Why Conduct a Sales Pipeline Audit?
Sales Pipeline Audit is vital if you’re serious about managing sales growth, building an environment for sales success and cultivating a continuous sales improvement culture.
And they typically uncover easy wins that if you don’t exploit then your competitors will!
Some see the sales pipeline audit as a starting point for their sales improvement journey, others see it as a health check, giving them confidence that they’re on the right pathway.
The truth is – sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know!
We’ve all been there.
Whether it’s mastering a new sport.
Developing a new skill or just trying out a new Jamie Oliver dish for the first time.
We miss things.
You and I will give much greater importance to some things and negate the relevance of others.
Sometimes to our cost.
Eventually we get where we need to be.
Hopefully, we’ll have enjoyed the process and all our inexperience will have cost us is a bit of time, maybe a few bruises in the pursuit of a new sport and hopefully no dodgy tummy when cooking plans went awry.
It’s all part of learning, and it makes life interesting.
But what happens when you need to solve a business problem.
And the clock is ticking.
Money is running out, or at least the money isn’t coming in as fast as it should.
What do you do?
Would you enjoy the process of solving that problem as much?
Would you enjoy the detours the challenges gave you?
I didn’t think so.
So it makes sense to make the problem solving process as smooth, effective, efficient and productive as possible.
The Real Benefit of a Sales Pipeline Audit?
Here’s the thing…
Knee jerk reactions are good.
They are designed, hardwired even, into your limbic brain.
Reactions designed specifically to keep you safe, alive, free from danger.
Unavoidable in life.
But in business?
Maybe they need to be avoided at all costs?
Let me explain…
You see your sales team failing – that’s a problem.
Now – you have a range of knee jerk options.
- Fire the sales manager?
- Double the sales bonus?
- Get some sheep dip sales training booked in?
- Have a motivational away day?
Whatever you do, all you’re actually doing is treating the symptoms, and ignoring the problem.
At the very best, you’re building a work around.
A work around that may last for two day or two weeks…
But what happens when the sales dip again?
What do you do now?
At some point, you’ll need to dig deeper.
Slowing downward trends, leaking profits, poor sales conversions is one thing.
They are very loud, very bright (sometimes very bright red!) signals that somethings not working.
But what about the less obvious signals that indicate sales performance could be a lot better…those elements won’t become identifiable (if ever), yet they will slowly leak away profit, revenue, conversion.
Meaning one (or more) of your competitors is growing at your cost.
Here’s two case study examples to show you why a sales pipeline audit is so valuable, and how things could have worked out some differently had the business owners gone with their knee jerk reactions…
Sales Pipeline Audit – Example 1:
Client was looking at the new business team in a buoyant and expansive market and seeing a long term sales plateau starting to take a sharp downward slide.
Their knee-jerk options:
- Invest in training
- Start performance management
- Increase coaching
- Talk to customers
- Enhance/change the product
- Fire the sales manager
- Up the marketing spend
- Fire the sales team
- Ditch the market and concentrate in another vertical
Or, any or all of the above…what’s the solution?
On further exploration, the sales pipeline audit took me 4 days, I discovered the cause of the sales drop was a change in strategy.
A change that had been employed about 18 months ago in the business.
Quite simply, the sales pipeline audit showed that 18 months ago the business has eschewed all manner of account management and moved their whole focus into new business development, which mean that the business had just one person to account manage per 400 customers.
So, in a nut shell, bigger focus on new business development caused sales to plateau then drop through the floor?
It turns out, the real problem was nothing to do with the new business development, the team, the function, the price, the product, the market, the business or the vertical.
The Sales Performance Audit Uncovered the Real Problem.
That real problem had everything to do with the vibe that was now going around in their vertical market that said ”this company is great at the up front sell, BUT, once you’ve signed, you’ll never hear from them again, and, heaven forbid if you do have a problem, it’ll take you months to get a response, if you are lucky enough to get a response that is”
By diverting extra resources back to the account management team. By ensuring a strong and immediate account management and customer retention strategy, the new business team started to see an immediate lift in their sales conversion.
4 days and 1 Sales Audit saved that company in that vertical market.
Sales Performance Audit – Example 2.
Division failing badly, average order price just covering costs but conversion rate running at 1:25. The division was being propped up by other more profitable trading divisions by things were getting worse not better as time went on.
Again – large potential market, highly competitive but very buoyant, no where near saturation.
But 1:25 conversion from meeting to order was killing the business.
Their knee-jerk options:
- Fire the sales team and start again.
- Cancel the external sales function and rely simply on a telesales team.
- Shut the business
- Focus all efforts on account retention and growth.
- Outsource the whole sales function.
- Franchise the business and simply become a HQ function.
Either way something had to change.
A three day Sales Performance Audit came to several crucial conclusions:
- Competitors we making the same mistakes as this company…so it really was a race to the bottom.
- The division wasn’t selling what the prospects needed…although they could have
- The division wasn’t selling what they thought they were selling…no-one had unpacked the benefits
- The average order value of the competitor that was succeeding and doing very well was 7x that of the division in trouble
- It was a very crowded market of failing ‘me-too’ competitors
- Every competitor was trying to serve every vertical
- Every competitor was doing a ‘hit and run’ sale
Knowing all of this and employing some highly practical solutions mean that neither the product nor the routes to market changed, instead by changing the vertical, extending the sales presentation by 1 stage that happened post sign up, and by employing a higher level and more robust ROI demonstration during the sales process, we got the sales results we needed.
All resulted in a 4x increase in average order value and a 1:6 close rate instead of a 1:25.
Summary: Sales Performance Audit
So, in the examples above you can see how the findings in the sales audits through up far more meaningful and successful solutions than the knee jerk reaction generated solutions.
And there are plenty more examples of how an intensive Sales Audit can dramatically change the fortunes of a sales division…but you see, the most crucial point is, sometimes the most obvious solution to a problem is the correct solution, but not always.
For example – had we dismissed the Sales Audit all together and taken some or any of the actions outlined in the first case study above, the client’s sales performance in that vertical would have nosedived still further, even faster…and still with no clue about how to improve it.
In the second case study…simply training the sales staff would have brought about marginal improvements in the short term, would have minimised the growth potential and most definitely would have seen the sales division closed within 6 months.
Solving the immediate problem is one thing.
Identifying the true cause of that sales problem is another.
Avoiding the knee jerk/quick work around reaction that can pile one problem on top of another.
That’s where a Sales Audit really comes into it’s own, and can prove invaluable in saving time, money and other valuable resources.
Solving the cause of the problem and not the symptoms displayed by the cause of the problem can just do more harm than good. You can send results spiraling out of control, waste precious time and money as well as driving you insane in the process.
When you’re dealing in high risk situations, where the cost of getting it wrong is huge, where you’re against the clock, and money is flowing in the opposite direction to you…shouldn’t you take a deep dive into causes before looking at solutions?
To discuss any aspect of the Sales Audit, just use the contact details below.
Sales Audits can be conducted in as little as 3 days and feedback provided within a further 2 days.
When you’re business isn’t getting the sales results you want, need and deserve, time is of the essence so contact me now.
0779 002 1885
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