When forecasting sales it is important to determine the flow of your lead and sales pipeline. If you’re unable to factor when the pipeline will begin to drop off you risk falling short of your sales plan. Prepare for this by identifying gaps, risks and other areas of opportunity when preparing your forecast calls.
Download the Pipeline Call checklist to ensure you don’t miss anything during your forecast calls.
When it comes to managing your forecasts and sales plans, you first must be able to determine the status of your current pipelines to set your company up for success.
Determining the Status of Your Lead Pipeline
Provide your sales team with the appropriate number of sales qualified opportunities by filling the funnel sufficiently with inquiries all the way through to sales-ready leads. Based on the quantity of sales accepted leads, timing, and your conversion rate you will be able to calculate sales qualified opportunities. If it is too few you’ll risk not being able to work them into the sales pipeline and convert them into new customers.
If you’re behind on your sales-ready leads, how will you increase the flow at the top of the funnel? Time is your biggest enemy, you should be engaging in lead generation efforts frequently. This will result in increased lead generation for your company before you are too far behind.
Identifying the Status of Your Current Sales Pipeline
Is the current pipeline aligned to meet your monthly and quarterly targets? Determine this by evaluating your key metrics – pipeline-to-quota ratio, average sales cycle length, conversion rate, and average deal size. If you find that these are not trending in the right direction, it’s time to do some deep dive analysis. Start by breaking down your pipeline into cohorts and analyze each of these 4 key metrics by segment, by geography, by vertical, by channel, and by individual sales person. Trends will emerge. Areas of competency will be revealed. Armed with this insight you can then determine next best remediation steps.
As pipeline health goes, so too does your sales plan.
And if there is no way, in the short term, to increase top of the funnel velocity, your ONLY option is to improve mechanics inside Opportunity Management. You should build a set of steps to address how to:
- Increase Opportunity conversion rate by increasing the quality of each major interaction with customers and prospects
- Use the power of referral generation from happy customers to find prospects that your Marketing team cannot
- Increase the overall deal size to compensate for the revenue shortfall
- Unearth cross-sell/upsell opportunities in the current customer base
- Better leverage channel partners to drive more new deals
- Find sales process shortcuts to reduce cycle length
By using a combination of the above approaches, you should be able to move more sales opportunities through the pipeline and rescue the sales plan.
Using the Pipeline Call checklist is just one way to do this. Now is the time to improve pipeline health. For additional techniques on how to do just that, please read this article titled “World Class Pipeline and Forecast Management.”
As the top sales leader, now is the time to focus your entire funnel from top to bottom to make your number this year.