brakes on your momentum. Rather, it can help you accelerate deals.
Next, managers often make the mistake of hosting meetings that don’t end with takeaways or action items. To correct this, they’ll need to include coaching points in the meetings, both from themselves and amongst the team as peers.
We want you to turn sales pipeline review meetings into valuable strategy review sessions. In this post, learn what these meetings are, how they work, and tips for making them productive.
What is a sales pipeline review?
First, let’s talk about what a sales pipeline is. It’s the visual representation of your sales process that looks at all your deals and their stages. It tracks all the opportunities for turning prospects into customers that are being actively worked by a rep.
In a sales pipeline review meeting, account executives and salespeople report to sales leadership on the status of deals and which are likeliest to close. It’s also a time when they can look to their managers and peers for advice on improving sales skills. Knowing a pipeline review meeting is coming up can force sellers to hold themselves accountable for where they are with their deal flow. You don’t want a pipeline review process where AEs show up and just “gun-sling” deal commitments, with nobody actually holding them accountable!
A pipeline review can be a one-to-one interaction between a seller and sales manager, or a group setting. Typically, the most productive meetings are one-to-one if the rep needs a lot of coaching and in a group setting when the team is doing well and better able to coach each other. Sales managers can focus their attention on that salesperson’s pipeline to get a pulse on where the deal is in terms of the sales cycle and how it will impact forecasting and revenue goals. Unfortunately, 38-52% of sales teams are failing to hit quota, depending on the rep type. Making these regular check-ins more valuable can improve those odds. They can be an annoyance or they can be valuable strategy sessions that get sellers the insight they need to help them win.
A group meeting can also be valuable. It’s less granular and stands as a check-in for the health of the entire pipeline. These group pipeline reviews can be a space for collaboration and hearing what reps are doing that’s working. Peers can coach each other, which feels better than having all advice coming from the top down. It’s also a good time to go through common objections from buyers so that the entire team can offer tips and ideas.
Structure a pipeline review
For a pipeline review meeting to deliver value and not suck the wind out of your team’s sails, it needs structure.
How often should sales reps and sales managers meet? Well, there’s no magic number. It depends a lot on the size of your sales team and your goals. Additionally, some sales leaders may meet with some people more frequently if they have a larger number of deals or more complex ones. At a minimum, individual and group meetings should happen monthly. Newer sellers will often need more frequent check-ins. Transactional sales teams in call centers might have a daily stand-up meeting where they literally stand up from their cubicles and chat for 5-10 minutes about the upcoming day ahead and what they’re hoping to close.
Whatever frequency you choose: remember that most sellers spend about 7.1% of their time weekly in internal meetings. Oof. That stat actually sounds low to us, from some of the orgs we’ve seen. It may not seem like a big chunk of time, but every minute matters to sales reps! Communicate to them that, while the goal of the meeting is accountability, you do respect their time, and you’re conscious of not burdening them with bloat meetings.
Pipeline meetings can be one-on-one or with the entire team. You’ll need a mix of both. New hires, especially, need support early and often. Don’t skimp on internal process education, too: sellers recently surveyed reported that learning company sales processes is just as difficult as becoming knowledgeable about the product. They also reported that taking surveys was their way of procrastinating on cold calling (just kidding… or are we?)
Meeting as a team also has benefits, although these may be less frequent. As a group, you have more minds to work through challenges.
Remember that time is money to salespeople, as it is to you. They want to spend as much of their day as possible doing revenue-generating activities, to drum up those commission checks. Thirty minutes is a good timeframe for the one-on-ones, while you might need up to 45 mins for the group meeting in some cases. If the meetings must be over half an hour, take care to make sure they don’t become snoozefests by suggesting a 2-minute water break or encouraging everyone to stand up (if they have standing desks) halfway through.
Meetings need structure to avoid becoming an irritating ramble from the manager to the rep(s). It should include the sales manager, sales representatives, and other relevant stakeholders like Revenue Operations. As you’re talking about pipeline stages, folks in other departments may have insights or strategies to share with leadership after the meeting.
Each rep should share a high-level review of pipeline health, the two deals they think are most likely to close and why, and which deals need immediate attention or coaching. Then, the Why is the part that others can poke and prod at, to make sure the deal commitment actually makes sense.
You can use a sales performance review template as part of the foundation for structure. They help review the performance with metrics like quota, average deal size, revenue, and overall win rate. These metrics should be automatically pulled from a relevant CRM dashboard that makes KPI tracking practically effortless.
Key takeaways and actions
- Define the frequency of one-to-one and group meetings and send calendar invites as a series.
