You’ve got a stacked pipeline just now. Feels good, doesn’t it? Plenty to lean on in forecasts, plenty to blame when your forecast is a million miles off, plenty to chew over in pipeline reviews. But none of it is real – none of it really counts. All a busy pipeline gives you is plenty of numbers to get tangled up in, plenty of ‘maybes’ to hide behind.

For bad sales reps that can be a blessing – there’s no better way of hiding your poor performance than cluttering your pipeline with weak, unqualified and flaky leads, then blaming those leads for your lack of conversions. Keeping your pipeline busy means that you can then start the whole charade again, with a confident “but don’t worry, look how stacked our pipeline is for next quarter. I’m sure we’ll make all of this ground back up”.

You won’t, of course. Because none of those leads are real – none of those leads should even be in your pipeline to start with.

It’s an important lesson, and one that people generally have to learn the hard way, but you shouldn’t be shying away from accountability – and shying away from accountability is the only benefit to keeping your pipeline that busy. It’s not about a busy pipeline – it’s about a clean pipeline. That means ditching the deadweight. That means taking a long, hard look at your prospecting or lead gen. processes and asking yourself why they’re only delivering non-starters. It means stepping up.

I’m not saying it won’t be a daunting step to take. You’ll need to shed any prospects that you haven’t seen any movement from in the last 6-12 months. You’ll have to lose anyone that used to be a customer but hasn’t made any renewals lately. You’ll need to lose that guy you met at that networking event who said he might be interested and you should talk. You might end up with a pipeline of only 25% of the leads you’ve got now, maybe even less.

But that 25% will be the only leads that were ever worth having there. You’ll feel exposed, you’ll be more accountable, you’ll have less froth to fill your review meetings with – but you’ll also be operating a lean, tight system where you’re only discussing prospects that matter, you’ll only be chasing prospects that matter, you’ll only be wasting CRM hours on prospects that matter.

Ignore me if you want to, but sales needs a few more sales people with the ability to keep a tight rein on a lean pipeline, and the balls to turn up to review meetings with only a select handful of prospects to discuss. It needs more sales people who want to spend the time they’ve got focusing on prospects who are going to buy, rather than concentrating on covering their own backs and relying on the smoke and mirrors of bullshit leads clogging up their pipeline.

It just needs a few more smart, sharp, gutsy sales people. Could you be one of them?