If you’re like most sales organizations, your pipeline stages are average. They allow you to track sales, manage opportunities and provide a rough forecast. And then, when it’s crunch time, your pipeline fails you and you miss your number again. The reason? You don’t know what’s happening inside your sales funnel.
One big culprit in “blurry pipeline vision” involves stages that are too big. So, when is a pipeline stage too big? When you need too many “yes” answers, when too many sales efforts are required or when the stages are too complex to get to the next stage. When a stage is too big you don’t have the visibility you need to know if a deal is close to moving to the next stage or still at the beginning. The key is to break down these stages into a more manageable size.
A good pipeline stage size. If there is a certain complexity in a stage (such as a demo or trial) consider making the demo or trial its own stage. This way you can distinguish between acquiring data results from a trial and the review of that data. The key is to make sure there aren’t too many complex sales efforts in a single stage.
Also, consider your timeframe. If your sales cycle is a year long, having one or two sales stages that can take 5-6 months and a few more that take a few weeks can also cause you problems. A deal can get stuck in a long stage with little visibility and you may not find out it’s in trouble until it’s too late.
Activity can also play a role. Consider sales stages that don’t require too many activities. If there is too much going on in a stage, too many activities that need to be accomplished, one trip up can halt everything and leave you wondering what happened.
Take a look at your current pipeline stages. Are they fluid? Do you find the deals spend longer in some stages than others? They don’t have to be equal, but if one or two of your stages is taking up the majority of the selling time, you have a stage problem that could be affecting your forecasting.
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Jim Keenan is the founder of A Sales Guy Consulting and was named a Top 50 Sales and Marketing Influencer by Top Sales World. For more information, go to asalesguy.com.