By Katie Tolin
When it comes to pipelines, as well as leading opportunities, business development executives (BDEs) have different roles. Some BDEs participate in the process like every partner in the firm; they show up and report their progress when asked. Others are only responsible for managing the sales process internally for the firm. They prepare reports and prep management to lead a meeting. The range of what a BDE is asked goes from one extreme to another, but there has to be a happy medium.
As a BDE, you should have a role in managing this process, but that should be coupled with your own sales goals that are shared on the pipeline and in pipeline review meetings. A pipeline review meeting is typically led by the firm’s managing partner or someone to whom the partners are accountable. But you should be vocal in these meetings to help increase the firm’s overall win rate. The following are a few ways you can help influence the pipeline management process:
- Partake in Pipeline Reviews. While a pipeline document is a list of all opportunities being pursued in the firm, a list alone doesn’t do anything. You have to have regular calls or meetings to actually drive progress. Be prepared to report on your own leads, but also look at the pipeline regularly to see how you can help others in the firm with their pursuits.
- Encourage the Right Leads. A pipeline won’t be effective if it does not contain the right opportunities for your firm. Your leads should be for the type of work you actively want to grow and target. Ensure your firm knows who it’s chasing and why. Point our when someone is an ideal target, especially when it results in a win.
- Develop the Right Pursuit Team. Make sure the right people are working each lead. The person who developed the lead is not always the best choice. This will require that you talk with your managing partner or firm leadership between calls to put together a winning team that can take the right steps at the right time.
- Provide Uniform Sales Training. This is truly the secret to a successful management process. A systematic approach involving a series of detailed sales steps will enable others to close more deals, increase margins and make more sales through referrals. Share your process via training sessions for everyone involved in the pipeline process. Having everyone able to talk the same lingo is quite powerful.
- Establish Pipeline Stages. As part of your sales training, establish corresponding stages for all the leads on your pipeline. For example, you could have qualified and unqualified leads but make sure everyone knows what it takes for a lead to be qualified. This will be important when it comes to the next step in the sales process.
- Focus on Next Steps. In complex sales, it often takes between five and 12 contacts to close a deal. Get everyone with a pipeline lead to focus on the next step in the sales process. This will be dependent on many factors that you’ve hopefully spelled out in our sales training. Use your own expertise to guide that next step if they are unsure as to what it should be.
- Set Goals. How many leads do you need to have in your pipeline to drive the firm growth desired? What is your target win rate? Average opportunity size? By coming up with these metrics and communicating them, everyone knows what you are aiming for. Be sure to measure and report on progress, too.
- Embrace Group Selling. Encourage those with pipeline leads to share successes and failures with one another. If you did something in the past that worked well, talk about it. If you know of something a partner did, encourage him or her to share it. Two heads are better than one.
- Celebrate Successes. When someone wins and opportunity or makes a significant step in the sales process, share what you know or encourage the partner to share that part of the story. People like to know when they did something right. This will encourage similar behavior in others, too, as they want similar recognition.
Your pipeline is the lifeblood of your organization’s future revenue. Use it to ensure you are getting the revenue you need to drive your growth goals. However, most of the partners in your firm don’t have the sales training and experience that you do. While you should be focused on brining in new opportunities of your own, don’t under estimate the impact you can make on all your firm’s opportunities with a little process.
“It’s not about having the right opportunities. It’s about handling the opportunities right.” –Mark Hunter
NOTE: This post contains highlights of a session presented as part of AAM’s inaugural BD Bootcamp in Nov. 2017. Similar events will be presented in the future. Check out the AAM calendar for all our educational opportunities.
About Katie Tolin
Katie Tolin is the president and chief growth guide at CPA Growth Guides. She’s a former in-house marketer having spent time at regional, super regional and national accounting firms. Today she helps CPA firms drive top-line revenue and profitability through data-driven marketing strategies. She’s a past president of AAM, a former marketer of the year and was inducted to the Accounting Marketing Hall of Fame. A member of the podcast committee, Katie was the interviewer for this episode.