chicken or egg

What comes first? The salesperson or the pipeline?

Like the proverbial chicken and the egg, the enigma of whether the salesperson creates the pipeline or the pipeline begets a salesperson is a profoundly deep conundrum.

You may hold a strong conviction that the salesperson creates their pipeline (especially if you are in sales!)

Salespeople opine on the depth of their “relationships” and selling complex services comprising an array of flooring products is a “relationship business”.

Ergo, the salesperson built the relationship, acquired the bid, building the pipeline and ultimately turning it into a billable job.

But wait a second.

Our studies of “commercial flooring salespeople” show that to be about 2 and 1/2 parts true and 1/2 part iffy.

Yes, they are in the commercial realm

Yes, they are in flooring

Salespeople?  Well, yes they are people.  Sales, maybe.

Our empirical studies show that the majority of a salesperson’s week is dedicated to non-sales tasks. 

Administration, responding to customer problems (really a customer service function), designing the bid, creating the bid proposal and documentation, acquiring materials, managing logistics and project management.

In fact, sales prospecting is less than 6% of their week.

I was sitting in a meeting at a major flooring dealer the other day.  The leadership team was discussing their newly opened satellite office.  The goal of course is to grow that territory.  I was somewhat non-plussed when an exec said:

“we don’t have enough business to warrant hiring a salesperson”


Isn’t that what sales does—goes and finds work?  Apparently not in this case.

Here’s the rub

Most sales opportunities come from existing accounts.

The reality is most people’s relationships are a consequence of sales!

Therefore the relationship does not create the sale

So what does this mean for you?

You have probably seen a dip in your sales and backlog as a result of the demon of 2020 (like Voldermort we will not utter its name here).

You may be thinking of, or have recruited new salespeople to chase work.  Like most, I think you will be disappointed with the time to contribution of these newbies.  See our blog “Are your salespeople cannibals or carnivores)

We know of a few veteran salespeople who are managing a book of $10 million or more.  They are really quite good!  Yet their capacity to sell and excel is now capped because they are managing those jobs:

  • They have become project managers.
  • They don’t have time to prospect
  • In fact they hate to prospect.

Stick with me, I am getting to some ideas you can take to improve your sales! I have one more variable to add to the mix and then I can conclude.

I’m working with a flooring contractor who has 15 salespeople.  They all operate independently (I will write a separate blog on the oxymoron “sales team”)

There is huge variation in their performance.  Huge.  Epic. 

This is not unusual (gasp)

When I look at their operational functions there is much less variation.  Project Management for example.  Much more standardized.  Better tools and disciplines.

OK.  The big reveal, in two parts.

1. How about taking some of the operational and administrative tasks out of the salesperson's day so they can focus on their core competence of selling? 

(Maybe some of them aren’t salespeople at all.  They are project managers.  That’s OK too—get them in the right role)

2. You know they love selling but hate prospecting. You can create a young, less expensive business development person/team who prospect for new leads that when there is interest, pass them to the salespeople who shape and close them.

Progressing from an artisanal sales model (I call it random acts of selling) to an industrial revenue factory requires standardization and specialization.

Think about your key sales talent. Do they need:  

  • More leads (complement with business development specialization)
  • More time (operationalize some of their tasks into your less variable and specialized functions of admin, customer service and project management).

If this seems too hard, you can continue with the cradle to grave artisans but predictable revenue growth will be elusive.  Try these ideas. 

If you need more implementation horsepower please give us a call and talk to us about “Building the Revenue Factory”