Forecast and Pipeline is an amplifier for team culture, sales success, communication effectiveness, team morale and your department’s reputation.  It’s also the first place to look to assess if I think the team will be successful. 

Everyone knows that as a highly effective sales leader you should inspect the key leading and behavioral indicators of your team as a predictor of future sales success.

 

What always amazes me is how many sales organizations just do the motions when it comes to pipeline and forecasting.  For some sales teams, it’s almost as though forecasting and pipeline is a necessary chore to “check the box” before getting back to the fun of selling.  Even worse than box-checking, I have also seen a bad forecasting and pipeline rhythm make the already complex task of selling much harder than it needs to be.

 

The question is, what does world class pipeline forecasting management take?  The answer is multi-dimensional and requires a micro and macro view of your team, stacking hands on your mission internally and adjacent team interlock.

 

Download the Pipeline Call Checklist to run a great pipeline call, prepare for your forecast, and identify gaps, risks, and other areas of opportunity.

 

It Starts and Ends with Culture

 

 

A lot has been written about sales team culture and the positive and negative effect different culture can have on sales performance.  Your forecasting and pipeline rhythm not only communicates your team culture, it amplifies it.  This is because within the process your team are watching and reacting to what you ask, when you ask it, how you engage and how organized you are.  Pipeline and Forecasting can’t be a one way communication.  The process must be your trigger on how, when, where and why you get involved in a deal.  Use a Pipeline call with your team to just roll up information to your CEO and you are wasting everybody’s time and negatively effecting your sales culture.  If you are too punitive during the process, you’ll never get accurate information.  Use the Pipeline Call Checklist to run a great pipeline call, prepare for your forecast, and identify gaps, risks, and other areas of opportunity.

 

In addition to this micro cultural element there is also a macro cultural element.  What do you want your team to be known for?  The result of the pipeline and forecasting is a representation of your team’s ability to execute and it is view by every other business function in the company.  Remember this.  It starts and ends with Culture.

 

Pipeline and Forecast Is Only Part of the Sales Success Continuum, but It’s the Glue That Holds It Together

 

The sales success continuum consists of behavioral, leading and lagging indicators, but you operate backwards from sales success to understand the importance of Pipeline and Forecasting.

 

The sales success continuum is a simple concept as you can see on the graphic below:

 

 

Are you making quota?  YES/NO

 

Is your pipeline healthy?  YES/NO

 

Are you doing the sales activity to fill the pipe?  YES/NO

 

 

 

How you are performing against quota is the lagging indicator.  It’s done.  What informed the current position is in the past.  The behavioral indicator is the activity input – are you making enough calls, having the right meetings, speaking to the right personas in the right voice with the right message?  It has a direct relationship with how healthy the pipeline is.  See this article for some world class prospecting/behavioral indicator tips. The leading indicator is the pipeline and forecast.  It’s the glue that hold the entire continuum together.  Why?  Done properly it’s the venue for the inspection of the behavior (sale strategy/action plan/next steps) that is needed and it’s an opportunity today to affect an outcome on sales success tomorrow.

 

From Little Acorns Great Oak Trees Grow

 

Below is one of my favorite ways to depict Pipeline and Forecast.  What I like about this graphic is the way it relates opportunity volume, what level of growth it has and makes the whole thing timebound.  These are three of the most important elements of a world class Pipeline and Forecast process.

 

 

Let’s Net It Out.  What Does World Class Pipeline and Forecasting Management Take?

 

Beyond understanding the direct and vital effect that pipeline and forecast has on the culture of a sales organization and reinforcing the process’ influence on the entire sales success continuum, there are some other practical pointers that you can carry forward to create a world class pipeline and forecast management process.

 

  1. Understand the why. Openly vest your team in the why you are running (and putting tremendous emphasis on) the process.  Talk about culture.  Talk about the way pipeline sets up success.  Pull the threat through to what motivates your team (commission dollars, recognition etc)

     

  1. Create a Rhythm. Set a time.  Publish the process.  Set expectations.  Follow through.  Give ample time for preparation.  Communicate the result.    Do not whip-saw your team.  Do not move the meeting around in the calendar.  Do not multitask.  Review your notes from the last cycle so you don’t ask the same question all the time.

     

     

  1. Embrace the tech stack. Make it easy for your team.  Live by the CRM.  Operate live in the CRM not on offline spreadsheets and decks.  Use the process to drive tech adoption.  Don’t contradict your mandate on CRM utilization by taking your part of the process offline.  Understand the CRM adjacent technologies that make the process easier.

     

  1. Don’t measure everything. I hear elements of the “measure everything” philosophy all the time.  Don’t do that.  It freezes your team.  It takes their eye off what is important.  Measure what you need to a do it well.  Explain why you are measuring.  Make it relevant to your challenge be it Conversion Rate to understand the mobility mid-funnel or participation rate as a way of understanding sustainable success and team upside.  Make sure you are directing energy through what you measure.

     

 

  1. Alignment isn’t just internal to your team.  Make sure that there is inter-departmental interlock as you start your process.  Work with marketing to understand where they can help unstick you in the pipeline.  Work with finance to understand how your sales bookings will convert to revenue.  Work with operations to understand how the business will need to be resourced based on what the pipeline is telling you.

     

Forecast and Pipeline is an amplifier for team culture, sales success, communication effectiveness, team morale and your department’s reputation.  It’s also the first place I look to assess if I think the team will be successful.  Take the opportunity the process gives you.  It’s the biggest more powerful level you have to pull.  Engage SBI if you need help doing so.

 

Download the Pipeline Call Checklist to run a great pipeline call, prepare for your forecast, and identify gaps, risks, and other areas of opportunity.

 

 

Additional Resources

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Aspinall

Dedicated to helping CEOs and Sales Leaders solve the answer to the growth question.

David loves helping CEOs and Sales Leaders solve one big problem: how to grow revenue faster than their industry and competitors.  As a Trusted Advisor, David has been instrumental in helping clients design and execute new growth strategies.  He is passionate about aligning a client’s growth functions – sales, customer success, marketing, product, and pricing.  David is a true business operator with more than 20 years of experience.  He has held officer and executive sales leadership roles in the Fortune 100 and previously had responsibility in Sales, Pricing, Product Management and Marketing.  He is also an active member of Young Presidents Organization.

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