Do you manage your pipeline objectively or subjectively?

I love Brad Feld’s blog and have learned a ton from it over the years. He’s also done me a huge favor in the past, speaking at a talk I organized at my old company. But this past weekend, I found myself significantly disagreeing with Brad for probably the first time. Here’s a hurricane delayed response.

Since I started doing significant research with sales leaders for how they manage their reporting, I’ve dug in deep on the topic of forecasting and pipeline management. Brad Feld hit on the topic this week, with his post “Play Offense When Predicting Revenue“. I don’t disagree with the premise of being aggressive as opposed to passive when managing your pipeline, but I do viscerally disagree with him when he writes (in the comments):

I then prefer to see three categories: (1) Forecast, (2) Upside, and (3) Pipeline. Forecast are the ones you BELIEVE are going to close. Upside are the ones that could close. Pipeline are the ones that are not going to close this quarter but that you are working on.

Then, you should revisit this list every week. It’s totally fine for something to fall out of Forecast into Upside based on new info, like the example you gave me above. Last week you thought there was a 100% it was going to close (forecast), now you no longer have certainty but there’s still a chance. And, if there’s no way it’ll close this quarter, it should go in Pipeline.

This helps focus on where you should be putting most of your short term energy (Forecast), some of your short and some of your long term energy (Upside), and the balance of your long term energy (Pipeline).

Brad gets at two elements of pipeline management: forecasting your performance and prioritizing your efforts. He also identifies a distinction that I make between how you do so, either objectively or subjectively. Let’s tackle each of those elements, one at a time.

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