How to Build a Structured Sales Pipeline


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Following on from my earlier article “Developing a structured pipeline – The Issues” this article describes how to build the all too elusive, structured pipeline.

So to recap: what should a structured pipeline report aim to achieve?

Firstly, it should enable you to view each sale in a consistent manner.

Second, it should clearly identify if a sales opportunity has progressed or stagnated.

Thirdly, it should contained a factoring index which will more accurately reflect the true value of the pipeline

Fourthly, it should provide sales and/or company management with a consistent and reliable prediction of business that should be closed in the forthcoming period.

Fifth, it should be simple and relatively easy to complete (salespeople as a breed are poor at filling in reports).

Sixth, it should be focused on numbers rather than opinion.

To build a consistent view of each sales opportunity take the sales cycle in your business and break it down into discrete milestones.

So for example,

Milestone 1 is a lead or an enquiry who has identified desire to purchase your product or service.

Milestone 2 to progress the sale you need to demonstrate the product

Milestone 3 they have the budget to pay for your product

Milestone 4 you have submitted a proposal

Milestone 5 you’re on the shortlist

Milestone 6 you have a verbal order

Milestone 7 you have a written order.

The next step is to put percentages against these milestones for example, 1) 5%, 2)10%, 3) 20%, 4)25%, 5) 50%, 6) 90%, 7)100%. This approach allows you to build a factored pipeline i.e. the value of the opportunity time the percentage milestone. Don’t get hung up about whether the percentages should be this or that number what we are building is something that will give you a consistent view across all your sales opportunities and not something which reflects the precise chance of winning per opportunity. The progress of the sale can be shown in any way you like; this could be as a table, a graph, or a set of traffic light colours going from red to green as you move along the sales process. Other information you need is simple the prospect name, if it is a new or existing customer, the value of the opportunity and a projected win date.

By constructing what I have described you’ve gone a long way to getting a grip on your sales performance, you’ve now turned sales reporting into a set of numbers which over time you can analyse. For example you’ll see which sales have stagnated because they wont have moved along the pipeline for a period of time, you’ll be able to identify how overoptimistic you sales force are by comparing the projected win date with the actual win date. Most commonly this is between 3-6 months.

Now that you have a factored pipeline you can start to build up metrics on the relationship between the size of your pipeline and your monthly sales. It also now enables you to look forward because as your factored pipeline rises and falls to will your sales, thus you can act early as soon as you see your pipeline numbers dip.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Laurence Ainsworth
Laurence Ainsworth founded Exigent Consulting in 2002 and since then has performed a number of successful turnaround more recently he has worked with businesses to utilise Social Marketing to drive sales performance, customer loyalty and brand recognition. He is skilled at working with, and getting the most from, owner managers.


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