Categories Articles, Sales and Marketing

For far too many sales teams, the sales pipeline is a mystery.

You know how many leads enter, but then some opportunities are lost, other opportunities are won, and some opportunities seem to disappear entirely. The inflows and outflows of your pipeline cause huge fluctuations in the overall value, but you can’t pinpoint why the pipeline is changing so much over time.

What’s really going on within your sales pipeline? Why is your pipeline growing one month, and shrinking the next? When should you be worried about your pipeline growth, and what is just normal fluctuation?

Sales leaders don’t have to operate in the dark anymore with these questions unanswered. With the right data analysis and specific, sales-focused metrics, you can understand everything that happening in your pipeline — down to $1 lost or won.

(For even more detailed information on pipeline management, check out our FREE eBook: The Definitive Guide to Pipeline Management.)

 

Understand the Pipeline Flow

Instead of seeing your sales pipeline as a mysterious black box, you should know exactly what’s happening within it at all times. This requires detailed and accurate CRM usage by your sales reps, so you have the sales data you need to analyze overall trends. Then, with the right inflow and outflow reporting tools, you can see exactly why your pipeline grows one week, and shrinks another week.

PipelineInflowOutflow

This is a Sales Pipeline Flow report, which shows you everything that goes into your sales pipeline and everything that goes out of it. As you add opportunities, lose opportunities, and win opportunities, you can see the value of the pipeline adjust accordingly. Here, you can see in blue, the value of the pipeline at the start of the week on the left and at the end of the week on the right. In between, you can see the exact dollar value your sales pipeline has changed, including:

  • New opportunities pulled into the pipeline – from marketing, business development, or other lead generation sources.
  • Opportunities that pushed – these deals may close eventually, but it’s not happening this month.
  • Increased or decreased in value – these opportunities have adjusted in value, either up or down, changing your pipeline totals.
  • Closed-Lost deals – you can’t win them all, and these opportunities have been lost.
  • Closed-Won deals – the opportunities you win are great, but still leave a gap in your existing pipeline.

This report gives you the flexibility to select both your pipeline date range and your activity range. For example, you can see what changed in this month’s pipeline yesterday. You can then change it to see what changed in next quarter’s pipeline in the last week. It’s easy to switch between a short-term and long-term view, giving you better visibility into everything that’s happened within your sales pipeline yesterday, last week, last month, and last quarter.

Empower Reps to Manage the Sales Pipeline

While the report above is fantastic for you as a sales manager, you also want every sales rep to keep an eye on their own personal sales pipeline. You should empower your sales team to track how their own pipeline grows or shrinks over time, and why. Give your reps access to their own report, so they can understand how their activities are impacting their own pipeline in detail.

Pipeline Inflow Outflow by Rep

This individual Sales Pipeline Flow report shows Robert that he started out this week with nearly $1.25 million in his pipeline in total, but he ended the week with only $750K left in the pipeline. Why did this happen? He can quickly and easily see that he pushed about $300K of deals into next month, and Closed-Lost another $100K, leading to the huge drop in the total pipeline value. Now he’s knows not just how much pipeline he has left, but what caused that change in value. Instead of being confused by his pipeline changes in the past month, he know exactly what happened last week and the week before, in an easy-to-understand report.

The Benefits to Sales Teams

“That’s really interesting,” you say. “But how does this help my sales team close more deals exactly?”

The report isn’t only interesting, it’s also closely tied to your sales forecast for the month. You can easily see that if ⅓ of your pipeline for the month was either Closed-Lost or Pushes in the first week, you’ll have a tough time hitting your overall sales goal. Instead of being surprised at the end of the month, you know right away that you’re in trouble. Either your Business Development team needs to step up and bring in more leads to fill the pipeline, or your reps have to close a high percentage of the remaining pipeline. You can make adjustments to your sales strategy to hit those goals, or make a quick push to bring in more new leads.

Pipeline Change by Employee

This report can also show you the pipeline of every single sales rep on your team, so you know if anyone’s pipeline is depleted and needs to be refilled. It’s a great coaching tool for sales managers, and can quickly identify which reps are struggling to fill the pipeline, and which are on track to hit their goals.

 

This inflow and outflow report can’t magically fix your struggles to fill the sales pipeline, but it will give you enough information to inform your decision-making and make better choices. By understanding pipeline flow overall and by rep, your sales team won’t get caught next month without enough in the pipeline to hit goals. You can plan ahead more effectively for the coming months, and know exactly where to focus your energy today to fill the pipeline for tomorrow.

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Showing 2 comments
  • James

    Really like this article (and graph), Cara.

    This data view would help greatly with aiding you to change strategy mid-month, for example, rather than waiting to see that you wished you had done something different, sooner.

    Great stuff.

  • Cara Hogan

    Thanks James! Glad you enjoyed the post.

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