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Fairy Tales, Myths, and Legends: A Trip Through the Sales Pipeline


Most sales managers spend a lot of time focused on the sales pipeline. Weekly update meetings. Morning huddles. How's this deal coming? Did you close that deal? Any adds this week? Often, a weekly one-to-one meeting is nothing more than a pipeline review with no coaching or mentoring. It can become a weekly ritual where the rep shares each opportunity and the manager approves ("Makes sense.") or tells them what to do next ("Why don't you send them the white paper?") This is not coaching. It creates learned helplessness.

When most of a salesperson's interaction with their manager is based upon this pipeline discussion, it yields many unwanted behaviors. We find that salespeople are reluctant to "go for the no" because they don't want to take the deal off the pipeline. So they mislead their manager, make excuses and fudge when it comes to their opportunities. They have "happy ears." Any sign of engagement ("She returned my e-mail!") is met with an over-optimistic assessment.

Working the pipeline can be tricky. We must be careful that it's not a widely accepted "behavior avoidance." I'm working on proposals and following up on pipeline opportunities so I don't have to prospect. It can be a lot of activity without much accomplishment. I'm busy doing pricing and proposals. follow up calls ("he's gone silent - should I ping him?") and the dreaded "just checking in" emails. It's Gerbil Selling. Work, work, work. But not much comes out the bottom in terms of money and few prospects get added to the top.

Most pipelines, in my experiences, are filled with fairy tales, myths, and legends.

Have you ever seen a pipeline that was more like a Fairy Tale? Like "Little Red Riding Hood", it's just a fantasy. We have no idea if they have budget, we aren't speaking with a decision-maker (Fairy Tale opportunities often find us speaking with people who can only tell us no) and we have just thrown a bunch of features-and-benefits against the wall hoping something sticks. Like throwing sticks at Rapunzel's castle.

The typical pipeline often includes myths. At first glance, it appears real. We are talking to the CEO and they have a budget! But we haven't really honed in on an emotional reason that they would buy. We are dealing with needs. Surface issues. Intellectual curiosity. Mythical opportunities may have some of the characteristics of a qualified opportunity, but they aren't qualified. Like the centaur, it has some of the characteristics of a horse...but it's not really a horse.

Legends are inspiring characters who are real. William Tell, Johnny Appleseed, and John Henry. And some of your reps' pipeline opportunities are legends - even legendary! They are authentic and real! They have identified a problem that your company can fix, there is a budget and we are speaking with the decision-makers! It's glorious - but unfortunately, less than half of their deals have the status of legends.

How do we have a legendary pipeline?

Ensure that we take our prospect through a thorough qualification process. At Sandler, we teach our clients to qualify hard and close easy. Very different than traditional sales.

  • Does my prospect have a problem that my company can solve and have I uncovered the compelling, emotional impact of that problem?
  • Are they willing and able to purchase my product or service?
  • Do I understand how they make decisions?

Keep myths and fairy tales out of your pipeline. Qualify hard and close easily.

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Robin Green

Robin Green

Robin Green is the President and Owner of Ascend Performance, Inc., a certified and award-winning Sandler Training Center in Richmond, VA. He specializes in helping companies of all sizes to develop the Attitudes, Behaviors, and Techniques that will help them reach new levels. Robin is a keynote speaker and podcast host. You can reach him at We help companies and motivated individuals with sales, management and customer service training.