Did Ron Burgundy Create Your Sales Pipeline?
“They’ve done studies, you know. 60 percent of the time, it works every time.” — Brian Fantana
I was watching the evening weather report on a local TV station and the reporter said something that caught my attention. OK, it is more than that it's a pet peeve. She said, today the high is going to be 40F but it should be 75F. Should be? This little anthropomorphism is the genesis of many a bad decision in business and in life.
When the reporter said “should be" she was referencing an aggregate of temperature results over time for this particular day. It was either a mean, a median, or a mode. Maybe a standard deviation to give a range to the “normal” or something along those lines. She probably even used a computer with spreadsheets and stuff!
Why nitpick that statement? It comes down to perception and it plays into a cognitive bias. If you believe in cause and effect, then it's one of those things that works for vernacular speak but is subtly deceptive.
Today’s temperature should be what the complex thermodynamic equation that drives weather says if should be. In other words, we should get the weather we are getting today.
Predicting the weather closer to the due date is a fairly accurate process these days. Not unlike predicting the close of a prospect in the final stages of an engagement. The prediction is generally close enough to actual reality to allow us to plan our daily activities without much concern and prepare for the possibility of severe weather events hours or a few days before it occurs. However, given the extreme complexity of the thermodynamic equation that creates weather, the science can be accurate but not entirely precise. The further out we are from the due date the more difficult is to decide what to wear.
“Sometimes it's not prudent to wait for all the facts to come in. You have to quickly sign up for a theory so you can say, I was there first!” ― Ron Burgundy
Sales Pipelines are like the weather, predictable in an unpredictable way. Sales Managers are often like the TV weather personalities. We can spend 15 minutes telling you a story about how things are going to pan out but it's really a best guess built from a model. Nothing makes a sales manager look more like Ron Burgundy than betting the farm on a pipeline. That's because sales pipelines are a measure of human action that is not entirely in your control.
If you have a boss or a business owner whose background is more accounting or engineering, this can be a problem. The fuzzy math inherent to human action can drive people of this persuasion absolutely nuts. Let me re-state that, it puts them "in a glass case of emotion."
Mr. Burgundy would tell you that more and more CEO's have this kind of a pathetic background. Yes, I know it is hard to believe that people with strong analytical skills can lead a company. It's a brave new world. In fact, many CEO's have never spent any time in a sales or creative capacity, but we must remember like Ron they are "Kinda a big deal". The sales function needs to do a better job of making these folks understand the uncertainty inherent to predicting future events that are human caused. The way I see it is if weather reporters with "salon quality hair" can “read the news,” then we can come up with an accurate pipeline that even Brick Tamland could understand.
Most businesses need a sales pipeline. We need to have a view into what our sales people are producing and gauge how it will impact other areas of our Evergreen business. A good sales pipeline uses simple statistics to predict with a degree of accuracy the quantity, value, and timing of future business. Do your sales people frustrate you with inaccurate forecast? Do you struggle to plan operations because you can’t accurately predict orders? Does sandbagging and last-minute wins create chaos in delivery, supply, and installation? Are you leaving margin on the table because you couldn’t adequately plan? We can help!
Will Traylor, is the owner of ActionAxiom,LLC. We help small to mid-sized companies fix a dis-economy of scale in their sales department. You can’t cost-effectively manage a small sales force. By fractionalizing the sales manager position, we offer companies a way to grow sales without the chaos of an under-managed sales force.