Cowboys may have tamed the Wild West, but in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace, the “ready, aim, shoot” approach of many sales professionals can hurt their ability to achieve sales success. Just a few years ago, most salespeople could rely on their Rolodexes and few rounds of golf to ensure they had a pipeline adequate to make their sales goals. But the selling landscape has changed forever and many salespeople are unwilling or incapable of adapting.

Those who consistently achieve their sales goals understand that several key functions must be precisely orchestrated to achieve an efficient sales process, in much the same way that a disparate group of musicians comes together to produce a symphony.

A sales model that produces a steady stream of qualified leads must account for the following:

  • Up to 60 percent of the buying process occurs before a salesperson engages with a prospect. Consequently, best-of-breed salespeople understand the critical role marketing plays in identifying the perfect sales prospect and deploying the messaging/content needed to effectively engage and nurture future clients.
  • High-performing salespeople have close alignment with their marketing counterparts and provide a constant stream of feedback to ensure messaging is adjusted based on changing market conditions.
  • The best salespeople make sure that the leads provided by marketing are followed up on immediately and that if a lead is not fully qualified, it is returned to marketing for further nurturing.

Where some salespeople fall behind. A vital area that can become a stumbling block for some is sales pipeline forecasting. Repeatedly missing sales forecasts is an indication that a salesperson’s sales pipeline is bloated with poorly qualified deals. Opportunities that have aged well past the average sales cycle usually become a “no decision” prospect.

Now that we have begun a new year, it’s not too late to sweep these dead deals out of the pipeline. It may be painful now but at least you will have a better handle on where you really stand and you will give yourself the opportunity to “make music” for the rest of the year.

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Dan Hudson is the co-founder and president of 3forward and has a B2B sales and sales leadership background of more than 30 years. He can be reached at dan.hudson@3forward.com.