Streamlining the Forecast and Pipeline Review Meeting
There’s a necessary meeting every week that drives both sales reps and sales managers to mixed levels of anxiety and frustration. It’s the weekly Forecast and Pipeline Review meeting. This is either one-on-one or the sales group meeting done live in conference rooms or on the conference line.
These can run from less than an hour to multiple hours. I’ve seen these blend into personal deal review meetings, micro-granular problem solving discussions, public humiliation sessions, or simply extended gatherings wasting many people’s time and attention.
It doesn’t and shouldn’t have to be that way.
Here are 6 keys to an effective Forecast and Pipeline Review Meeting:
1. Keep it Weekly – Yes, these should be done weekly. In some slower-moving environments they may be deferred to every other week, but otherwise a weekly cadence is necessary to drive discipline and consistent visibility to sales activity and ongoing business.
2. Get a Quarterly Forecast, plus a High and Low – Reps should be held accountable to give a one number Commit or Forecast, that is, their take on their own sales production for the month or quarter. This should be supported with information on the Account/Opportunity Name, Sales Stage, Product, Deal Amount, Close Month, and Comments. Additionally capturing the rep’s “High” and “Low” Forecast number is a powerful way to capture reality across a team’s projections.
3. Yes on Percentages – Based on Likelihood, Not by Stage – Commit/Forecast numbers should be based on deal closings, not calculated percentages based on stage levels or completed stage status. These are helpful but potentially deceiving. Better yet is to augment a rep’s simple deal flow calculus with a simple low/medium/high matrix measurement of two classic questions: 1) Will it Happen?, and 2) Will We Win? Based on a powerful book entitled Sales Automation Done Right by Keith Thompson, this drives realistic standardization of percentages, which when extrapolated provides yet another data point which reps and management can use to zero in on truth.
4. Review the Funnel – Gauge the health of the entire pipeline or funnel from initial opportunity to closing. Measure for quantity coming in the top, speed or velocity of movement through the stages, funnel-shape flow or stall points, and number and quality of deals coming out as closed. Visual reporting of the funnel allows for quick and critical self-inspection. This review is often best done in one-on-one sessions.
5. Keep it Moving – The group meeting should be short (less than 1 hour). Roughly the flow should be as follows:
– 1) General Announcements (5-10 min)
– 2) Forecast Review (2-6 min per rep). Depending on the size of team, each Forecast Report/Summary should be viewed/projected on screen or online. Save the drill down on each Opportunity for your one-on-one meeting or offline. Highlight key numbers, movement, issues, trends, lessons, praises and shortcomings. No need to publicly embarrass anyone. If the report summaries are laid out right, the message is clear to everyone. Lead by leadership, not heavy-handedness.
–3) Case Study/Learnings (5-10 min). Select a different rep each week and ask them to be ready when called upon to highlight that great thing you noticed they did this past week that will serve as a good case study or lesson for the rest of the troops. Everyone learns and someone is heralded and encouraged each week.
– 4) Wrap-Up (5 min). Summarize the crux of your key themes and observations. Close the meeting on a high note.
6. It’s a Forecast, Not a Deal Review – Remember your purpose. It’s a Forecast and Pipeline Review meeting; it’s not a Deal Review session. Big difference. Save that for the one-on-one. There’s value in getting the team together and highlighting each other’s deal flow and numbers and sharing where the action is and not. One doesn’t want to hear boring details unless there’s helpful use case or application info that could apply to other’s learning or sales situations. Make it a good teaching and learning opportunity. They’ll appreciate you as a manager.
Weekly sales Forecast and Pipeline Review Meetings need not be painful. They are challenging and tension-packed by their nature, no need to prolong the anxiety. Keep the reporting clean and simple for reps and Sales Operations. The entire process must be helpful to the reps, not just a management power exercise.
When done right, these sessions can actually be fun, encouraging and motivational. Be an uplifting sales leader.