Which pipeline is most important?

Your prospect pipeline is not your most important.

And, your customer expansion and renewal pipelines are not your most important either.

The most important pipeline to manage as a sales leader is your “people” pipeline.

Both prospective and current.  Sound a lot like your prospect and customer pipeline?  Well it is!!

Building, mobilizing, developing, inspiring, enabling and empowering sales teams is what we love to do as sales leaders.   And in most cases, it’s what we get paid to do.

But it must be intentional.  And it must be every day.  And it should be managed with the same vigor and discipline that you use to manage your acquisition, expansion and retention opportunity pipelines.

I learned years ago at both Apple and Dell that the pillars to success for me revolved around two principles:  lifetime employees and lifetime customers.  Those 2 principles became my foundation for building sales teams and creating bonds between sales and customers. It has served me well.

I’m allergic to call centers.  And I’m allergic to companies that build in high employee turnover and high customer turnover into their model.

My preference always is to build high functioning sales teams that thrive in a culture of empowerment and continuous learning and growth – both personal growth and company growth. Hiring high trajectory sales people; promoting and developing from within; not hiring for the role, but rather hiring for the future roles and even future leadership roles.

Finding, interviewing, and hiring high trajectory sellers is not easy.  What’s the process and what do you look for in prospective sellers?


  1. Start with your network- and network your network
  2. Always be recruiting- and drive an internal policy where you don’t pass up on great people, even if that means hiring ahead of the headcount plan
  3. Invest upfront- I like to “win early and lose early” when it comes to recruitment- so it is not unusual for me to have 2 informal coffees with a candidate, and then 2 informational interviews  (introduce them to other sellers or leaders in the company) prior to doing a formal interview loop.
  4. Keep an active pipeline. Just like my opportunity pipeline, I like to run a 3X pipeline on candidates.
  5. Get as many people involved in the interview process as possible.  It’s OK to double up on interviews- so you can run 45 minute interviews with 2 per interview, which means 8 people can be involved in a 3 hour interview loop.
  6. Your formal loop should also include a 30-minute presentation- gives you an opportunity to see the seller in action.

Prospective Seller “must haves”:

  1. Thirst to learn- continuous learning both on the job and after-hours
  2. Intellectual curiosity- ability to ask great questions and a genuine curiosity about the prospect, the customer, or their co-workers
  3. A zest for work- they can’t wait to get to work every morning
  4. A passion for helping customers- solving real high value problems and driving high value outcomes for prospects and customers
  5. Collaborative, great team-mate, an enabler and enhancer of culture
  6. A competitive drive to be number one


Create your “people pipeline”.

  1. Start with everyone you know- people you have worked with, people you wish you had worked with, and your extended network.
  2. Get them down on paper- just like building your target list of prospects, start building your target list of people.
  3. Then work them like an opportunity pipeline:
    • stack rank
    • assign next steps
    • keep them at the top of your task list
  4. Know your funnel conversion rates:
    • how many intro calls lead to informationals
    • how many informationals lead to interview loops
    • how many interview opps lead to offers
    • how many offers lead to employees
  5. Know your average selling time (how long does it take from step one to employee on-boarding)- depending upon the role it can take 1 month to 6 months.

The hourglass:

Your pipeline is not a funnel. It is an hourglass!!

Let me explain:

Once you acquire a new customer or a new employee, the real work (and the real opportunity) begins!

Just like you should always look to land and expand a new customer- the same is true for a new seller.

And just like the first 90 days is the most important for a new customer- the same is true for a new seller.

Build development plans with new hires day one!  Invest in them and it will pay you back 10-fold.

Your weekly 1:1’s should be as much about them as about the business.

Don’t spend time hiring great people, unless you have a plan to make them even greater. And maybe someday even, make them the future leaders in your organization.

Enjoy the journey!!