Categories Articles, Sales and Marketing

A lack of pipeline visibility is “like driving a car without a gas gauge.”

Without a gas gauge, you have no idea whether you have got the fuel to get you to your destination. Without pipeline visibility, you have no idea if you’ve got enough opportunities to hit your quarterly goals.

This is especially crucial for BDR teams. If they lack visibility into their pipeline, they have no way of knowing whether the opportunities they are generating are closing. Without this data and feedback, they are driving blind.

This is a lesson that Alex Cartagena, Senior Director of Sales and Global Sales Development at WhiteHat Security, learned as he built out his BDR team. They originally had no way of tracking their pipeline, thus had no visibility into what happened in the rest of the sales process:

We were manually tracking the opportunities we added, but once we handed them over to the Account Executives, we didn’t know what happened next.

For Alex and the WhiteHat team, there were three significant issues with a lack of pipeline visibility, and three ways that moving to InsightSquared and obtaining this visibility helped the BDR team, the sales team, and the entire company.

1. They Only Had a Snapshot of the Pipeline

At WhiteHat, the BDR team initially pulled all their information direct from Salesforce. But this only gave them a point in time. It didn’t give them any actionable historical information.

During this time the WhiteHat BDR team were measuring their own production manually, tracking:

  • The number of calls the team made.
  • The meetings they had scheduled.
  • The opportunities produced from these meetings and calls.

If you rely on static Excel sheets for sales pipeline development, you may never keep up. You are limited in the amount of information your team can take lessons from. They can’t easily correlate increases or decreases in certain metrics with changes in process.

This lack of visibility at WhiteHat meant that the team was never able to really learn whether their processes were working and optimize their BDR strategy.

Better Trained Sales Teams With Better Visibility

With the historical data that pipeline visibility afforded, Alex was able to institute better training across the entire sales operation at WhiteHat Security:

  • BDRs were trained on what information they needed to provide AEs in order to get the right value put on the opportunities they generated.
  • AEs were trained to help them qualify more effectively and identify what the deal would be worth so they had more ability to assign realistic values to opportunities.

By looking back over the previous 12 months of pipeline, the team could see how the value was changing with time. They could track both the growth of the pipeline and the mix of stages. This meant that they could focus their efforts were it was needed most and allowed the whole team to start asking questions:

  • If the total number of open opportunities is increasing, are we doing a good job generating more pipeline or simply failing to move opportunities through the funnel?
  • When pipeline is at the top of the funnel, what can we learn about moving them through to the later stages? Do we change our qualification parameters?
  • With pipeline bunching near the latter stages, do we need to change our training and guidelines to disqualify bad fit opportunities earlier?

Benchmarking themselves against previous months or quarters allowed the entire company to make strategic changes to the way they were handling the sales process.

2. They Constantly Had to Deal with Unexpected Challenges

In addition to having little historical information, once the BDR team sent opportunities “over the fence” to the AE team, they had little visibility into what happened next.

These opportunities would be passed on to the AEs, but that would end the BDRs visibility into that prospect. They wouldn’t know the assigned value or whether that opportunity was won or lost. This meant that the team couldn’t prepare the pipeline effectively.

They needed to see how their opportunities were being treated in order to understand how they could improve and if they were doing enough.

If opportunities are pushed or values decreased, and the BDR team is unaware of this, then the pipeline has unknowingly shrunk. Suddenly there are calls from further along the funnel for more opportunities. Without the requisite knowledge, BDRs are left in the dark about whether this is because opportunities have been lost, pushed, or devalued.

Again, this means that not only are the BDR team scrambling for more opportunities to quickly fill the pipe, but they have no idea what’s working and what isn’t for the AEs.

Better Knowledge With Better Visibility

Once everyone in the organization can see pipeline being produced and used, it gives BDR managers the ability to push back against the argument that they aren’t producing enough pipeline.

Within WhiteHat, “visibility empowered the BDR side,” says Alex.

With visibility of the pipeline coverage, the BDR management could see how their opportunities were being used. This report helps you review how much of your starting pipeline you close each month and figure out whether you’ve got enough pipeline for the coming periods.

