Is Your Pipeline Reporting Process in Need of an Overhaul?

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Many organizations are still using Excel to manage their leads and opportunities. Despite being the industry standard for spreadsheets, Excel does have its drawbacks when used to track and report on sales pipelines. First and foremost, the administrative overhead of using Excel for this routine results in top producers wasting valuable time. Since sales reps have to constantly input, revise, and exchange spreadsheets with their sales administrators and sales managers, they spend less time prospecting and meeting with clients to win new business.

Besides being time-consuming, the Excel sales tracking, review, and reporting processes are quite error-prone due to its manual-intensive updates. Other downsides of these cumbersome processes have to do with a lack of auditing and revision controls and the potential complexity of the spreadsheet. For instance, the formulas and pivot tables can be quite confusing for someone who is not updating the spreadsheet every day. Generally, a Sales department relies on a “reporting guru,” who is responsible for organizing, translating, rearranging, reformatting, rolling up, and producing a master report that is reviewed in recurring meetings by Sales teams and Executive Management. The problem, though, is due to a “key person risk,” as the master reporter often does not have a legit back-up, or any back-up, for that matter. Unfortunately, if the master reporter is unavailable or on vacation, his peers will probably struggle and may be unable to figure out the calculations or how to unlock the spreadsheet. Thus, meetings or the distribution of a final sales report can get delayed.

Moreover, I have seen firms not be able to access their spreadsheets on shared network drives because they were accidentally deleted, not backed up, or the network drive just mysteriously vanished and was temporarily unavailable. This impediment is not an anomaly. I’ve seen it happen many times over the course of my career, regardless of whether I was on the client or consulting side at the time. It inevitably happens at the busiest, most inopportune time of the month!

It would behoove firms relying on Excel or any other antiquated, detached application for sales reporting to rethink their process and switch to a more centralized, flexible, and robust CRM marketing, sales, and service suite.

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

Unlike spreadsheets and legacy apps, a CRM system provides supporting insights, contacts, notes, and follow-up activity plans for any of the accounts with opportunities in the pipeline. Predefined workflows can define, enforce, and automate consistent sales practices throughout the enterprise, thereby increasing the collaboration and efficiency of users. Sales reps can close deals more quickly because all of their deal pursuit information is instantly accessible and available in real-time for themselves and sales management. With this great feature, sales reps and account managers can narrow their focus, better know where to spend their efforts and resources, and thereby increase the likelihood of closing higher revenue-generating opportunities. Overall, producers and sales management will spend less time giving each other updates, refining spreadsheets, or trying to find the reporting specialist, and thus be able to focus on what they do best – cultivating relationships and finding and closing deals!

Additionally, CRM allows sales personnel to not have to depend so much on their go-to reporting specialist. They can immediately view valuable real-time info in CRM at any time, such as:

  • targeted close dates
  • estimated revenue amounts
  • competitors
  • sales stages
  • decision-maker relationship hierarchies
  • influencers
  • allies
  • possible roadblocks
  • contract renewal dates
  • lead/referral sources
  • progress versus quota goals
  • reasons won or lost

All of these embedded data analytics can be seen in lists, charts, dashboards, or advanced summary reports to give CRM users visual clarity and a deeper understanding of their sales pipeline and business performance.

If you are a firm that is overwhelmed with a laborious spreadsheet sales reporting process, you need to stop and change right now! An award-winning CRM system can certainly improve your sales process and performance while also mitigating your operational risk.

So now you might be wondering, “How do I prevent sales reps or teams from still using their own secret Excel pipeline spreadsheet?” Sure, there is some change management and coaching involved and you may encounter resistance at first, but it’s not as hard as you might think. Here’s why…If a current deal is not in CRM, then it is not even discussed at pipeline review meetings. Since sales reps/teams know their compensation will be tied to having their sales opportunity data entered and updated within CRM, they should be on board and comply immediately. Having a mandated, uniform opportunity tracking process that all sales reps adhere to also makes it much easier for sales managers and executive management to analyze sales performance and discuss the firm’s short-term health. All in all, CRM enhances sales pipeline reporting reliability, thereby giving firm leaders more faith in the sales forecasts. Plus, it is much easier for sales managers to line up the needed sales and marketing support resources to help close the high-profile deals in the pipeline and properly predict and plan future staffing needs.

In closing, if you are still using Excel to drive your sales opportunity pipeline reporting, you will never be “Best-in-Class.” It’s highly recommended to eliminate Excel and instead rely on CRM. By shifting your sales tracking and forecasting process solely into CRM, your sales team can now more effectively, efficiently, and accurately manage their pipeline, and thus close more deals.

“Boom goes the dynamite!”

2 COMMENTS

  1. Great read. My recommendation is usually to use Excel to work out the data you need and the data you want. Then once you have gone through a few iterations of your master excel document, and changes to it have stabilized, move to using a CRM. A CRM can give you much better insight but only if you know what data you need to record first.

  2. Thanks James. Plotting your course and doing some prep work in Excel, a whiteboard, Balsamiq, or other preferred avenues is a good approach as long as you have maximum input from all key user groups. It always helps to have a well-thought-out wireframe or spec. Upon releasing the CRM sales opportunity pipeline tracking forms, views, charts, dashboards, and reports, it’s critical to quickly obtain user feedback and then adjust and iterate accordingly. The good news is that many of today’s CRMs can facilitate rapid prototyping and configuration adjustments of the sales opportunity record entry, updating, and reporting processes. In many cases, leading systems have a solid out-of-the-box pipeline tracking and reporting capabilities available that can be modified and tailored to a firm’s unique sales process fairly easily with the guidance and support of the right CRM strategic consulting partner. Good luck!

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