Sales Pipeline Can Provide Sight for Blind Executives

In a struggling economy, executives of sales driven companies are able to see weaknesses and shortcomings on their sales forces that they were previously either blind to or chose to ignore when the orders were coming in.

Now that these executives have sight, the question to be answered is can they invest the money to improve their revenue making machine or, is it too late because there isn’t any money left and what they see is what they get.

If you’ve been given sight and what you see is…

  • only some of your salespeople are still closing business
  • there aren’t enough new opportunities in the pipeline
  • predicted closes are being delayed
  • opportunities that have closed are closing for less than was predicted
  • salespeople are blaming the economy
  • salespeople are becoming discouraged
  • your revenue is flat or declining
  • profits are at risk

…then you have a strong sense of reality.

If what you see is…

  • things still look good
  • customers are still buying

…then you may be blinded by your backwards looking spreadsheets, long sales cycles and have no idea whether that clogged up pipeline will produce as advertised.

Conduct a pipeline analysis – today – to find out what is really hidden inside that pipeline.

First, stage the pipeline:

  • Suspects – scheduled a first meeting
  • Prospects – need, compelling reasons to buy, differentiated your company from the competition and have a strong relationship.
  • Qualified Opportunities – completely qualified in every way – they’ve agreed to spend the money, you’ve identified and met with the decision maker, know the process for the decision, the criteria for the decision and the time line for the decision, they’re committed.
  • Closable Opportunities – They’re buying but you’re waiting for check, PO, signature

Next, determine how many opportunities are needed in each stage of the pipeline based on the following:

  • conversion metrics
  • average sale
  • monthly goal

At this point you should have something that looks a little like the table below for each one of your salespeople and for each team/division/group/enterprise.

# Required
$ Required
     12 $600,000
      9 $450,000
      6 $300,000
      4 $200,000

In the example above, 31 opportunities, worth $1.55 Million, are required to satisfy a monthly goal of $100,000 with a $33,333 average sale and where  33% of prospects close.

Next, get your salespeople together and, using the criteria for each stage of the pipeline, objectively assign each opportunity to a stage.

Total the number of opportunities and value of those opportunities for each stage and compare with the pipeline requirements.

Here’s what you might learn:

  • if you were blind now you have sight
  • you don’t have enough closable and qualified opportunities
  • most of your pipeline is somewhere between suspect and prospect
  • none of your salespeople have enough in the pipeline
  • there isn’t nearly enough in the suspect stage of the pipeline

If you have sight and don’t like what you see, there isn’t a better time to evaluate your sales force and identify what you have to change.  If you have sight and like what you see, tell our readers what you are doing that has positioned your company so effectively!

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan