How many of your sales meetings rattle on forever? Ironically, one of the worst sections of many sales meetings is the pipeline review. Ironic because we’re using tracking tools and CRM systems to try and better organize how we execute, yet too many pipeline review meetings quickly devolve into “tell me what’s going on with this one” discussions.

This is, of course, a highly inefficient way to have the entire sales organization walk through a pipeline or forecast. To make far better use of that time, next time, here are six recommendations.

1. Use your CRM system to automate reports in advance
There shouldn’t be any work before the meeting to build or compile a sales update or pipeline forecast. Everything you need should already be in your CRM system, with pre-built reports and dashboards that both tell the overall story as well as help you focus the pipeline review time on exactly what needs help and guidance. It’s well worth the time up front to get these reports right. A lot more time now will save you tons of time every week moving forward.

2. Start with defined stages & criteria
Does everyone on the team (including managers and executives) work from the same definition of a qualified opportunity? What criteria must be in place for something to be considered closeable this month or quarter? If these definitions are determined up front, it avoids asking questions about them for every deal in the pipeline review.

3. Separate opportunities from leads
This sounds fundamental, but I’ve seen countless pipeline reviews done without structure or discipline devolve into discussions about prospects you may WANT to sell to, but aren’t yet a qualified opportunity. These are still important to pursue, but they don’t have a place in the pipeline review. This portion of the meeting should be focused on driving immediately-closeable business, not brainstorming approach strategy for new targets.

4. Focus primarily (or exclusively) on deals at risk
If a deal is on track, do you really need to spend time rehashing it? Focus instead on deals that have stalled, or might even have moved backwards. Your reporting should have identified these deals for you already, so you can spend your time together brainstorming and building new strategies and action items to get them back on track.

5. Log next steps & owners
Use your CRM system to create and assign specific next steps and owners across the team. The more these next steps are embedded in the same system you’re using to track the rest of your pipeline and prospects, the easier it will be to track completion and the more likely each owner is to address and resolve it quickly.

6. Set deadlines and alerts for next steps in CRM as well
Establishing next steps is one thing, but go a step further to create a report that details specific next steps in your pipeline, as well as those that haven’t been addressed by the pre-determined deadline. Leverage your sales operations team to help manage this.