In a previous post, I reported the results of a survey we conducted which suggested that pipeline management is top concern for sales managers.

Today I’d like to share some research on sales pipelines from Vantage Point Performance, which consults with sales organizations on this very issue.

Watch the video below to find out what they discovered:

Specifically, there are two findings from their research that are especially relevant to your sales training efforts:

1. Reps who actively manage their pipelines make more money. That may seem obvious, but I suspect there are plenty of salespeople who view these activities as bureaucratic busy work, and believe that the time spent on pipeline reviews and planning could better be spent in front of customers. Vantage Point’s research found, on the contrary, that time spent on pipeline management is time well spent. Specifically, they found that salespeople who spend at least four hours a month reviewing their pipelines with their sales managers generate more revenue than those who don’t.

2. To build better pipelines, the most important skill you can teach is early disqualification of nonbuyers. There’s a subtle distinction here: Sales training often focuses on qualifying — that is, identifying good prospects. But salespeople often tend to drag out the qualification process too long, and as a result they end up with a lot of lousy leads in their pipelines. It’s easy to understand why: It takes a long time to figure out whether someone is actually going to buy from you.

But while it may be hard to tell who will buy from you, it’s much quicker to figure who won’t buy from you. So if you begin with a disqualification mindset, you keep these nonbuyers out of the pipeline, which gives you more time to focus on real prospects.

The evidence for early disqualification is compelling. Vantage Point studied the sales pipelines at a Fortune 500 company. Here’s what they discovered:

The figure on the top represents the typical pipeline for all but one sales team in the business unit they studied. For each rep, $41 million of opportunities produced $4.7 million in sales. The pipeline on the bottom contained far fewer opportunities — $29 million per rep — yet it produced $7 million in sales.

Disqualification cuts against the grain for salespeople. They believe that more opportunities will lead to more sales, and grow anxious if they don’t see lots of leads in their pipelines. Also, salespeople are optimists by nature and training, and hate to give up on a lead that shows any sign of interest. They often confuse a prospect’s willingness to talk with an ability to buy. They have great faith in their own powers of persuasion, forgetting that all the persuasion in the world can’t make an unqualified buyer qualified. And finally, they’re can-do people. While it’s often said that salespeople hate hearing the word “no,” what they hate even more is saying “no.” As a sales trainer, it’s your job to show them that their optimism could be costing them money.

Thanks to Jason Jordan at Vantage Point Performance for sharing this research. If you’d like to learn more, e-mail Jason at

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