What is pipeline anxiety?

pipeline anxiety
[pahyp-lahyn] [ang-zahy-i-tee]

  1. distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of not hitting sales targets

  2. earnest but tense desire to close deals in the pipeline

  3. symptom of an inability to accurately predict future deal closures

Pipeline anxiety keeps the fire burning, the keys typing, and the outbound dials pinging as sales teams get on with the day to day effort of bringing in deals. Though it isn’t often mentioned in discussions of how to improve sales performance - salespeople, managers, executives, and founders know this feeling well. They build processes, put in the time, and do what it takes to deliver on targets.

The rest of the business just gets on with it, not thinking much about the impact of pipeline anxiety on their day to day work. Most have probably never heard the term, nor understand its impact.

Pipeline anxiety points to a larger challenge: forecasting sales performance. This affects everyone from the mailroom to the executive board because accurate sales forecasts enable business leaders to make decisions.

So if your not on the sales team and you think this doesn’t matter to you, you might want to reconsider.

That raise you asked for? The budget for the marketing event you’d like to sponsor in six months time? How about the new hire the accounting team desperately needs to keep up with growth?

Any future budget decision depends on the ability to predict future revenue, so it follows that the sales pipeline is a critical component of that future revenue. Many sales teams despite excellent performance, lack the predictability they would like, and haven’t thought through the impact that pipeline anxiety might be having on their teams.

Many things can be done to overcome pipeline anxiety. Two of my favorite are process and mindset:

Process: a sales process where all team members understand the specific conversations and step by step process required to bring a deal to close, and accurately measure and report on where each deal resides in this process.

Mindset: a structured, measurable, daily process all salespeople follow to manage their mindset for optimal performance.

Pipeline anxiety is a natural part of any sales team, but too much of it can hinder performance because salespeople need to act from a place of confidence, not anxiousness, to be successful. It may also signal sales forecasting challenges which have implications throughout the business. A bit of thought, effort, and open discussion can go a long way to resolving this rarely talked about business challenge.