- Add any additional meetings with new sellers or salespeople with the most complex deals.
- Set the duration time for meetings, and don’t allow the meeting to drag on past this time.
- Create a meeting structure framework and use agenda templates.
- Ensure every meeting ends with clear action plans for the sales pipeline.
- If a meeting ends up being unproductive, sales leadership should apologize and commit to running better meetings going forward.
A note to sales leaders: that last takeaway will earn you major brownie points and motivation from your team! Don’t be too proud.
Running the meeting
Let’s talk through some structure to help you run better pipeline meetings, as a head of sales.
Review the current state of the pipeline.
The first part of the meeting is looking at what’s on the table in terms of individual and team performance, including:
- Interpreting KPIs: Your CRM (customer relationship management) tool and any other sales technology are full of data to review. Don’t do readouts of metrics that everyone’s already read before! Use standard dashboards that can be easily referenced to pull KPIs, and talk about what those metrics mean and the narrative behind them. From this information, you might be automatically generating a sales forecast and commenting on its validity. Reps and leadership should have reviewed this data before the meetings to make them more productive and to know what the blockers are to the forecast being accurate, in advance. Got 2-3 big deals that are way larger than the Avg Deal Size? Take care to get an update on each of these individually, even if you don’t go deal by deal for the pipeline as a whole. (By the way: DealSpace makes it way less of a headache to figure out what’s going on with these key opps, when you’re busy and just want to focus on coaching!)
- Reviewing insights on trends and opportunities: Taking data and making it actionable means finding insights. For example, you may see a trend of losing deals at the end due to contracts being too restrictive, to a particular competitor, from one or more specific channel partners, or after one or more stages, like just after discovery calls. Dig into this to see what buyers object to and if you need to make sales process adjustments.
Address individual opportunities and encourage active collaboration.
Next, you’ll want to quickly (<2 mins) call out any deals that are lacking key fields being filled in. (Although if you’re using Dooly, this isn’t going to be an issue!) Review how to update prospects and leads in the CRM so forecasting is accurate, but don’t try to publicly shame people. Using humor here can really help lighten the tone of these reminders, too. As an example of these reminders, something like, “In another episode of Pablo doesn’t want to message the AEs at 10pm asking ‘where’s this deal at?’…” can help get your point across in a gentle way.
This meeting segment is also a time to strategize to address challenges and roadblocks. Get to the root of what causes a prospect to say no. The entire team can participate in objection handling coaching for reps who need it on certain deals.
For example, a common objection would be that a buyer doesn’t want to migrate from a legacy competitor’s system, thinking it’s too hard and complex. As a result, you may build a sales play around this specific comment that outlines how your organization makes transitioning from Acme Old School ERP is actually easy, with success stories on how it’s been done in the past.
Stay on schedule.
Remember, time is money to salespeople. Don’t waste a minute. It’s easy to get sidetracked, as sellers tend to be talkers. Facilitate good meetings by nudging people along if they get off track or start to monologue, to spend the bulk of time focusing on advancing deals with practical tips and group strategy coaching. It’s leadership’s job to facilitate an efficient meeting, bringing things back on track. Sales managers shouldn’t hope that efficient meetings happen by accident—instead, remember that great meetings are well-facilitated. That’s part of your job as the leader (what, you thought it was just to maintain the dashboards and talk to the CEO? Nah.)
Tips to keep your review meetings smooth and helpful
Your meeting framework will evolve and change over time as the org matures. That said, these are some key overall principles.
1. Encourage inputs over outcome.
What does a sales leader need to know in regular pipeline reviews? A sales rep’s report will have the basics—stalled deals, those progressing, next steps, timelines, etc. You want to know the inputs of what needs to happen to close it. Adding these notes before the meeting is good practice. When you do this, your sellers arrive ready with the information that matters and will answer your questions.
One way to gain this visibility without extra work is using pipeline tools. Reps and managers can get up to speed on all deals in one view. This solution also enables inline edits and updates that sync to Salesforce. Reps cannot stand having to take 25 minutes out of their day to manually update CRM, so try to communicate that you respect their time by not making them have to do so!
2. Practice the Create-Advance-Close model.
The Create-Advance-Close model is a framework for reviewing deals by the sales funnel.
- Create: New deals entering the pipeline, where they’re from, what kinds of customers they are
- Advance: Deals in any stage of the funnel that need to be advanced, say from Discovery to Proposal or from Proposal onward
- Close: Deals that are in the final stages but still need a signature (time to pull out the Chris Voss playbook!)
