#9 – Deal Reviews & Pipeline Reviews (STSF Core Components)

By David Masover

Hi, welcome to episode nine of The Sales Team Success Formula™

The first 10 episodes of the podcast are designed to be like an audiobook version of The Sales Team Success Formula™, but I didn’t actually write the book – I did these podcasts instead!

In other words, if you really want to take a deep dive into exactly what The Sales Team Success Formula™ is, how it works, what the pieces are, and what it’s going to do for you and your team, listen to episodes one through ten.

It’ll take you a couple of hours to get through all ten core content episodes just like an audiobook would, but by the time you’re done, you’re going to have all the details.

You can start with Episode One that’s going to give you an overview of the formula and then decide if you want to listen to the rest. 

Here in episode nine, we’ll cover deal reviews and pipeline reviews (also called accountability meetings).

Deal reviews follow a similar theme as call reviews but serve a very different purpose. The similarity is that success derives from defining what “good” looks like for a deal or a call (which was done earlier in the formula, see episodes 2-4 for that if you missed it), and then working in the review to get closer to consistent execution around that.

Pipeline reviews on the other hand are a little different, and when your reps become stronger this could be the only meeting you need with each rep each month to keep all of the work we’ve done in the formula on track and your sales team growing within the finely tuned hum of an efficient sales engine and in the energizing environment of a solid sales culture.

These review meetings are the culmination of the work we’ve done in the program, and tie the clarity and agreement about sales execution to management efforts to provide support and accountability. Check these out, implement them and the infrastructure that supports them, and get your B2B sales team on the right track for good!

Here is what you will find in the other episodes in this introductory series:

EPISODE 1:  Introducing The Sales Team Success Formula™

EPISODE 2:  Target Client Profiling

EPISODE 3:  Effective Sales Messaging

EPISODE 4:  The Four Level Sales Process™

EPISODE 5:  Personal Sales Plans

EPISODE 6:  KPIs & Metrics

EPISODE 7:  Sales Tools & Tech

EPISODE 8:  Call Reviews

EPISODE 9:  Deal Reviews & Pipeline Reviews

EPISODE 10:  Putting the Formula Into Action

Thanks for your interest in The Sales Team Success Formula™ – and here’s to your success!

Transcription

Hi, and thanks for joining me for this episode of The Sales Team Success Formula Podcast, I’m your host David Masover and we’re coming close to the end of the first 10 episodes where I’m walking you through each element of The Sales Team Success Formula, and more importantly tying them all together into the kind of efficient and effective sales team operating system that so many sales and company leaders crave for their B2B selling companies.

Now in the last episode we covered call reviews, which are hugely important as an opportunity to really focus on what happens in an individual conversation between a rep and a prospect or customer. In this episode, we’ll get into deal reviews and pipeline reviews – where we can dig into what happens during a specific deal and across all deals – but there are a few things that are super important for all of these reviews:

  • First, you need to stay focused – if you are in a call review, review calls, don’t get into deals.
  • If you are in a deal review, don’t start going into pipeline.
  • And if you are in a pipeline review, don’t start coaching or getting into deals.

Each of these reviews has a purpose and each deserves focus.

These three reviews are a direct reflection of the things we focused on in the first corner of our triangle  – What salespeople are saying, how they are managing deals, and how they are managing all of their deals – with tools and tech in the middle to support execution and analytics.

This integration and interplay is the core of The Sales Team Success Formula and this is absolutely not a coincidence.

In the first episode of the podcast where we laid out what the formula is and why it works, we drove home the fact that at a high level your salespeople need to do three things well to succeed:

  • Talk to the right people and say the right things – which is what we cover in call reviews
  • Take engaged prospects through an efficient and effective sales process, which we developed as a four level sales process and that we address in deal review meetings
  • And that your reps need to be on top of all of their opportunities and be moving towards the goals and targets that we mapped out with them in their Personal Sales Plans and that we cover in pipeline meetings.

Each of these review meetings from the front line sales manager is a direct reflection of a critical element of salesperson success, and each should be focused on in that meeting.

So with that said, let’s spend some time on deal review and pipeline reviews, and then in the next episode, the last in our foundational 10-part series of what The Sales Team Success Formula is and how it will help your team win with more transparency and less time and headaches from leadership – we’ll tie it all together now that it has been fully fleshed out.

