The most important indicator of sales success is the state of your pipeline. Whether it’s full of qualified leads that will keep you hitting your numbers in the months to come or clogged with prospects who will never pay off has a huge impact on your future success.

Yet, research from sales training firm The TAS Group shows some interesting contradictions regarding pipelines:

  • Forty-six percent of reps feel their pipelines are adequate.
  • Two-thirds of all salespeople miss their quotas.
  • More than half of salespeople have a closing rate of less than 40 percent.

The study also shows that the best reps — the rainmakers who always make or exceed quota and keep their sales pipelines overflowing with business — are 250 percent better at qualifying leads than their peers.

Contrary to popular belief, your marketing department can’t help you qualify leads. And cold calling certainly won’t do it. But referrals will.

Referrals made by your best clients are far more likely to slip quickly through your pipeline and result in a sale than leads garnered through any other channel. So, before you put any more sticky leads into your already clogged pipeline, make sure you’ve gotten all you can from your happiest clients.

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Joanne Black is a professional sales speaker, sales webinar leader, and author of “No More Cold Calling: The Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust” from Warner Business Books. Visit www.nomorecoldcalling.com. © Copyright 2011 Joanne S. Black. All rights reserved.