Every Sales Manager is interested in what has been sold. Well, sort of. But what really gets them going is thinking about what will be sold. It’s the size of the sales funnel that drives emotion, energy and attention.
So it’s a crying shame that the sales funnel is often over-inflated with poor quality sales deals. It contains opportunities that with the best will in the world, are never going to close successfully. Yet there they are. Month after month.
This gives a false view of the funnel. It hides future shortfalls in revenue. It prevents managers from managing successfully. And more often than not, leads to recriminations about what happened to the revenue that was anticipated, but didn’t materialise. Which ironically, fuels further over-inflation of the pipeline for the next quarter. Current pain is glossed over with the promise of jam tomorrow.
Why does this happen? Well for one reason sales people are optimists. They genuinely believe the deal they’ve had open since the beginning of time is about to close. Or they’re under pressure to boost funnel size. Removing dead deals hardly helps that cause. And you never know, it might close. Or something else may come along in its place.
So how exactly do you immediately spot the lame duck deals that should be brought down to earth? How do you remove the padding that’s over-inflating your sales funnel?
Here’s three metrics that do exactly that.
Number of days the Opportunity has been open
Why is this important? Well, if your average sales cycle is 90 days and you’ve got a deal that’s been open 180 days, there’s reason to ask questions.
Opportunity age in isolation doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a lame duck. But when used in conjunction with the other two metrics it becomes a powerful starting point for identifying dormant opportunities.
The trick with this metric is to ‘stop the clock’ when the Opportunity is set to Closed Won or Closed Lost. That way, not only do you see the age of each Opportunity, you can compare the length of the sales cycle across different types of opportunity, customer and outcome.
Number of times the Close Date has changed
This metric counts the number of times that the Close Date has been moved.
Let’s say the Close Date has been changed 15 times on the opportunity that’s been open 180 days. Think you should start asking questions? Is this deal just being consistently moved along just to maintain funnel size? Is it ever going to close?
Number of days since the last Opportunity Stage change
This is the length of time since the Stage on the opportunity was last updated. So that 180 day old opportunity – the one with the 15 changes in Close Date – well, this metric tells us that the Opportunity Stage was last updated 90 days ago.
Suspicious that it’s a lame duck? Is this deal progressing in any way? What would have to happen to move it onto the next stage?
These metrics don’t definitely tell us that the deal is defunct. But they tell us where to start looking if we want to weed out poor quality deals that might be over-inflating our sales pipeline.
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Display these metrics on the sales pipeline dashboard
Sales managers need to be able to easily identify the lame ducks without spending too much time scrutinising the pipeline. They need to manage by exception. Identify the lame duck candidates and drill down on those.
Here’s an example of how you can display these metrics on a dashboard. It highlights those that require investigation.
It’s a dashboard table with columns. The first shows the opportunity name. The second, the number of days the opportunity has been open. The next columns shows the number of times the Close Date has been changed. And the final column, the number of days since the last opportunity stage change.
We’ve limited the table to 10 rows to make it easier to read on the dashboard; you can choose any number you prefer.
The underlying report gives us powerful additional information in order to direct our questioning.
Now we can see that the sforce – GW Gasoline opportunity was created in April and it’s 171 days old. Its Close Date has been changed 12 times. It’s in the Prospecting Stage. And the last time the opportunity Stage was updated was more than 50 days ago.
If my average sales cycle is three months, does this look like a solid funnel deal? What about some of the others?
But I don’t want to forget about these deals!
So you’ve identified your lame ducks. But what should you do about them? Set them to Closed Lost and forget about them?
That’s certainly an option. The Opportunity Owner can create a Task to check back with the customer in 3 months’ time. You may also want to create a dashboard chart showing Closed Lost deals. Now you’ve got a way of easily identifying dormant prospects that you should periodically re-visit.
The other option is to create another Opportunity Stage and assign the lame duck deals to that. Filter this Stage out of the main funnel reports used for assessing the true size of the sales funnel. But only remove the opportunities from this interim Stage to Closed Lost once you’re absolutely convinced there’s no deal to be done.
So what’s next?
The first step is to have your system administrator create the three metrics. Of course get in touch if you’d like to talk about how we can help with the configuration.
Then create the underlying report and dashboard component. And then you can get to work. Weed out the deals that look like they’ll never close successfully. Start to scrutinise the others. Ask questions of the opportunity owners.
And ideally don’t ask your questions by email if you can’t do it in person. Use salesforce Chatter, directly on the Opportunity. But lets leave the benefits of that to another blog post!
If you found this article useful then you may also want to read:
- 12 charts that should be on your sales dashboard.
- Why Sales don’t follow up Marketing’s leads and what to do about it.
- 10 tips for awesome dashboards.
- Opportunity win rates: how to measure and compare across sales teams.
Gary recently ran a webinar with special guest Derek Davis, Director of Sales Support at Gilbarco Veeder Root. They demonstrated a range of dashboard charts that give increased visibility of the sales funnel. They also directly addressed the issues discussed in this blog post. Watch and listen to the recording or read the Q&A published by Gary.
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