Fairly benign question, huh? As players in the space occupied by Heads of Sales throughout corporate B2B Australia, we would have all been taught a similar principle. And this principle would usually go something like this…
An opportunity should be sourced for possible entry into the pipeline, by:
- applying standard company profile criteria of attractiveness
- conducting the necessary research on any sourced company to ensure these criteria are met
- conducting the necessary initial communications with someone in the know at the sourced company to satisfy pre-agreed qualification criteria, such as…
- There is a need that our product/service can fulfill
- There is at least one identifiable stakeholder who owns the need
- There is are resources allocated to meet the need
- There is a willingness to enter into dialogue or meeting with your company about potential overlap between your product/service and their need
Setting up a filter in this way will optimise for tangible and contestable opportunities going into the pipeline for hunting or trapping. With this kind of filtration “guarding” the top of the pipeline, it is not uncommon for many industrial B2B sales organisations to operate on conversion rates of 10, 20, 30, 40%.
But is this approach “right”?
A beloved client of ours recently challenged us, at The Next Level, on trying to specify for their pipeline opportunity qualification using these “tried and true” principles.
“I want them to enter every and any opportunity that they generate or that comes to them into their pipeline BEFORE they start their research of the company and qualification of the opportunity!” he told me, over a slurp of his tepid coffee. “But…” I interjected, and began defending the tried and true pathway to research and qualification and associated filtration being the mandatory for pipeline entry”. “Glenn…I don’t care what is right and normal for most sales organisations.” “I want to see everything and anything that they source go INTO their pipeline, and I prefer that this qualification and filtration you speak to be a pre-requisite to pipeline entry at our first gate WITHIN the pipeline”.
“But…” again, I found myself defending, “if you do that, you will have conversion rates of 5, 4, 3 % or even lower, because you will be counting rubbish, tire kickers, and leads that should never have gone in”. “Exactly right Glenn”, he beamed, “and that is just the way I want it.” “I want the visibility and measurability of all that…top-to-bottom…IN the pipeline, as the true and accurate representation of our reality and the effort my Sales Execs expend in sourcing, researching, filtering, qualifying at the top end of the pipeline”.
Digging my heels in and standing on principles I had not previously impugned, I started to look at this from his perspective. Is he right? Is he wrong? Is there are a right or wrong on this point? What do you think?