Mastering Sales Pipeline and Forecasting: Key Strategies
The sales pipeline is the total amount of open opportunities. It is useful for day-to-day operations, territory management, forecasting, etc. Forecasting is especially crucial as it shows you master your business. Startups investors and big companies top sales leaders will expect high forecast accuracy. If you get it right, it is going to be more comfortable for your startup to raise money, and it is going to be easier to hire more sales force if you are working in a big company. However, you will not master forecasting unless you master your pipeline.
Have only opportunity definition
The first step to getting it right is to have only opportunity definition. When should sales representatives create opportunities? When should they change opportunity stages? Ask them these two questions. If you get more than one definition, you have it wrong.
Let us take an example. This a typical sales process with six stages. Define each stage very precisely, so you all have the same definitions.
- Needs analysis
- Closed won
- Closed lost
Weekly pipeline meetings
I believe that the sales director plays a big part in pipeline management. As the sales director should help his account executives closing deals, organizing at least one individual pipeline meeting a week is a good practice. Before attending these meetings, account executives should clean their pipeline.
Sales Operations can help in automating some parts of the sales process. Workflows, flows, processes, and triggers can help account executives being more efficient at updating their opportunities.
Automate the sales process as much as possible
Sales representatives are lazy and updating their pipeline is one of the tasks they dislike. The trick is to automate the sales process as much as possible.
For your SDR team, you could set up a workflow that automatically creates an opportunity stage 1, “Prospecting,” whenever an SDR called a prospect more than 15 seconds. That opportunity would go through the “Qualification” stage whenever they filled specific fields. Then, you could trigger the third stage, “Proposal” when they send a proposal through Salesforce. Whenever an opportunity is stuck on the same stage for more than 60 days, it is automatically closed lost. When the proposal is signed, and the manager approves, they will receive their commission and the opportunity is updated to stage five, “Closed Won.”
With this simplistic process, account executives all have the same opportunity definition. It can work as long as they prospect with the tools Sales Operations provide. For instance, they will use the click-to-dial as it saves time. Then you can start thinking of pipeline management and forecasting.