Learn to See Around Corners

This is twelfth of several blogs delving into the origin and meaning of my sales leadership “Words of Wisdom”. You can access the complete list here  http://stm360.com/2019/06/words-of-wisdom-for-sales-leaders/

For a sales leader to advance his/her career, they must make their numbers on a consistent basis and avoid negative surprises. “Seeing around corners” is the ability to spot trends and behaviors that could impact future results - and act accordingly.

The “corners” a sales leader needs to see around depends on his/her role. For example, a CRO needs to understand what is happening in the current period - i.e the short term.  Also, he/she must identify  macro/strategic issues such as competitive threats and market dynamics that could impact future periods.

For many front line leaders, focussing on anything but the current period (month or quarter) can be a struggle. In the quest to make the number, activities such as hiring and pipeline generation  often get neglected.  At some point, a sales leader accumulates a deficit  - of pipeline and/or productive sellers. Many times this deficit is too large to overcome.

I try to make it simple for my front line managers to “see around corners”by consistently monitoring the “3 P’s” - pipeline, process, and people. Utilizing a combination of instrumentation (reporting) and observation the following questions should be  addressed on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis:

PIPELINE (Top of the funnel)

  • Are we on track for our net new pipeline creation targets?
  • How is the “MQL to opportunity” funnel conversion trending?
  • What lead sources are producing the best and worst results?
  • Are we hitting our activity targets?

PROCESS (Mid to bottom of the funnel)

  • Do we have enough coverage to hit our number this period? Next period?
  • How is the opportunity to closed won (win rate) trending?
  • How are the average sales cycle length and average deal size trending?
  • How is the funnel movement by stage?
  • Where are we experiencing friction in the sales cycle?
  • What is our win rate by lead source?
  • What is the quality of our pipeline for the current and next period?
  • What are the characteristics of deals we win? Lose?


  • How long does it take to source and hire a quality candidate?
  • What does our hiring pipeline look like?
  • How long does it take a new hire to reach productivity?
  • What is overall sales productivity and how is it trending?
  • What does our quota achievement distribution look like? Are we reliant on too few people to make our number?
  • What team movement (promotions, exits) is expected over the next two periods?
  • What sales capacity will we need this period? The following two periods?
  • Have we identified people who are disgruntled, distracted, and/or disengaged?

My “seeing around corners” conversations with sales leaders look like this: “What is happening or about to happen within your business? Why is it happening? What are you going to do about it?”

By focusing on the three P’s, “Seeing around corners” is not that hard to do. Step one is figuring out the key questions that need to be answered. Getting the data is step two. Step three is figuring out what the data is telling you. The final step is taking the appropriate action - before it’s too late.

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