Posts Tagged ‘Forecasting’

Analyze and Review the FRONT of the Pipeline…Why?

March 25, 2009

The vast majority of pipeline reviews or discussions focus on what’s closing this week, this month or this quarter.  Sales manager’s typically dig in to the details of the latest proposal and associated meetings, calls, and e-mails regarding the transition from proposed business, to a verbal agreement, to contract negotiation and signatures.  Sales executives maintain a similar focus on the “end game” as that is the pre-cursor to “pay day”.  I would not quibble with the notion that such analysis on this portion of the pipeline is important, but I believe it is also a two-edged sword.  Sales organizations that overweight analysis and focus on the bottom of the sales funnel risk erratic monthly or quarterly attainment.  If the sales team develops a group of prospects, moves them through the cycle, and then closes a percentage of  them, the result is that your have superior attainment in the months at the end of the sales cycle duration, and reduced attainment in the interim while the focus returns to the front of the pipeline. 

The best way to smooth out monthly attainment, either as an individual or a team, is to place a significant emphasis on how many new, qualified opportunities are entering the FRONT of the pipe ( top of the funnel) during the review interval.  If your typical sales cycle is 75-90 days, a percentage of the new, qualified opportunities entering the cycle in March are the business that’s closing in June.  If you or your team spends most of March closing January’s new opportunities, and the top of the funnel languishes, then you will have a good March, but a less than stellar May and June.

My contention is that a balanced review of the top, middle, and bottom of the pipeline funnel is the best practice to drive consistent overall performance.  This approach has other benefits including identifying and addressing opportunties that are “stuck” in the middle of the pipeline, as well as providing the sales leadership team immediate notice of a lack of qualified, new opportunities which will negatively impact future attainment.  In this manner, there will be some time to take action.

As my colleague, Dave Kurlan says “the sales pipeline is the single, most accurate predictor of future revenue”.  Let’s give equal time to the FRONT of the pipe!

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