One of my mentors in sales used to keep a plunger on his office desk. Scribed into the side of that plunger were the words “Got a clogged pipeline?” As we approached the end of a quarter, he was often seen pacing his office with that plunger in his hands as he contemplated the deals that made up his end of quarter number. This plunger served to remind him to analyze all the deals that made up his global sales forecast…
Every sales organization faces this problem. Sales reps take a “snow plow” approach to forecasting and shove all their opportunities to the end of the quarter. Within this pile of business, managers have the task of analyzing all the opportunities and anticipating what’s real and what’s pie in the sky. “Unclogging” your sales pipeline is a priceless attribute that the best managers employ. So, what are some of the steps that make up this unclogging process?
- Get ahead of the clog.
The worst thing you can do when forecasting a final sales number is wait until the last week. If you sales organization is large this can eat up all your time and you won’t accurately get a real understanding of the business. Take the time throughout the quarter to be involved and aware of what business is being “snow plowed”.
- Know your business.
My mentor (and owner of the plunger) ensured that all his reps tracked all of the important information on all their opportunities. “If the deals lacks details, we don’t have a deal..” Not only did this ensure the reps knew their business, but it allowed him to jump into our sales CRM at his convenience and get up to date info on any opportunity.
- Know what to measure.
All productive sales organizations have detailed steps that make up the sales process to all opportunities. From the time the lead is created, contacted, evaluated, presented to, etc. All steps are defined and follow a process. When the quarter approaches an end and you have to forecast business, knowing what steps have been taken on each account will help you accurately forecast the probability of each deal closing before quarters end.
Having a clogged up pipeline not only clouds up your forecasting ability to the rest of the management team, it also makes it look like you don’t have control of your sales organization. How you measure your sales numbers can take your sales organization to the next level… But not if you have a clogged pipeline. Make sure to avoid these 5 pitfalls of sales reporting.