A common theme for AEs is always to want more opportunities pushed their way. This gives them a higher chance of winning deals. This means that the BDR team are under constant pressure to increase the amount of opportunities in the pipeline. But because they don’t control those opportunities and the value, they had no way of combatting questions about why there was so little pipeline.

With greater visibility, they could see the additional pipeline needed to meet the monthly or quarterly bookings goal and develop the strategy to meet this number. They were able to show the sales team overall that they were hitting their goals and push back on pipeline production.

It wasn’t just the BDR team that benefitted from this visibility. The leadership was also now able to get involved in the conversations around pipeline production. At WhiteHat, the CFO and CMO got in on the conversation and could surface real results.

3. They Were Unsure of the Value of Opportunities

Pipeline is defined by value, rather than number. But as BDRs only control the number of opportunities and have less oversight of the predicted value of each deal, a lack of visibility for BDRs means they are missing a vital piece of information to perform their job.

The effects of this can be disastrous. If BDRs think they have to constantly push more and more opportunities into the pipeline, the first thing that is going to go is quality. This means two things:

  • Deal value will be lower. As BDRs try to fill the pipe, the value of each deal they are comfortable with adding is going to be lower. This then becomes self-defeating as low-quality opportunities are more likely to be lost, leading to more pipeline needed.
  • AEs will be less efficient. The point of hiving off a BDR team as a separate specialty is that it allows for a more efficient sales process. If the BDR team can’t perform their job properly, neither can the other roles further along the sales funnel.

For the WhiteHat team, pre-InsightSquared, this problem was acutely obvious. With their manual tracking, they were measuring calls, meetings, and opportunities, but not the value.

Better Opportunities With Better Visibility

One of the first improvements the WhiteHat team saw once they had greater visibility was an improvement in both the quantity and quality of opportunities they were passing on the BDR team.

As Alex says,

Not only were we working on more opportunities, we were working on the right opportunities.

Once the BDR team can see how the value in the pipeline changes, they can re-assess their strategy for getting the best opportunities. For instance, the BDR team could use the Pipeline Flow report to see how the opportunities they have generated were changing over time:

Using this, they could visualize the value in the funnel, rather than just being told it wasn’t enough. In particular, they could see:

  • Push rates: Previously, if opportunities were pushed out of the week, month, or quarter, the BDR team might have no knowledge of the changes. Here they can, at a glance, see the value being pushed on specific opportunities, and reach out to the corresponding AE to find the reasons.
  • Won/Lost rates: As Alex said, once opportunities were thrown over the fence to the AE team, they had little idea if those ended up won or lost. Seeing which opportunities were successful against those that weren’t allows the BDR team to double down on these high-value accounts and move away from the indicators of closed-lost prospects.
  • Value changes: Without understanding the value of opportunities, BDRs were always in the dark. Once they see the value assigned to different opportunities and how this changes as the prospect moves through the funnel, they finally have a full, 360-view of the pipeline as the rest of the sales team see it.

Visibility allowed the WhiteHat team to identify drop-off in the different stages of their sales funnel. They were able to customize training and resource to address specific shortcomings in their internal process. If an opportunity was lost they could find out why, whether it was a product issue, a pricing problem, or something more specific to the sales process.

This way they could stringently qualify opportunities at the top of the funnel and move more, higher-quality opportunities through the pipeline.

Conclusion

Your pipeline stretches through your entire company. From marketing building leads, through the BDR team qualifying opportunities, and along to the Account Executives closing the deals. Though everyone involved has their small part of the pipeline to manage, unless they can see the outcome of their endeavors it’s impossible for the team as a whole to optimize the process.

With that visibility, you can bring a holistic approach to your sales process management. For a new team such as the one Alex built at WhiteHat, it also allowed the BDR management to show the ROI of this investment easily. Suddenly, it was not only clear to the BDR how they added value to the sales process, but also immediately obvious to the executive team how the BDRs were adding value to the company as a whole.

Andrew Tate
Andrew Tate is a UK-born, US-based writer. He spent 10 years working as a scientist in labs around the world and now specializes in using data to tell stories.
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