So with all of that said, let’s take a look at deal reviews.

DEAL REVIEWS

Most sales managers and leaders will tell you that they do deal reviews, but if you sit and listen in – which I have – what you often here is stuff like:

“So hows it going with the ABC Manufacturing company opportunity?”

And what follows is story time, first from the rep – where they offer some stories about some of the minutiae of the deal and the people involved in it, then what you might call counter-stories from the front line sales manager, which often start with things like:

“Yeah, I had something come up like that once, what I did was, blah, blah, blah…”

Now sometimes an interesting or useful learning or strategy comes out of these ad hoc discussions, but there a a whole lot of room to do better here!

Like call reviews, deal reviews are going to be a lot more effective if there is a clear understanding of what a good deal looks like as a basis for the discussion.

Luckily, the second level of the Four-Level Sales Process sets us up for success here.

In fact, if there is something in your deal review that is NOT a part of the Four-Level Sales Process, then you didn’t set up the Four-Level Sales Process correctly.

Think about it – if there is something that you would want to ask in a deal review meeting about how a deal is going, then how can the information behind that question NOT be part of a well constructed sales process?

That would be like not giving the sheet music to a piano player and asking them to play, then telling they did it wrong because they didn’t follow the notes on the sheet music that you never gave them!

When you do this right, the deal review questions and the sales process should be direct reflections of each other. In the deal review, you want to know how the deal is going, so the sales process needs to reflect how the deal should go.

This might seem obvious, but is rarely done that way.

Let’s look at some common deal review questions and as you consider them, ask yourself if they are represented in your Four-Level Sales Process.. If not, go back and bake in any that are missing.

So in deal reviews, you might be asking questions like:

  • What is the problem that the prospect has told you they need to solve?
  • Why is now the time to solve that problem?
  • Who will be impacted by the decision to solve the problem one way or the other?
  • What will happen if the problem goes unresolved?
  • Where is the buyer in their decisions process?
  • Who is involved in the decision process?
  • What other solutions is the prospect considering?
  • What are the risks for us?
  • What are the next steps?
  • When will this deal be ready to close and why. How do you know?
  • What’s it going to take to win!

These are the kinds of questions you want to have answered when doing a deal review, so to set your team and each deal up for success, make sure that these questions are baked into your sales process.

This is the fundamental point of departure for deal reviews. Consider this point very carefully!

Also like call reviews, deal reviews work well when there is a model for what a good deal looks like. Deals won’t always go that way, but having a model and comparing what happens in a specific deal to that model helps you manage deals and evolve the model over time in a deliberate and effective way.

That is the path to ongoing growth and success for your reps and the entire sales organization with respect to deals.

Also like call reviews, deal reviews can go awry when they turn into something else (like a call review or a pipeline review), or if they stray into war stories and stuff like “…yeah, the same thing once happened to me and I did blah, blah, blah”

Another way that deal reviews are similar to call reviews is that the same three basic principles apply, the ones we covered under call reviews, but with a few slight twists. So let’s look at those principles now and flesh them out a bit for deal reviews:

Deal Review Principle 1: You need to be consistent

I beat the drum of consistency pretty hard with respect to call reviews. If that message didn’t sink in please go back and review that little rant in episode 8 – it’s important!

As a quick reminder, your reps won’t recognize that something is real and permanent until you repeat it deliberately and consistently at least a few times.

Do so, and your reps will start to go through deals with a little voice in the back of their heads telling them that they will be having their deals reviewed to see that they made sense and were executed well.

This is exactly the point of deal reviews. Not only to save deals that may be faltering, but to clearly establish in the minds of your reps what a well-executed deal looks like so that more and more deals will be more and more well executed over time – and fewer will need to be ‘saved.’

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Preventing problematic deals and setting up deals for success proactively and deliberately – now that’s a good use of time for your front line sales manager!

Deal Review Principle Number 2: You need to start with a clear agreement about what a good deal looks like

Like call reviews, deal reviews are effective when each deal can be compared to a model of what a good deal looks like. 

This is one of the big benefits of creating the Four-Level Sales Process as we did in the section about what reps should be doing.  Because you did that work, and Co-Created Clarity around what to do during a deal with your reps, what should happen in a deal is clear, concrete, and agreed on by all.

This is not to say that you should be rigid with the model. The model will never be perfect, can always be tweaked, and may even need to be scrapped altogether in favor of a different model – but none of these things are possible until you put a stake in the ground around what a model is so that you can compare that to reality and iterate from there.

This is the path to ongoing growth and success in your sales organization with respect to deals!

Deal Review Principle Number 3: You need to be able to see the deal unfolding

One place where plenty of front line sales managers trip up in executing deals reviews is by only having what the rep can tell them on the spot as insight to a deal.

Some front line sales managers believe that they can call up a report in the CRM and see where the deal is, but if the sales process in the CRM has only been established at level one – which you will remember is simply the main category headers of a properly constructed four level sales process – and different reps move deals between the stages based on different criteria, then the “data” in the CRM has no depth, no detail and no integrity and can’t be relied on for much beyond a digital representation of each reps unique version of their finger in the wind.

When we dig into tools and tech as part of The Sales Team Success Formula, we make the point that tools and tech will be well chosen when you start by understanding what reps do in the field at a detailed level and then get tools to help them execute that.

Developing the Four-Level Sales Process was in part designed to help with this. When tools help reps do the work they are actually doing, they will use the tools to actually do their work, not just to log activities there because they have to.

One of these modalities of working is a recipe for an extra administrative burden for reps with low-to-no integrity data for management, while the other is designed to help reps execute better while giving management a real reflection about what is happening in the field.

It is beyond the scope of a podcast episode to get into the nitty gritty details of how that plays out in your unique circumstances, but understanding the difference between these two sets of circumstances and working hard to constantly refine the balance between process, tools, execution, and analytics is a VERY good use of management time. It ensures that tools support reps, that process supports success, and that management has the insight they need to stay on top of all of that and to work towards improving collective efforts – which is exactly what the focus of the front line sales manager should be.

Getting this more and more right is a huge potential accelerator for you team. Invest what you need to here to get this as right as you can, be honest with yourself about how good it really is or isn’t, and keep working on it.

Get this right and the ROI can be huge.

Suggested model for a deal review meeting

The execution of the deal review meeting can be very simple if you have laid the groundwork correctly.

Start by considering the questions about each deal that you want to be asking, recognize where each questions fits into your well developed Four-Level Sales Process, and then dive in with your reps.

Ask your reps to bring you a deal they are struggling with or one that they are proud of, and start working through the deal with them. Ask where in the Four-Level Sales Process they are, and then start asking questions.

If questions that relate to parts of the deal that the rep tells you are already done in the Four-Level Sales Process get you answers that are thin or incomplete, this is an opportunity to revisit what the rep has already done in this deal, to make sure that those elements are brought into the mix on this deal, and that in future deals the rep will take more care to get those elements done before moving on.

For the elements of the Four-Level Sales Process that are still to come, ask the rep how they plan to get to them, what the timing is, and where they might be getting stuck. This is also a good opportunity to tell reps where you see the potential for trouble or opportunity and to work together to maximize the chances for success.

If the rep brings you a deal that is stuck, take it apart according to the Four-Level Sales Process and see where you can help get it back on track.

And of course, the same approach hold true for post mortems on wins or losses, which is another excellent use of deal review meeting time.

The magic here happens when there is a model for what a well executed deal looks like and what the rep needs to be on top of for a deal to be considered well-executed. The work you did in developing your Target Client Profile and your Four-Level Sales Process will take you very far here. Do that work well, and use it as the basis for deal reviews. Be consistent, and be sure that your focus is to establish what “good” looks like for each rep and across the organization.

Co-Created Clarity around calls and deals will take you and your whole team far. Do this work well and deliberately and watch the growth and effectiveness take root!

PIPELINE REVIEWS

OK – so let’s shift gears and talk about pipeline reviews.

This third kind of review that I want to go over with you and the last review that we’ll dig into is arguably the most important.

In fact, over time, this may be the only one that is left!

When reps are doing great, you might decide that call reviews and deal reviews are not necessary, but you will always want to check in once a month or on whatever timetable feels most right to you and confirm how the rep is doing against pre-established goals and targets.

