Get real with your sales pipeline


Make selling a process

One of the realities that organizations, especially those delivering consulting, software products, solutions and services face is that their sales pipeline is overly ambitious. Too often, organizations fail to screen opportunities clearly and believe they have a healthy pipeline.


Managing the funnel poorly leads to

  1. Long lead times for conversion

  2. Poor conversion ratios

  3. Increased cost from multiple client meetings, rework etc.

  4. Ineffective proposals – rejections by clients, over commitment, non-profitable proposals etc

  5. Missed revenue targets

  6. Poor image perception by clients

This is no reflection on the capabilities of the sales leaders, but a clear consequence of poor processes. Most organizations selling discretionary consulting, software solutions, products and services are too focused on their own product, solution or services. They can see how the client can use their offering and succeed. Its not unusual to come across statements “God, how can these guys be so dumb! Our offering will create so much value for them!”.


So what truly ails the sales process? Here are some mistakes people make

  1. Not understanding the need of customer. A need exists only when there is a pain and a decision to do something about it

  2. Insufficient understanding of client’s current situation, his ambitions and the gaps as well as priorities

  3. Inability to build a vision for the client

  4. Lack of access to the decision maker

  5. Not having any control over the sales process


Success in sales, your win rate, can be expressed in terms of a mathematical equation

Pain – Does the customer have a pain and is he going to do something about it? Bigger the pain more are your chances

Power – Do we have access to the decision maker? Without access to the final decision maker, your chances are reduced

Vision – Is the desired situation / target clear to the customer? If the desired situation is very clear, the client is more likely to buy your solution / offering

Value – Is the value of your solution clearly demonstrable?

Control – Are you in control of the sales process? If you don’t know how the sales process at the client is going to pan and if you can’t get a good leverage on the process, you are doomed.


We recommend that organizations build a robust sales process that focusses on all elements influencing the Win Rate. Here are some good practices you can follow

  1. When you call a potential prospect, you don’t need to sell your offering. You need to merely provoke his interest and get an agreement to meet and discuss/explore further.

  2. Do your research well that will help you evoke client’s interest to meet you.

  3. When you meet the client make sure you are meeting the appropriate person. Understand the various buyers in the organization; user buyer, technical buyer, influencer, commercial buyer and the key decision maker.

  4. A client meeting is an opportunity not just to present yourself, but also explore the clients situation. Budget plenty of time for client to talk and minimize your presentation. Restrict your own presentation to clearly establishing the value of your offering

  5. Engage the client in a conversation to understand his current situation and desired goal. Help him discover the possibilities of what can be achieved by sharing benchmarks and best practices. Ask situation questions, problem questions and consequence questions.

  6. Demonstrate your understanding of their money and their benefits

  7. Help customer develop the business case; never fall in the trap of developing business case for your offering.

  8. Understand decision making process of client and figure out how you can get a better control of the sales process.

  9. Articulate your solution in an effective manner. Use deductive communication principles with users and technical buyer. Use inductive communication principle when communicating to decision makers.

Remember, clients buy consulting, software products and solutions, they are never sold. Sales is about clients money and not about our money; if clients can make more money out of your offering, you are likely to make money as well.


If you are an organization that requires help with consultative sales and would like to improve your sales effectiveness, reach out to krishnan@thinkhorizonconsulting.com or call on +91 9791033967 for further discussion.


Krishnan Naganathan

The author is a management consultant who helps organizations in their growth journey.

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