Grading the Pipeline

We’re well into March and the pipeline pressure is building; that is, pressure from above to build the pipeline. How’s it going? How you stand now is a very strong indicator of success for the rest of the year. There is still time to recover and get where you need to be, but this is absolutely the time to assess yourself and the team and objectively grade the pipeline.

There are 4 key areas to effectively assessing a sales pipeline:

1. QUANTITY – Is there enough coming into the funnel? There are a couple of issues here. First, Are there enough leads getting generated? Know and track these numbers like you’re life depends on it. Actually, your sales life does. Secondly, Are leads and opportunities being captured correctly to measure in the funnel? If reps don’t get this info in the CRM, there’s no visibility. Not putting data into the CRM is so yesterday. We should be past that.

2. QUALITY – Are these the right type of deals and opportunities? This starts with correct targeting and prioritization of territory and accounts. Rigorous attention to qualification criteria will eliminate riff-raff deals that can delude one into thinking the pipeline is healthy and growing. Setting the bar high and forcing the exception to jump will drive good attention to qualification detail.

3. BALANCE – Is there a healthy spread of deals moving through the pipeline? While there should be a larger quantity at the top (hence funnel), careful note of the staging of deals throughout the pipeline is critical. Watch for stalls in 2nd or 3rd stages and for the causes. Often lax or inconsistent discovery and/or solution development practices lead to a bulging of this part of the pipeline. Deals can sit and deceive. Crisp competitors will beat you here.

4. VELOCITY – How fast are opportunities moving through the pipeline? Watch for days in the sales funnel. Knowing this metric is helpful to pick up anomalies and standards and setting expectations. Great insight here can lead to finding ways to accelerate sales cycles, highlighting deals that need aggressive management, and understanding nuances between your own product/service configurations.

For each of these 4 areas, know specifically what earns an ‘A’ and a ‘B’ and a ‘C’ and ‘D’ or whatever scale you want to use. Keep it simple and clear. Quarterly and Mid-Quarter Report Cards are standards that shouldn’t go away.

Does your pipeline meet the grade?