InsightSquared put together a nice white paper on Sales Pipeline Management. I’m providing a more concise overview of the problems identified, because I believe this high-level view can help others think about issues within their own sales organizations. A link to the full article is at the bottom of this posting.
Common Problems within Sales Organizations
Opportunity In-Flow. This problem is with the pipeline itself. It either doesn’t have enough opportunities or the opportunities are not strong. Sometimes, it’s not clear how full the pipeline needs to be.
- Reps are missing their numbers because they don’t have enough opportunities
- Sales leadership and ops don’t know if the pipeline is good or not
- It’s unclear how much pipeline is actually needed to hit the number
Pipeline Visibility. In these cases, the pipeline may be full, but the opportunities may not be real opportunities or the sales team may not have good visibility into the changing status of the pipeline.
- No one knows what the common characteristics of a good sales engagement are
- The pipeline numbers don’t reflect reality
- No one knows what is going on when pipeline changes
Time Wasters. If the above pipeline issues exist, sales reps may be wasting time on bad opportunities or those that are not adequately described. Priorities within the pipeline may be misrepresented as well.
- Reps wasting time trying to close objectively bad opportunities
- Reps aren’t running the right plays at the right time
- Reps don’t organize their pipeline effectively and good opportunities die on the vine
My Solutions to Pipeline Problems
For team managers, my solutions to the problems are listed here:
- Make sure you and your team understand how many opportunities your delivery team can handle and how many sales opportunities each rep can handle.
- Develop metrics on how to evaluate opportunities for validity and to determine what is realistic for closing the deals.
- Bring the team together often enough so they can learn from each other about what makes a good opportunity and how to evaluate their individual pipelines.
- Develop or implement pipeline management dashboards and tools and make sure the team has easy access to them.
I believe in providing openness within the sales team, so reps understand what other teammates are working on and how well the pipelines are moving.
I hope this helps in providing food for thought on how to improve your pipeline. Below is an example of a Trello board used for pipeline management.