This helps everyone understand which sellers have strengths and weaknesses among the three buckets, and it also provides insights on the average sales cycle and where there are deviations.
For example, does Tyson do extremely well at negotiation but fall down in discovery? Pipeline reviews help you keep an eye on this trend. (No harm done, Tyson, you’re doing great!)
3. Gather and declutter pipeline data.
Data is what fuels your ability to make an accurate sales forecast. Unfortunately, data isn’t always “clean”. Disparate systems and manual data entry also slow this down.
Centralizing data is critical for regular pipeline reviews. Sales pipeline management software allows for efficient and effective meetings. Ideally, you want to implement a tool that uses the data and ensures deal reviews aren’t wasted time.
Dooly’s DealSpace feature organizes and compiles data from multiple sources to create a customized view, letting you review important information about key deals one at a time. It becomes a digital place for meetings between sales managers and account executives that support managing sales performance.
Consider these other tools for working with pipeline data, too:
- Sales pipeline templates: Use these to see the most significant deals in the pipeline, recognize subpar deals, find deals with missing decision-makers, and view signed agreements and their timelines.
- Filtering capabilities by deal stage, value, or other descriptors: Get the information you want fast.
- Dashboards that offer a high-level view of pipeline health and other vital metrics: View in seconds what the future of revenue looks like and what deals need attention.
- Integrations for automated real-time data updates and tracking: Having this functionality allows for data-driven decision-making.
If you need help restructuring your CRM so that it’s “ready” to be used with a pipeline tool, contact your Dooly account manager for a reference.
4. Control the overall narrative across sales pipeline stages.
People buy your product for different reasons, and the sales cycle is rarely linear. To let sellers control the narrative, develop standardized pipeline coaching for each stage that matches how buyers buy, with enough room for flex when setbacks happen and when non-standard customer situations have to be dealt with, creatively.
Help sellers educate customers on how the typical purchasing process works from day one because even (especially!) in large companies, they probably don’t even know how solutions like yours get purchased. This sets the expectation for what will happen at each stage, and you’re guiding them through the process in a consultative way. It leads to a relationship of trust and respect.
5. Leverage deal intelligence to make the most of your sales pipeline reviews.
Enhance your pipeline review by taking advantage of deal intelligence. It’s a way to get an overview of deals in good standing and those at risk. DealSpace can also support this activity, being the hub for all deal information. It pulls selected CRM and note summary data into one view and creates the space to capture qualitative data like roadblocks, risks, and deal nuances that are often inside the heads of each seller. Use DealSpace to work together on a deal and strategize on how to move it forward.
6. Actionable follow-ups and accountability
Accountability is key in pipeline reviews. There are lots of moving pieces, and things can slip through the cracks without assigned responsibilities and action items. These should be straightforward tasks with timelines that are realistic, and leadership needs to commit to completing their assigned tasks so their team returns the same level of accountability.
For example, you need legal to review non-standard contract changes. They have plenty on their plate, often becoming a blocker in closing deals. Discuss an appropriate timeframe for this and ensure they stick to the agreement. Sales leaders working cross-functionally can bring legal into pipeline reviews if they’re working with in-house counsel. If not, they can use the pipeline review as an update on how their redline progress is going with either certain specific deals or with the redlining process as a whole.
You can and should track these things via your CRM. When things go in the red as past due, notifications alert all parties to ensure things keep moving. We’ve even seen fun automatically-generated “big red stop sign” images that take up a lot of space on the CRM layout that pop up when accountability steps are not met, reminding reps to take care of what’s missing.
Make sales pipeline review meetings a source of value.
Sales pipeline review meetings can actually deliver insights, intelligence, and strategy (I know, crazy, right?). Maximize the value of this time by starting with a clear agenda that assesses deals moving through the sales funnel that need work or that should be highlighted for the benefit of all. One-on-one conversations between sales leaders and reps should focus on individual performance and deal-level challenges. Group sessions with the entire sales team offer time to collaborate and get feedback from peers.
These tips and approaches are practical and will create value for all parties. You’ll find that technology and tools streamline these meetings for sales leaders and optimize every minute.
The best part? If your AEs think you actually run good meetings, they’ll feel that you respect their time. And you’ll have a way easier time running your team because they won’t think you’re a jerk. (Just kidding, they don’t think that… do they?)
How Dooly can help
Dooly’s sales productivity tool and features help propel deals while reducing annoying admin work. From pre-built templates to sales-friendly data visualization and automated workflows, you and your team will love what they can do with Dooly.
See how it works by requesting a demo.
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