But I view these as two different, and equally important, meetings.
A pipeline review isn’t an inspection of every single deal in the pipeline. It’s an inspection of the overall health of the pipeline, including benchmarks and trends. How many opportunities are being opened, what stages are the opportunities in, how long have they been in those stages, sales cycle, closed lost reasons in aggregate, etc. For these, I think it’s best to view the entire company’s pipeline, by rep. This helps draw relative comparisons against company benchmarks and peers.
An opportunity huddle isn’t an inspection of the pipeline. It’s a review & discussion of specific deals in the pipeline. An opportunity huddle is when you get to know your rep’s deals more intimately, and get to know the rep better too. Their strengths and weaknesses. Where they need help and where they don’t. This meeting gives you a handle on the health of specific opportunities. It’s also when you can give coaching and feedback on deal strategy and sales process.
If you have a small team (perhaps 6 or fewer reps) you can do both types of meetings one-on-one with each rep. Do them both in the same meeting if you must, but I prefer them as two separate meetings. They each require different ways of looking at the pipeline and I think it’s important to give attention to both. It’s to easy to start talking about a pipeline trend and have it quickly devolve into rehashing specific deals. That dilutes the inspection of the pipeline and eats up time.
Here are some examples of pipeline review versus opportunity huddle to help make this more concrete.
Notice in the above examples we aren’t diagnosing. We are stating a symptom (a trend, a benchmark variance, a problem), but not giving what we think the reasons are, or providing a solution. It’s important you open up the conversation so that your rep can figure out the problem (and hopefully come up with their own solution too), versus telling them the problem and solution.
How to decide what to focus on in each meeting
Note in the above examples, the focus varies. For pipeline inspections I always start with overall size of pipe, deal velocity, age in stages. I look for big variances against team benchmarks too. Then I can see what needs focus. For opportunity huddles, I want to focus more on deal strategy and monthly deal commitments. I like to look at deal’s that are at risk, or dive further into deals sitting in stages that seem to be in trouble.
How often to do them
With newer reps, have these meetings frequently. I recommend a pipeline review every two weeks and an opportunity huddle once a week. I know that seems like a lot, but newer reps need more face time with you as you get to know each other. You also need to keep your finger on the pulse of how they are doing as they get their feet under them. Once a rep is fully ramped you can do a pipeline review once a month and an opportunity huddle every two weeks. I am not a fan of spreading them out further than that. Reps and sales managers need time alone together, and these meetings are a big part of forging strong, accountable, positive relationships.
What if your team is too big to do this
If you have more than 5 reps directly reporting to you, it’s could be untenable to do two separate one-on-one meetings with each rep on a regular basis. Once your team starts to scale you can introduce a team-wide pipeline review rather than doing them one-on-one. I like to do this as part of the regular agenda about once a month in the weekly kick off meeting. You’ll lose some of the outcomes that come with direct pipeline inspection when you do this, so will need to weave in a little pipeline inspection into your opportunity huddles. But on the flip side, you will be teaching the individuals on your team to think, and act, like a team with a common goal, which is a great muscle to build.
Looking at the activity, results, benchmarks and trends of the entire team gives them a valuable perspective that will improve their own results. But, even as your team scales, I recommend a frequent pipeline review with new reps until they are fully ramped.
Remember the point of the meetings
The point of the meetings is to help your reps meet (and beat) quota, and for your company to hit their targets. I say this because I have sat in meetings with reps and managers where I scratched my head wondering if this was helping the company, and individual, get deals done.
These one-on-one meetings should be positive, proactive and action-oriented. Stay on point and be direct. These meetings aren’t to re-train on your sales process, rehash mistakes, debate the merits of messaging, or pontificate on new sales strategies. These meetings are about helping your reps build and maintain qualified pipe and close great deals.