The idea behind a pipeline meeting is to take a periodic look at all of what a rep is working on over some period of time – I like a month unless there is some reason to choose something else – and to make sure that the collection of opporutnities is at a healthy level and that the rep is set up for success with the aggregate deals they are working on at any given time.

Like call reviews and deal reviews, there are a lot of different ways to do pipeline reviews, but of all of the approaches I’ve been subjected to as a rep, tried as a manager, and read about, the model from Mike Weinberg in his timeless and epic book ‘Sales Management Simplified’ is clean, elegant and pretty much perfect – so with the disclaimer that most of what you will read in this section is lifted from there, let me tell you how he suggests doing a pipeline review and why it is so powerful when you do.

What is great about this approach is that it recognizes the fundamental truth that sales is about getting results, and getting results should allow salespeople to be rewarded with something highly valuable to almost every salesperson I’ve ever met – freedom and autonomy.

Most salespeople love their freedom, and if they are hitting their numbers, you should give it to them!

In the next episode, we’ll discuss how as reps become stronger and stronger, the frequency of call reviews and deal reviews can decrease. If your strong reps want help, you can always give it to them. If they don’t and they are crushing it, reward them with freedom and an open door if they need any help from you to keep going.

In other words, call reviews and deal reviews are conditional, but pipeline/accountability reviews are a solid, permanent fixture.

There is however some flexibility baked in depending on performance as I will describe below. If a rep is doing well and doesn’t need any other support, this could be the only 1:1 meeting a strong rep has every month with the front line sales manager and it should only take about 20 minutes if the meeting is executed with discipline – as it should be!

Like the other reviews, there is a specific structure here, and consistency is key. Here is the model you should follow – preferably on a regular schedule, like the Nth day of the month every month, preferably the earliest day in a new month you can pull it off to reflect on the previous month.

The format should also be regular. Completely expected. Same every time.

Something like this:

Results

First of all, we want to start the pipeline meeting with a focus on results

The pipeline is a vehicle for getting results, and this meeting is about accountability around that, so it’s natural to start here.

…but…

This only works if you have some clear results expectations for each rep that are tied to process and pipeline to review.

I am often amazed when working with sales organizations that this is a point that gets people tripped up.

Many salespeople don’t have specific results that they are shooting for each month.

They should.

The obvious one is a revenue target, but if your reps are only scheduling meetings then there can be other targets like meetings set or if the sales cycle is long then progress between well defined stages in a sales process.

Some sales organizations benefit from having specific activity goals, metrics, or KPIs that individual salespeople are responsible for – but I don’t want to digress too much into what kinds of results you can ask for, the point is, you need to have some to ask for.

Why?

Because of the incredible power of getting to the end of a month and starting a conversation with a salesperson about whether they hit them or not.

Very binary. Very clear.

Sales is about making sales happen. Measurable results. Hope is not your best strategy here – you want to be able to ask and talk about whether or not specific goals were reached or not, and take action accordingly

Now if your sales team is powered by The Sales Team Success Formula, your reps will have specific goals to get into here because you did the work to develop Personal Sales Plans with each rep, right?

So start your pipeline accountability meeting here.

Your goal was X. You hit it, passed it, or didn’t.

If a rep hit or passed their goal, congratulate them, and you are pretty much done with this meeting.

Even if this is the only meeting you have with a rep each month, if they are hitting their goals and not causing any problems (which you should manage somewhere other than in this meeting), then you are done.

Really.

That’s it.

Now for the sake of being proactive, I think it’s worthwhile to take this opportunity to look together with the rep at their pipeline to make sure that the rep is on track to hit their number next month as well.

If it’s solid, then move on and let this solid rep get back to selling.

If it’s not – meaning that there is not enough in the pipeline to cover next months result target – then talk about what the rep plans to do to solidify their chances of succeeding next month given the currently weak pipeline and decide together with the rep – really valuing their input and respecting their preferences – if you want to let them go for it on their own or if they might need some help.

If they tell you then can pull it off and if you know they are solid, give them the chance to try. You have these meetings every month, and you will start next month with results as well, and that will also be a basis for conversation whether they pulled it off or not.

Just like the goal of every parent is happy and independent children, your goal here should be that your reps are motivated and capable of getting the result you hired them to get. Give them the chance to do so, and hold them accountable to the results.

