Sales

5 Actions to Create an Accurate Pipeline Management Program

In the second installment of this two-part series, SBI recommends best practices to sales leaders for improving the pipeline management process.

Pipeline Management is a critical exercise with which many organizations struggle. But those high-growth companies with consistent and disciplined pipeline management outperform their competition by 1.5x. As CEOs evolve into commercial visionaries, executive teams are regularly reviewing out-of-quarter pipeline; involving their counterparts in Marketing, Product, Business Development, and Pricing to proactively get a foothold on weak areas and holistically solve for potential challenges.

Commercial talent also cares about pipeline health. SBI research shows that sufficient pipeline is in the top three areas that sales talent cares about—Career Growth, Seller Advocacy, and Territory Optimization. Given the current competition for commercial talent, CROs and CEOs cannot afford to deprioritize the problem.

Pipeline Management alone is not enough to hit quarterly targets. It requires the same rigor applied to forecast accuracy. Last week, SBI recommended Four Ways to Improve Forecast Accuracy, and this week we look at five actions high-growth companies take for a more structured approach to managing their sales pipeline.

So, what does a good pipeline program look like? 

  1. Promote a Data Hygiene Program. Poor pipeline visibility is often caused by poor training, incorrect incentives, lack of accountability and inconsistent or non-existing definitions.
  2. Set a Pipeline Call Cadence. Pipeline Management must become a habit with regularly scheduled forecasting and pipeline calls. 2-3 per quarter at a minimum.
  3. Establish and Define the Core Metrics. Use common and consistent set of historical and current metrics, KPIs, leading indicators, and thresholds to determine if you have enough pipeline to hit quarterly targets.
  4. Create a Pipeline Review Process. A pipeline call is not a forecast review call. The agenda needs to include pipeline changes and health per stage and coverage needed from sales and marketing.
  5. Use SMART Actions to Increase Close Probability. As with forecast calls, pipeline calls should conclude with a clear set of actions and owners driving behaviors to mitigate risk and capitalize on opportunities. 

Pipeline Management is a critical element of planning requiring discipline and commitment from multiple functions, which few organizations do well. Without Pipeline Management, organizations engage in the Sisyphean exercise of chasing the quarter-end number instead of proactively recognizing and diagnosing potential problems. One of the highest compliments given by a CEO or the board is to “have complete command of the business.” Sales leaders with a well-honed forecast and pipeline processes do.

To discuss ways to consistently drive process improvement and team behaviors relative to forecast accuracy and pipeline management and an analysis of what commercial tech tools might elevate your revenue growth program, contact us.