In 1776, David McCullough’s history of the American Revolution, the Pulitzer Prize winning author several times mentions what he considers one of General George Washington’s most important attributes. “Seeing things as they were, not as he would wish they were, was known to be one of Washington’s most salient strengths.

Finding a Sales Leadership parallel in this statement may seem a stretch to some, yet it’s actually extremely relevant to a chief sales officer’s responsibility.  The best CSO’s are keenly aware of the real viability of their sales pipeline, whether they like how it looks or not. They also talk in very transparent, objective, realistic terms about both the total pipeline and specific opportunities whenever reviewing either with anyone else in the organization.

Yes, sales leaders and the sales team overall are expected to be optimists and champions for their deal. However, when opportunities are overly hyped (or downplayed as practiced by professional sandbaggers) it fosters distrust of sales by the rest of the company, and results in misapplied costly support resources, missed revenue projections and possibly other unfortunate outcomes.

Improve how you manage, discuss and present your sales pipeline by following these three best practices:

1. Define sales stages not as one or two word categories, (i.e. “Solution Proposed), but with unambiguous descriptions of specific client actions and selling activities that have occurred.

2. Using these new definitions, reclassify your entire pipeline into the appropriate stages. Prepare to see a lot of opportunities fall back to unqualified opportunity, lead status or even drop out completely.

3. Commit to regular, rigorous reviews of the pipeline where open, realistic and objective assessments of each opportunity are required. Pay particular attention to opportunities where sales cycle is approaching twice that of your average win – most of those are yet to be acknowledged losses.

In Washington’s own words, “We must bear up against them, and make the best of mankind as they are, since cannot have them as we wish.

Have a sales lesson from your favorite patriot?  Please share it with us!