That’s the model. That’s the job. That’s the path to success.

Pipeline

Now – if the rep didn’t hit their result or if you just want to take a peek at what the odds of success are next month for a successful rep, taking a look at their pipeline is the place to go next.

Because you mapped this out when we worked on The Four-Level Sales Process and because you baked that process into your CRM or other tech that you use to track pipeline, this should be pretty quick and easy if you set it up right.

Look at the pipeline with the rep and discuss if there is enough in there to hit the number next month. If after a discussion it looks good then tell your rep to get after it and you’ll revisit this next month – as scheduled – like every month.

If your rep hits their number next month, this is a great indication that they are managing their pipeline with integrity, but if you’ve got a rep who is missing results and has a weak pipeline, or worse yet – has a pipeline that looks strong in the system but consistently fails to deliver this is a massive red flag and requires immediate intervention.

Time to start looking at what exactly this rep is actually doing in between these monthly meetings!

Activity

Reps never like to go over activity metrics with their boss, and reps who hit numbers and have pipelines that deliver shouldn’t have to. This is the implied (or explicit) reward that comes out of this meeting. Do your work in a way that you get the results you are after and I’ll let you keep doing whatever it is you are doing to get there without bothering you (too much) about it.

BUT

When reps miss numbers or haver weak or non-performing pipelines, you have to get into activities.

At the simplest level, there are only only one of two things (or both) that is going on here:

Not enough activities or activities not done effectively.

An effective transition from the pipeline portion of this meeting to the activity portion of the meeting is to ask two simple questions about the pipeline that will lead you to the activity quantity and quality questions you need to start digging into.

Once it becomes clear that the pipeline is either thin or not performing, ask these two questions:

  • Which of these opportunities in the pipeline are new since the last time we talked?
  • Which of these opportunities has moved forward in the process since the last time we talked?

Now remember, we want this meeting to remain all about the pipeline and to follow the format. This isn’t the time for coaching, call reviews, deal reviews, pep talks, or excuses from the rep.

If you get to this stage of the meeting and it is clear that there is a problem with quantity and/or quality of activities then you’ll need to work with this rep to get them back on track or out the door (there really is no other option, right?).

So tell the rep this – that because of lack of results and performance you’ll need to spend some time on call reviews, deal reviews, and maybe on tactics and techniques, so set a time in the next few days to get together to make a plan about what to work on and how, and end the meeting.

Again, this is the pipeline and accountability meeting.

It is completed successfully when you either acknowledge that things are going well or that they are not.

Next steps in either case happen elsewhere. This kind of meeting discipline is important to set expectations and to manage management time and energy. Keep this discipline well!

Your reps might be shocked the first time you have this meeting with them. They might even think you’ll forget about it soon enough. Have it again the second month, and then the third, and then the fourth. Pretty soon they’ll be thinking about it as they go through their month – which is perfect.

Fix it in their minds that so that as they do their work they will know that after the month is over they will be going over what happened with you in a fixed format that is logical, predictable, and which rewards them for reaching targets, and impacts their freedom and their autonomy based on their efforts and the results they achieve with them.

So those are the core management activities that leverage the work we did with reps, get captured by the thoughtful handful of metrics and KPIs that we’ve established and that we track, and how we integrated that with tools and tech we deploy with our teams.

Call Reviews. Deal Reviews. Pipeline Reviews.

What reps are saying to prospects. How they are managing each deal. How they are managing all of their deals.

What we have established in this program is the infrastructure to support the front line sales managers with respect to what the reps should be doing; how tools and tech can help; and what we should be measuring set up the FLSM for success in managing these three critical meetings which represent the core sales function and how to bring it to a state of consistently and increasing effectiveness.

This has been a long episode and a long path of nine episodes to get here, but we have finally reached the doorstep of the promised land.

Please check out episode ten, the next episode, to summarize how far we’ve come, and to bring home the value of this program you are learning about now.

See you then and there.

In the meantime, if you’d like to find out what the formula can do for you and your team, head over to my website at www dot sales team success formula dot com and sign up for a one-on-one consultation and assessment with me and let’s talk about whether this program is your best next move for B2B sales growth and scalability.