Pipeline Analytics: Keep it on the Radar

SFDC | Pipeline AnalyticsThe strength of Salesforce.com opportunity management is collecting real-time data as close to the customer as possible. When aligned with sales process discipline and weekly cadence, it is the most powerful predictive tool you have. 3rd party applications available through the AppExchange such as InsightSquared or comprehensive solutions like Tableau and Birst offer rich functionality compared to exporting SFDC data to Excel for reports and graphs, especially for trend analysis.

 

One Mistake, Big Consequences

Even the best analytics application is worthless if you get just one thing wrong. Accurate current quarter forecasts and sufficient pipeline data to support growth targets make or break the careers of Sales VPs. The Qualified Sales Opportunity (QSO) is the atomic building block for all pipeline and forecast analytics. A Qualified Sales Opportunity needs to be precise and map to a specific stage and exit criteria in the sales process.

Early stage companies are understandably optimistic about what constitutes an “opportunity” and may define it too broadly – closer to the common definition of the word. When you don’t have much business, everything looks like an opportunity. Mature companies go astray when they lose discipline on the opportunity close date and exit criteria by allowing opportunities to endlessly push from one quarter to the next. Before you can fix the problem, you need to understand why it happens.

 

Keep it on the Radar

Sales organizations are in the business of making quarters. 90-day focus is a necessary survival skill.  Miss 2 quarters in a row with a downside surprise late in the quarter and personnel changes will be forthcoming. Current quarter focus isn’t a problem; it is reality. Our job is to find a way to make every quarter and set the next one up for success.

“Embrace the 90-day cycle, make it work for you”

The sales cycle for big deals and even modest size opportunities are often longer than one fiscal quarter. In a perfect world, opportunities 1-2 quarters out would be reviewed just as vigorously as current quarter. But, reality dictates otherwise and sales management will often endorse an opportunity close date that is overly optimistic just to keep the deal “on the radar” knowing that such visibility will ensure resources are mobilized. The unintended consequence is executive management is led to believe that larger opportunities are further along than they are – reinforced by forecast calls, big deal updates and pipeline reports. We have a failure is set expectations properly. By the time the big deal closes, it’s been expected and disappointed so many times that what should have been a great win feels anti-climactic.

Coaching extended sales cycles is clearly something to be encouraged. Rather than trying (and failing) to change the behavior, focus on preventing future quarter opportunities from distorting your CQ Pipeline.  One way to do this is a simple check box on your opportunity record that pulls a “watch list” into a separate section of your weekly forecast reports without inflating CQ metrics.

Old Friends

Late in the quarter the action on the weekly forecast call intensifies and any negative change is magnified. Sales reps feel pressure to have something to talk about  – wanting to make a contribution is a good sign. Weaker reps with insufficient forecasts will cling to deals that don’t have traction on the customer side.

SFDC Current Quarter Pipeline KPI

The quicker your company gets focused on opportunities that can close in the current quarter, the better. Time and money allocated to the wrong opportunities stretches scarce resources thin when they are needed most, putting you at a competitive disadvantage. Management must be disciplined about close dates and insist they are validated with the buyer. Every time a prospect asks for something, a good sales person will reciprocate by confirming details of the close plan and negotiating access to power.

 

“Bad news does not get better with age”

 

SFDC Current Quarter Pipeline KPI-2It’s really sales and executive management that is strapped for time the last 2 weeks of the quarter. Sales reps with few or no real opportunities at quarter-end should be enrolled in a structured pipeline-building program to set them up successfully for future quarters.

 

Resources

Collaborate on a end-of-quarter pipeline building program

Demo Video: Sales Pipeline Prioritization

Article: Weighted Forecast: Objective Science or False Sense of Security?

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About Neal Murphy

Neal Murphy is the publisher of Enterprise Sales Operations and former VP of Worldwide Sales & Operations with 20 years experience in enterprise technology.

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