One of your reps has a hot opportunity in his funnel. At pipeline review meetings, he grins as he describes how interested the prospect is and how soon the deal will close. But each week, there is a new delay. The prospect now needs approval from his boss, or perhaps there is another feature that it turns out they really need to move forward.
As sales managers, we know when our reps get “happy ears,” where they assume a deal is progressing better than it actually is. Conversely, reps often get discouraged quickly and assume that one missed meeting means a deal is dead.
To combat these issues, the best managers use several tools that increase accountability for reps making progress and ensure that reps are aligned on what the next steps are to progress a deal forward. These are the top 2 tools:
Weekly written updates: a recap of how the top deals are progressing, concerns reps are facing, additional resources needed and issues to discuss.
Pipeline review meetings: a discussion of the important points outlined in the weekly written updates and deep dives into the most important deals to coach reps on how to move those deals forward.
By implementing these simple weekly practices, you’ll keep the team productive and progressing on their pipeline. Consider these best practices for making your weekly written updates work seamlessly with pipeline review meetings:
1. Review progress, plans and problems
Each week you should review reps’ progress, plans and problems.
- Progress is what the rep did to move deals forward last week
- Plans are what the rep intends to do to move deals forward this week.
- Problems are roadblocks that prevent deals from moving forward
Your team may use different vocabulary for “progress, plans and problems” but the core subjects are usually the same. Each week, your reps should outline their progress, plans and problems during your pipeline review meetings and in their written status updates.
2. Do status updates in advance
Any time not spent selling can feel wasteful. It’s critical to use pipeline review meeting time as effectively as possible. A great way to do this is by having the “status update” aspect of pipeline review be done in advance with the weekly written updates. This way, you get a view of progress, plans and problems in advance. You can then enter the weekly meeting with the context needed to give actionable feedback.
3. Get concerns on the table
When reps encounter problems — whether in a specific deal or with your product — they can get distracted and ultimately stall in a deal. It’s important to give reps an avenue to surface their concerns and make their voices heard.
Using Weekly Update, you should have a field in your written status updates for “Concerns” or “Problems.” Each week your reps can write whatever is on their mind, and you may discuss the most pressing concerns with the team.
4. Supplement your CRM with brief summaries
Every sales manager knows how important it is to keep the CRM up to date with activities and deal progress. While funnel stage and calls notes tell part of the story, I’ve found it to be incredibly beneficial for reps to write a 1-2 sentence summary of the status of each deal, every week. This forces them to reflect, and gives you additional context needed to ask the right questions and unblock issues.
5. Identify deals that need attention at your meetings
Pipeline meetings can drag on when you try to discuss every single deal in the pipeline. Since your weekly written updates can be read on everyone’s own time, consider printing them out and circling the most important deals that should be given time for discussion at the meeting. This pre-meeting preparation makes your time meeting together much more productive.
6. Hold reps accountable for progress
One of the challenges with pipeline review meetings is holding reps accountable for the guidance you give them on each deal. You may discuss next steps the rep should take, but unless you are taking meticulous notes, it can be tough to remember everything the following week.
By getting status updates in writing, you have a written record of what each rep’s plans are. This way, you can simply open their written update the following week to see if they actually accomplished the plans for each deal.
7. Capture feature requests
A great use of weekly updates is to capture prospects’ feature requests. I’d recommend making a field in your weekly update form for “Feature Requests” where reps can outline specific feedback they heard from prospects. The feature requests that seem the most valuable can be shared with the product or service delivery teams.
8. Shares updates with service and support teams
The updates that your sales reps share can be immensely valuable for the product, engineering or support teams in your organization. While it may not be feasible to invite representatives from each of those departments to your pipeline review meeting, you could certainly forward or CC them on any written updates that may have useful insight for them.
9. Let reps request resources
Whether it is new collateral or an idea for a webinar, sales reps often have new needs for resources that may help overcome sales objections. Consider a field in your weekly updates to let reps request what new resources may be needed. From there, you can forward the most relevant resource requests to your sales operations and marketing teams.
10. Document sales objections
It may feel like reps are constantly encountering new sales objections. An effective sales operations and product marketing team will keep these objections documented and create specific collateral to address each one.
Your weekly updates are a great place for reps to share objections they run into each week. If you see several reps noting similar objections, it can spark a conversation at your pipeline review meeting and then be escalated to your product team.
You can set up a weekly update form for your sales team by clicking the button below: