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Opportunity Stages Explained With Best Practice Recommendations

Opportunity Stages Explained With Best Practice Recommendations

The Opportunity Stages in Salesforce should match your sales process.

However, the chances are, you think they don’t.

That’s likely to be especially true if you’re still using the standard opportunity stages—those out-of-the-box stages in Salesforce.

Of course, you can change them. (If you’re unsure how to do this, I explain the steps thoroughly in the video at the end of this post).

However, if the pre-defined stages are not what you need, the question is, what should the Salesforce opportunity stages be in your business?

I’ve seen this provoke many heated discussions. The answer is often a fudge, and the outcome, sometimes, is far too many stages.

Nevertheless, getting the opportunity stages to reflect your sales process accurately is essential. The benefits include greater visibility of the sales funnel and better pipeline management, and you’ll also get reliable pipeline coverage metrics and better tracking of sales versus target.

In this complete guide, we cover:

  • How opportunity stages work and why they are critical.
  • The four common mistakes to avoid.
  • The five popular opportunity stages many companies use.
  • How to make the changes in Salesforce.
  • Best practices tips and advice you can use today.

Not only that, but I also point you to other helpful resources that help you get the best out of Salesforce. We even have a free special offer for you at the end of this article.

By the way, I also created a video to accompany this blog post: Six Recommended Opportunity Stages. I explain each stage and give examples of exit criteria.

6 Recommended Opportunity Stages In Salesforce

With that, let’s start.

Why Opportunity Stages Are Important

Opportunity stages play a critical role in pipeline management. They are also vital for accurate sales forecasts.

To understand why let’s take an example.

Opportunity stages play a critical role in pipeline management, and they are vital for accurate sales forecasts.

To understand why let’s take an example.

This dashboard chart shows how the stages combine with the Close Date and Amount. It’s a great way to summarize the pipeline.

For example, we can see that the funnel contains $750K of opportunities due to close in November.

Of this, $40K is currently at the Prospecting Stage, and another $50K is in the Investigation Stage. You can easily see the values for the other stages.

You get the picture.

This type of chart is vital because it helps managers forecast accurately and prioritize sales activities.

Pro tip: To learn more about pipeline visibility and accurate forecasting, I recommend this blog post:

The Best Sales Pipeline Chart To Use This Year. Step-by-step advice for getting reliable funnel visibility.

Opportunity Stages Explained

Opportunity stages describe the high-level phases within your sales process. In a CRM system, salespeople update the opportunity stage as the deal moves through the sales process.

Having realistic opportunity stages is critical for sales managers because you get much better pipeline visibility.

Pro tip: Install our free Salesforce dashboard to get the pipeline reports and charts we recommend. More than 5,000 people have already downloaded it.
On the other hand, if your opportunity stages don’t reflect your sales process, you can’t rely on your pipeline reports and sales forecasts.

 

Opportunity Stages and Probabilities

In Salesforce, each opportunity stage links to a pre-defined percentage probability. You can change these quickly (I cover the steps in the video at the end).

When a salesperson selects a stage, the deal takes on the relevant percentage. However, not everyone knows that salespeople can override the default probability.
Sometimes, it’s right to do this. For example, let’s say you’re selling to an existing long-term customer. That means the chances of winning the deal are higher compared to a new prospect. The salesperson can adjust the probability to reflect this.
Pro tip: Use this blog post to learn about probabilities, expected revenue, and weighted pipeline forecasts.

How To Make Opportunity Probability Your Trusted Friend. Detailed advice on using the opportunity probability to your advantage.

Opportunity Stages and Forecast Categories

Forecast Categories in Salesforce are a way of grouping opportunity stages.

That means they are a valuable way of summarizing the pipeline. That’s why some businesses use forecast categories to build their sales projections.

If you’re into the Forecasts Tab, you’ll find it makes extensive use of Forecast Categories.

However, in my opinion, the Forecasts Tab is very complex. The tab is supposed to help create forecasts and track sales versus quota. However, many salespeople and managers find it challenging to use.

Fortunately, it’s only one of four ways to measure sales versus target in Salesforce. To understand all four, I recommend this blog post:

4 Ways To Track Sales Versus Target In Salesforce.

Five Common Opportunity Stage Mistakes to Avoid

Here are the five things I often see companies doing wrong when it comes to opportunity stages. I’ve included a best practices tip on avoiding or fixing the error in each case.

 

1. Stages are not clear

It’s essential that opportunity stages are well defined and do not overlap. Unfortunately, many times I see unclear stages.

Always, ambiguity here is a big mistake. That’s because a deal may be in one stage when it really should be in another. The result is that funnel visibility is unreliable because it’s distorted.

For example, I worked recently with a client that had stages of Closing and Negotiation.

What’s the difference? I didn’t know. And more importantly, neither did the sales team.

The result is that reports and dashboard charts didn’t deliver meaningful information on deals likely to close soon.

Best practice:

Make sure opportunity stages are clear, unambiguous, and do not overlap. Establish exit criteria for each stage. Communicate the meaning and definition of each stage clearly to salespeople.

Pro tip: Use the Lighting Path to summarize each stage’s definition and exit criteria.

2. Opportunity Stages don’t reflect the sales process

In an ideal world, opportunity stages reflect the customer buying process. That way, the pipeline reflects where each deal is along the buying journey.

Unfortunately, there are three problems with this.

First, every customer’s buying process is different. That means it’s hard to standardize, and you’d end up with a lot of varying opportunity stages.

Second, the customer may not want to give us full details of their buying journey, where they are up to, and who is involved.

Third, even our key contacts may not fully understand the buying process. That’s likely to be especially true if it’s a significant investment they haven’t made before and there are many stakeholders.

So what do you do?

The answer is to make sure your opportunity stages reflect your sales process. That way, you do at least know where you stand from an internal point of view.

Nevertheless, there is work to do. The standard opportunity stages that come out of the box with Salesforce are unlikely to mirror your sales process.

That means you need to change them. (The video at the end of this blog post explains how to customize the opportunity stages in Salesforce).

Later in this blog post, I’ll explain the five opportunity stages that many B2B companies already use.

Nevertheless, you might be wondering:

What if I have more than one sales process?

For example, in many companies, there’s a defined sales process for new customers. And another, shorter one for renewals or upgrades.

I recommend you use Opportunity Record Types to handle this.

It means you create different record types for each sales process. Then modify the opportunity stage picklist for each record type. In other words, only include those stages relevant to each record type.

Best practice:

Modify the standard opportunity stages in Salesforce to align with your sales process tightly. Use opportunity record types if you have more than one sales process in your business.

 

3. There are too many Opportunity Stages

If you have too many opportunity stages, this is what happens:

In other words, you cannot see the wood for the trees. Unfortunately, pipeline visibility deteriorates rather than improves if you have too many stages.

Here are three reasons why this happens.

  1. The business is trying to get too granular in measuring the pipeline.
  2. You are not using record types to separate different sales processes.
  3. You use the opportunity stage field to track post-sales activities such as delivery or fulfillment.

If you have a very long sales cycle or want more detail on where each deal is in the sales process, I recommend tracking sub-stages in a separate field.

Likewise, use other fields to capture post-sales progress. Using the stage picklist to track post-sales progress makes reporting on won deals or win rates more challenging.

 

Best practice:

Don’t overdo things. Stick to four or five pipeline stages for clarity on the sales funnel. Use other fields if you need extra information or want to record post-sale progress.

 

4. Opportunity Stages are not verbs

It’s a mistake to use milestones as opportunity stages. Instead, I recommend you use verbs.

For example, Qualifying is better than Qualified. That’s because Qualifying describes the status of the deal over time. In contrast, Qualified is a milestone that means you probably proceed to the next stage. However, it doesn’t tell you anything about what is happening right now.

(We’ll talk about whether Qualifying is a stage you should include later. You might be surprised).

Likewise, I sometimes see a stage like First Meeting. However, the deal is only in that state for the hour it takes to conduct the call. It’s much better to use Discovery or Investigation. Those words give a better sense of the meetings, phone calls, and email exchanges taking place over time.

In other words, each stage should reflect the status of a deal over time.

That period might be weeks or even months. During this time, the salesperson does many things to move the opportunity along. Consequently, action-oriented opportunity stages are better than milestone-based stages.

 

Best practice:

Use opportunity stages that represent a series of customer interactions over time. I recommend you avoid stages that sound like one-off milestones. Instead, verbs are almost always the better choice.

 

5. Opportunity Stages are not up to date

As we’ve seen, its crucial opportunity stages accurately reflect the sales process.

However, it’s also essential that salespeople maintain the stages of each deal. If not, then pipeline reports and sales forecasts count for nothing.

For example, this sales dashboard chart shows the current pipeline.

Let’s assume we are in the last week of November, and the sales cycle in this business is three months.

Here’s the first question:

Are those deals in Prospecting and Discovery that are due to close in November really at the right opportunity stages?

If they are, then you’re right skeptical about whether they really will close successfully this month.

That means my pipeline view is probably not accurate. Either the deals should be at a more advanced stage or a different close date (or both).

And here’s the second question:

What are those open deals doing in earlier months? Unless you have a time-turner, they are not going to close successfully in previous months.

Either way, failure to keep opportunity stages up to date will ruin your funnel visibility.

Best practice:

Make sure everyone understands the importance of updating and maintaining the stage on each opportunity. Create a formula field that shows the number of days since the last opportunity stage change. Combine this metric with others, such as the number of times the Close Date has moved from one month to the next. Use these metrics to validate your sales pipeline reports.

Pro tip: Our GSP Sales Dashboard includes the vital metrics described here. I recommend this blog post for advice and best practices on using these metrics.

3 Killer Pipeline Quality Metrics That Highlight When To Be Sceptical.

For more information on these Opportunity mistakes and the best practices to avoid them, see this video: Five Opportunity Stage Mistakes To Avoid.

5 Opportunity Stage Mistakes In Salesforce

Recommended Opportunity Stages

How should you change the opportunity stages in Salesforce? These are the opportunity stages used by many of our customers.

  • Prospecting (or Qualifying).
  • Discovery (or Needs Analysis).
  • Customer Evaluating (or Proposal).
  • Closing (or Negotiation).
  • Closed Won.
  • Closed Lost.

Some businesses have additional variations of Closed Lost. Qualified Out and No Purchase are examples of this.

Let’s crack on.

 

The Prospecting (or Qualifying) Opportunity Stage

These deals are in the first stage of your sales process. Opportunities in this stage are your long-term pipeline.

Often, you think there’s a deal, but right now, it’s far from certain.

The customer may not yet have a budget or timescale commitment. The Close Date is uncertain and can be many months in the future.

Sometimes, the customer – if asked – might not even agree that a potential deal yet exists. That’s because you are busy educating the stakeholders on how the status quo needs to change.

Nevertheless, entering deals in this stage is valuable because it’s essential to keep track of those long-term prospects you are targetting.

The primary outcome of this stage is deciding whether to spend more time, effort and resources working on this opportunity.

To determine this, ask these four questions:

  1. Is there an opportunity?
  2. Can we win it?
  3. Is it worth winning?
  4. Do we want to win it?
Pro tip: Want to get notified when we publish our upcoming blog post on qualifying opportunities? Register here to receive an email alert.

You might think questions three and four sound similar. Nevertheless, they are different.

‘Is it worth winning?’ is an economic question. Are the revenue and margin worth the cost and effort?

‘Do we want to win it?’ is a strategic question. Existing customer relationships or marketplace dynamics may give a compelling reason to attempt to win the deal. These factors may apply even if it’s not that attractive economically.

Currently, you may not be able to answer these questions definitively. However, there needs to be enough information to decide whether to move to the next phase.

Incidentally, I prefer the term Prospecting rather than Qualifying for opportunities at this stage.

That’s because, as Alan Morton, CEO of SBR, says, “qualifying is a continuous activity throughout the sales lifecycle; it’s not a one-off step early in the process.”

Either way, many Prospecting opportunities will be removed directly from the pipeline at this stage. That’s fine. Don’t waste time with deals that don’t have legs.

Exit Criteria

  • Positive answers to the questions that qualify the deal.

 

The Discovery (or Needs Analysis) Stage

The traditional way to think about this stage is to find out about the customer’s business situation.

The aim is to align the proposal or quote you send in the next stage with precisely what the customer wants.

However, the best salespeople go far beyond this.

They are not passively listening to the customer. Instead, they often directly influence or change how the customer perceives their needs. This activity is widespread in cases where the customer plans to issue an RFP. You want to bend the content to align with the capabilities of your products and services.

Likewise, high-performing salespeople also find out about many other factors influencing their chances of a successful outcome. They ask questions about the decision-making process and gather much information about the people involved. They also gain vital details about the budget and timescales and collect news about competitors.

That’s why I prefer the term Discovery to Needs Analysis because it better describes what is happening in a successful sales process.

Finally, in this stage, re-ask the four qualification questions. You can now answer with more conviction and certainty. If these answers are not compelling, remove the deal from your pipeline.

Exit Criteria

  • There is clarity around how the customer views their needs.
  • A thorough understanding of the buying process and the people involved.
  • You have updated the qualification questions with convincing answers.

 

The Customer Evaluating (or Proposal) Stage

In this stage, the Customer receives your proposal or quote. To proceed beyond this stage, the Customer must agree, in principle at least, to do business with you.

Of course, you do not have to issue a formal quote. However, you are communicating specific pricing and scope proposals. In other words, stakeholders within the customer business are evaluating the particular value your company is offering.

(If the stakeholders are not evaluating your proposals, the deal is lost or at a different stage).

In many companies, this opportunity stage is called Proposal Made or suchlike.

I’m okay with that, although I believe that Customer Evaluating more accurately reflects the activity both you and the prospect are probably doing.

That’s because other activities might include proof of concept demos, reference visits, or a short video to demonstrate the solution.

These activities might happen before you send your detailed proposals. Some companies also prefer to siphon these activities into an earlier stage (Demonstrating Value, for example). Whether you need to do this depends upon your sales process.

Pro tip: Sales expert Alan Morton says, “If you want to do one thing to increase your conversion rates, it’s this: don’t send your proposals, present them.”

Exit Criteria

  • A commitment from the customer (in principle at least) to do business with you.
  • Agreement on the essential details of your proposal, even if the precise details and finer points still need to be hammered out.
  • A detailed Close Plan agreed with the customer. These are the specific steps required to get ink on the contract.

 

Closing (or Negotiating) Stage

Many people call this final pipeline stage Negotiating.

I prefer Closing, for several reasons:

  • Negotiating implies we are likely to make concessions on pricing or terms and conditions.
  • Closing better describes the complete set of activities probably needed to get the deal done.

There’s likely to be a discussion on the commercial terms. And almost certainly, there’s a legal contract to finalize and get signed.

However, I recommend you think through all the other activities that need to take place. These may include handing the deal over for fulfillment, briefing customer services, or agreeing on a delivery schedule.

If you have a project to deliver after winning the deal or other fulfillment steps, I recommend you track the status in different fields, not the opportunity stage. That’s because adding new post-sales stages muddies the water when it comes to measuring win rates and sales performance.

Pro tip: Often, you need to schedule the total revenue over time. Standard Salesforce functionality is weak in this area. Check out the GSP Revenue Schedules app if you need to spread opportunity revenue over time.

Exit Criteria

  • A contract signed by the customer.
  • Other critical details (e.g., delivery plan) are agreed upon and documented.

 

Closed Won

The deal has concluded successfully. The contract has a signature — time for a celebration.

Pro tip: After the drinks, I recommend this blog post: How To Measure Opportunity Conversion Rates and Win Ratios. The article explains the right and wrong ways to measure win rates.

Closed Lost

Use this stage when the deal is not proceeding.

Perhaps the customer decided the products or services from another supplier offered a better solution.

Alternatively, you may have decided not to expend more time and effort on the opportunity. For example, you could not write compelling answers to the ‘four questions’ test we looked at in earlier stages.

Remember, it’s vital to re-examine and upgrade your answers at each step in the sales process. This process is not a one-off activity that takes place at the start of the sales cycle. Instead, it should happen every time you are ready to move from one stage to the next.

As my friend Bud Suse likes to say, “if you’re going to lose, you might as well lose early.

Of course, there’s another scenario. The biggest competitor for many companies is ‘Did Not Proceed.’ In other words, the customer decided not to go ahead with the project, or it simply fizzled out.

Both cases mean you might want to use two further stages.

‘Qualified Out’ means there is not enough mutual benefit for either party to spend any more time and effort on the deal. ‘No Purchase’ indicates the customer did not commit to any supplier.

Either way, open opportunities that no longer have legs are the most significant source of over-inflated sales pipelines and inaccurate revenue forecasts. If you want reliable pipeline visibility, it’s essential to remove lost deals and dormant opportunities with no realistic chance of ever proceeding.

Pro tip: The Opportunity Stage Movement report is an excellent tool to identify and analyze these deals. This report tracks the ‘From’ stage for all sales set to Closed Lost. It means you can monitor funnel leakage and work out ways to improve the sales process.

Opportunity Stages in Salesforce Lightning

I recommend using two features in the Salesforce Lightning that help with opportunity stages.

 

Sales Path

First, use the path to display the stages.

Salespeople click on the path to move the opportunity to the next stage.

I recommend you adjust the path to include a stage definition, vital activities, and exit criteria.

Kanban View

The Kanban view gives salespeople a dynamic display of all deals.

Salespeople drag and drop opportunities from one stage to another. It’s a quick and easy tool for updating deals and keeping the pipeline accurate.

How To Change Opportunity Stages In Salesforce

The default opportunity stages in Salesforce are:

  1. Prospecting
  2. Qualification
  3. Needs Analysis
  4. Value Proposition
  5. Decision Makers
  6. Perception Analysis
  7. Proposal/Price Quote
  8. Negotiation/Review
  9. Closed Won
  10. Closed Lost

In this video, I show you step by step how to change these default stages to values that suit your business.

How To Change Opportunity Stages In Salesforce

Getting In touch

You’ve seen how critical it is to get your opportunity stages right.

That’s why we have a free offer for you.

Get in touch, and we’ll hold a thirty-minute web meeting with you to talk through your stages. We’ll help you decide upon the settings that best suit your business. No charge, no gimmicks.

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Opportunity Stages Explained With Best Practice Recommendations

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The Best Sales Pipeline Report To Use This Year

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Effective sales manage relies on robust visibility of the sales pipeline. This salesforce dashboard chart shows the open opportunities by close date and stage. It gives sales executives the essential information they need to manage the sales pipeline effectively. It allows them to forecast accurately. It enables dud deals to be identified. And it prevents that all too common problem of the over-inflated sales pipeline.

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GSP Target Tracker

Track targets in Salesforce including won and pipeline deals

GSP Sales Dashboard

Superb pipeline visibility and sales performance metrics

GSP Revenue Schedules

Improve forecasting by scheduling opportunity revenue over time 

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12 Must-Have Salesforce Dashboard Charts | With Video And Examples

12 Must-Have Salesforce Dashboard Charts | With Video And Examples

Many sales managers are crestfallen when it comes to Salesforce dashboards.

Sales leaders expect dashboards to give complete visibility of the sales pipeline. They want inaccurate sales forecasts to be a thing of the past.

And they require detailed metrics to highlight when, where, and how to manage, coach, and develop the sales team performance.

Sadly, it doesn’t always work out that way.

Even with many dashboards and reports, managers often still don’t know enough about the sales pipeline’s size, quality, and trend. These constraints limit their ability to manage and coach the sales team.

Furthermore, they cannot look back at historical sales metrics to gain insight that guides better sales performance in the future.

Here’s another thing:

In many reviews and team meetings, people still spend more time arguing about the numbers than working out how to increase revenue.

However, if you’re looking for the best practical advice on Salesforce dashboards, then you’ll love this blog post.

We’ve also recorded a webinar covering the same topic. You can find that webinar recording just below.

Recorded Webinar | 12 Must-Have Sales Dashboard Charts In 2022

Webinar | 12 Must-Have Sales Dashboard Charts In 2022

The Best Salesforce Dashboard

This article is a complete guide to the best Salesforce Dashboard.

In it, you’ll learn all about:
• The 12 must-have charts on your sales dashboard.
• Best practices in using each vital chart and report.
• How to get our free sales dashboard (5,000+ downloads).
• The three pipeline quality metrics guaranteed to improve your sales forecasts.
• Where to find other authoritative free resources.

If you are looking for Salesforce dashboard examples and want complete visibility of your teams’ pipeline and sales performance, then dive into this guide.

Let’s start.

12 Recommended Salesforce Dashboard Charts

Here are the twelve charts we recommend are on any sales managers’ dashboard.

Before building them, remember you can get all twelve straight away by installing our free GSP Sales Dashboard template. After that, you can tailor each of the charts to suit your business.

Pro tip: Whether you install our free template or build the charts yourself, I recommend you also review this blog post:

10 Best Practice Tips For Awesome Salesforce Dashboards.

Here are the twelve:

1. Closed Won Opportunities by Month.
2. Pipeline Deals by Close Date and Opportunity Stage.
3. The Traditional Funnel Chart.
4. Top 10 Pipeline Customers and Prospects.
5. Long-term Pipeline Trend.
6. Open Opportunities by Created Date.
7. Pipeline Quality Metrics.
8. Opportunity Conversion Rates / Win Rates.
9. Average Size of Closed Won Deals.
10. Completed Activities per Salesperson.
11. Leaking Funnel Report.
12. Sales Performance and Pipeline Coverage versus Target.

Sales Dashboard by GSP

Superb Pipeline Visibility and Sales
Performance Metrics from this free Dashboard.

I will explain how to use each chart and report in a practical way to drive sales.

Not only that:

For every dashboard chart, I point you to a dedicated blog post I’ve written. Each of these articles gives additional in-depth information and a video demo.

And don’t forget, you can also download this blog post as an eBook to study offline.

It’s time to dive into the first chart.

 

1 – Closed Won Opportunities by Month

The goal of the sales team is to drive revenue. So we need to start with a report that tells us how successful we are.

That’s what the Closed Won Opportunities by Month dashboard chart shows. It displays the sales revenue achieved during the year.

In this example, the dashboard chart and report both sum the data by each salesperson. You may want to create report variations that group the data by team, country, or territory.

The dashboard chart and report deliver essential insight into sales performance.

In our example, Dave Apthorp is consistently the top performer. Sarah has improved her performance after a poor start to the year. Peter, in particular, needs help to boost his performance.

Combine your knowledge of each team and person with the information from this chart and insight from other reports to identify specific coaching needs.

Watch this video for a demo of the Closed Won Opportunities Dashboard Chart in action.

Recommended blog post:
The 10 Illuminating Ways To Measure Closed Won Deals. This article shows examples of other ways to analyze historical sales performance.

Of course, the Closed Won Opportunities by Month dashboard chart doesn’t tell us anything about future revenue performance. That’s where the following pipeline chart I recommend comes into play.

Here it is:

 

2 – Pipeline Deals by Close Date and Opportunity Stage

If I could only have one Salesforce dashboard chart to manage the sales pipeline, it would be this one.

That’s how powerful it is.

The chart shows the value of opportunities that are due to close each month. Within each month, we can see the deals grouped by opportunity stage.

Consequently, the Pipeline Opportunities By Close Date and Opportunity Stage dashboard chart delivers vital information to manage the sales funnel.

Sales managers and executives can use this chart to assess the pipeline’s size and begin forecasting revenue.

This dashboard chart also tells us whether the pipeline is sufficiently mature this month and next month to achieve revenue targets.

Consequently, managers and salespeople have an early warning that highlights when remedial action is necessary.

For example, let’s assume we are in January right now and that our typical sales cycle is three months.

There’s a substantial pipeline due to close this month that is still in Prospecting and Investigation.

Are we confident these deals will close in January if the sales cycle is three months? Are they at the right opportunity stage? Should these opportunities be updated to complete in a later month?

Also, what about the deals in April that are in the Negotiation Stage? Is it going to take four months to close these opportunities? Maybe.

Alternatively, are there steps we can take to bring these deals forward?

 

Pipeline By Owner

Here’s an insightful variant of this dashboard chart: Pipeline Opportunities by Close Date and Owner.

You can use this chart to zone in on the opportunity owners with most deals due to close this month.

You can also see whether salespeople have a pipeline shortfall in the medium and longer-term.

Recommended blog posts:
If You Only Create One Dashboard Chart, Make It This One. The article has excellent examples of how to use this essential chart and report.

Some readers will also need this post:
Don’t Let The Best Sales Dashboard Chart Look Like A Bedraggled Washing Line. It explains the steps to take when out-of-date pipeline opportunities make it impossible to get accurate funnel visibility.

Next, what do you think about the traditional funnel chart?

 

3 – Sales Funnel Chart

I believe the traditional sales funnel dashboard chart is relevant to look at – once a week. Therefore it should be on your dashboard.

However, here’s the thing about this chart:

The shape never changes.

That makes it hard to interpret.

It doesn’t matter how big or how small your pipeline is. The outline funnel will always be the same size and shape on your Salesforce dashboard.

So why bother with it?

The answer is because of the value of the information the segments within the funnel give you.

Perfect Funnel Shape

If the sales funnel is in perfect shape, the value of the pipeline in each segment gets progressively smaller.

After all, that’s why we refer to the pipeline as a funnel.

However, that’s not always the case.

Wrong Funnel Shape

Look at the example below. The $ value of deals in the Investigation stage is less than the $ Amount of opportunities in Proposal Made. The next opportunity stage has more funnel than the earlier stage.

Look also at the Prospecting Stage. Should it be bigger? Is the funnel lacking early-stage opportunities?

In other words, the chart is warning that our pipeline may be out of kilter.

Potentially we need to initiate marketing campaigns to boost the size of the early-stage funnel. We may also need to examine our qualification and investigation processes to move deals more effectively through the sales cycle.

Is the shape of the sales funnel chart in your business a cause for concern? If it is, there’s probably no quick-fix. You need to take steps that require thought, preparation, and planning.

That’s why it’s essential to look at the funnel dashboard chart once a week.

Recommended blog post:
Big is Beautiful: 4 Easy Charts To Measure Pipeline Size. I recommend you review these four charts that measure funnel size.

Next up: which customers and prospects should we prioritize?

 

4 – Top 10 Pipeline Accounts

Usually, salespeople can name their top few customers and prospects straightaway.

But what about the top 5? Or the top 10?

This Salesforce dashboard chart shows the customers and prospects ranked by total pipeline.

Managers and salespeople can now prioritize their time and effort. It means resources are focused on areas where they are likely to have the most impact.

This list of the top accounts also helps the leadership team identify strategic customers and their performance. For example, if the CEO has time to visit a single customer, make it one from this list.

Showing the information on a dashboard table is an excellent way of focusing attention on the top Accounts. Limit the dashboard table results to the top 5, 10, or 15. Then on the report, list all Accounts with open deals.

In our example, High Hill Estates has the highest value of sales pipeline. There’s almost twice as much funnel as the following Account.

Are we on top of the relationship with this critical customer? For example, is there a robust key account plan in place? Do we understand their buying process? Have we got relationships at all levels in the business?

And if the CEO only has time to visit one prospect, let’s make it this one.

The report shows the opportunities for each Account. Where we have multiple opportunities, can a single, large-scale deal be done?

In summary, the Top 10 Pipeline Accounts dashboard table and report provide information that means we can prioritize sales, account management, and business development activities.

Top Accounts At Each Level

Don’t forget:

You can replicate the table for each territory, team, and individual salesperson.

That means this report is a practical tool for focussing attention on critical customers and prospects at all levels in the company.

Ultimate Parent

Sometimes you are dealing with large companies that have many business units. Often, you record these as separate Accounts in Salesforce.

There’s no easy, standard way to get a complete picture of all the opportunities at these connected Accounts. That’s why the GSP Account Planning app includes the ultimate parent concept. It means you can report on deals across the complete set of opportunities within the overall company group.

Account Planning by GSP

Create Key Account Plans that drive business
development and sales.

To find out more about how the account plan app works, I recommend this blog post:

How To Build Key Account Plans In Salesforce. Step-by-step advice for creating key account plans in Salesforce.

Other recommended blog posts:

Stop Guessing, Start Measuring Key Accounts. Reports, and Salesforce dashboard charts that track account performance.

Now, let’s look at something different:

 

5 – Long-Term Pipeline Trend

The Salesforce Dashboard pipeline charts we’ve looked at so far describe the funnel as it stands right now.

But what about the trend in the size of the sales funnel over time? Is the pipeline getting bigger or smaller?

The Sales Pipeline As-At dashboard chart gives us the answer.

It measures the size of the pipeline on the 1st of each month. As such, it shows the long-term trend in the size of the sales pipeline.

Grouping the information by the Historical Stage gives insight into the make-up of the sales pipeline each month. It allows us to understand the overall trend by opportunity stage.

In our example, the pipeline has been growing over recent months. This trend is mainly due to a significant increase in deals in the Prospecting stage.

That’s good news.

However, do we understand why it has happened?

We should also investigate why the size of the pipeline in the Customer Evaluating and Negotiation stages has declined. Is the sales team having trouble moving deals through the sales process? Was the funnel created over the last few months of the right quality?

The As-At Long-Term pipeline chart and report give the big picture. They tell us whether our efforts to grow the pipeline, in the long run, are thriving.

Recommended blog post:
Measure The Trend In Your Sales Pipeline. This article gives further detail on how to use the As-At report to track the critical pipeline trends.

Of course, size isn’t everything. Quality matters too. That’s why the following dashboard chart is also essential.

 

6 – Open Opportunities by Created Date

Although this is a simple report, it gives valuable insight into pipeline quality. It all tells us, crucially, how successful we are at refreshing the funnel.

The chart shows the existing funnel, summarized by Created Month and current Stage. You may also want to build a similar report and dashboard chart that displays the Created Month and Opportunity Owner.

The chart tells us how much pipeline the sales team created each month. That’s important because all other things being equal, more pipeline means increased future revenue.

However, the dashboard chart is also a pipeline-quality reality check.

For example, let’s say it typically takes three months to close a deal in your business. If there are a significant number of opportunities open much longer than this, then are these genuine, viable deals?

In other words, the chart and report give helpful information to validate the pipeline and sales forecast.

In our example, let’s assume it is January 2022, and our sales cycle is typically three months.

Look at those deals that opened in February, March, and April 2021. They have been open for the best part of a year. Are we confident they are still legitimate opportunities?

Have the Close Dates frequently shifted on these opportunities? If not, what action can we take to bring these deals to fruition?

(You might be wondering: how do I track how many times a deal slips? We’re coming to that shortly).

Measuring New Funnel

Reviewing the pipeline by Created Date is an easy but effective way of identifying potentially dormant deals in your funnel.

At the same time, it also measures how successful we are at building the pipeline.

For example, look again at our chart.

It shows that the team created less pipeline over the last three months of the year. Should we be worried about this trend? Is it due to the sales team focussing on closing existing deals before the end of the year?

On the other hand, it may be an early warning that we do not have enough pipeline to meet our sales targets in Q1 2022.

Either way, we might need to initiate new marketing and business development activities straightaway to correct the trend.

Recommended blog post:
How To Tell If Your Sales Funnel Is Emitting Warning Signals. This article explains the Salesforce dashboard charts that alert you to too many aging or poor quality deals in your pipeline.

Now, I hinted at those vital pipeline quality metrics. Let’s dig into those next.

 

7 – Pipeline Quality Metrics Table

If you want to predict tomorrow’s weather, here is the most reliable way to do it.

Whatever the weather is like today, forecast that is how it will be tomorrow.

It’s the same with sales deals.

Deals that are stuck today will probably be stuck tomorrow. Opportunities that slipped last month are the ones most likely to move this month.

With that in mind, here are three pipeline quality metrics that act as a barometer for managers and salespeople.

1. Close Date Month extensions. Counts the number of times the Close Date on each opportunity has shifted from one month to another.

(We don’t track the change if the Close Date moves within the month. It’s when the Close Date moves to another month that we’re interested).

2. Days Since The Last Stage Change. Tracks days since the opportunity stage was last updated.

3. Days Open. Counts the days the opportunity has been in the pipeline. This metric stops when the deal is Won or Lost.

You can display these metrics in a dashboard table.

In our example, we show the metrics for the top 10 deals due to close this month, ranked by the number of days they have been open.

Using The Pipeline Quality Metrics

There’s high-impact information in this table.

That’s because the dashboard table is a powerful way to rapidly identify deals due to close this month that need further scrutiny.

Are we relying on deals that have already shifted several times to hit our sales quota this month? How confident are we that each opportunity will not slip to another month again?

Likewise, what about those deals where the opportunity stage was last updated a long time ago? Will the sales cycle be completed successfully before the end of the month? You may find that’s unlikely in many cases.

Use the dashboard table to improve the accuracy of sales forecasts. Remember, these three pipeline quality metrics do not declare that a deal will not close this month. However, they give you a strong hint towards opportunities you may not want to rely upon in your sales forecast.

Pro tip: You may be wondering how to create these pipeline quality metrics. The easiest way is to install our free GSP Sales Dashboard. They are all included in the package.

Recommended blog post:
3 Killer Pipeline Metrics That Highlight When To Be Skeptical. Take your use of these pipeline quality metrics to the next level.

Now, let’s talk win rates.

 

8 – Opportunity Conversion Ratios / Win Rates

Often, a moderate increase in your win rates has a disproportionately large impact on sales revenue.

That’s why measuring opportunity conversion ratios (or win rates) is critical.

The Opportunity Conversion Rate chart tracks the win rate in two ways:
· Win Rate by Amount.
· Win Rate by Count.

Measuring the win rate both ways means we understand whether salespeople are more effective at successfully closing higher value or lower value deals.

In our example, the win rate by Amount is higher in most months. In other words, we won a higher proportion of large value deals compared to smaller opportunities.

In September and October, the situation was different. The sales team closed a higher proportion of lower-value deals.

The report tells us the questions to ask. Did the sales team lose focus on the higher value deals? Were discounts higher during these months? Did we have new joiners that had less experience with complex opportunities?

Opportunity Conversion Rate Report

The report shows the win rates for each salesperson. That’s crucial data for working out coaching, training, and support needs.

However, be careful.

Too much emphasis on win rates can have an adverse impact. You don’t want to encourage sandbagging. In other words, salespeople leave opportunities out of the pipeline until they are confident a deal is on the table.

On the other hand, you don’t want salespeople leaving opportunities in the funnel that no longer have legs. You want reliable pipeline visibility, not skewed by dormant deals that salespeople keep open to protect their win rate.

Recommended blog post:
How To Measure Opportunity Conversion Rates (Correctly) And Increase Sales. This article explains all you need to know about tracking and using win rates.

Next up, it’s time to talk deal size.

 

9 – The Average Size of Closed Won Deals

One of our customers found a 65% difference in average deal size between salespeople.

That’s a vast range.

These salespeople work in similar territories. And they’re selling the same products to similar customers.

There are many reasons why some salespeople work with more significant-sized deals. These reasons include differences in experience and confidence. Variations in process and methodology between salespeople can also be critical.

An example:

Increasing the average deal size for many salespeople was a priority for our client. We found that people with bigger deals spent more time in the Discovery stage with their customers. They dug further into their needs. And asked more questions over a more extended period.

As a result, these salespeople were better able to create a complete package for the customer. They also found more ways to sell add-ons and optional features.

Our client was able to implement a tightly focussed training and coaching program. This training increased revenue by 12%, without any increase in the number of deals in the pipeline.

Win rates remained the same, but the average deal size was higher compared to peers. Put simply that means more revenue.

And that’s why you need to track average deal size.

Recommended blog post:
Why You Need To Compare Average Closed Won Opportunity Size. Get more insight on measuring average deal size with this article. It includes some great examples of how our customers use this metric to boost sales.

Of course, deals of any size don’t close themselves. For that, you need salesperson activities.

 

10 – Activities per Salesperson

Tracking activities is more important in some businesses than others.

It’s essential in businesses with a straightforward sales process and a short cycle. Here, the volume of activities is often the critical driver of revenue.

However, even with complex sales processes and medium to long sales cycles, you still want to measure the number and type of activities.

For example, I’ve seen how vital this is in professional services businesses. In these cases, the team selling is also often the team that delivers the projects. However, when the order book is complete, sales calls reduce because everyone focuses on delivery. Unfortunately, that stores up a revenue shortfall for the future.

In our example, there is an upward trend in the number of Activities by the sales team. That’s a positive sign. Indeed, Sarah’s increase in Activity volume may be a strong reason for the increase in sales that we saw on other charts.

However, we can also see variations in the number of Activities by each salesperson. Shaun and Peter have much lower levels of activity compared to Sarah and Dave.

You may also want to track activity by salespeople in several other ways. For example, you can compare activity with new customers versus existing customers. This approach helps you identify whether the teams’ actions are consistent with the overall sales strategy.

You can improve the value charts by making two small changes in Salesforce.

Due Date and Activity Type

First, I suggest you modify the Activity Type picklist. (You may also need to adjust the visibility of this field to include it on the page layout).

Using this field delivers extra insight into salesperson’s activities.

Second, I suggest you make the Due Date mandatory.

This change means future activities will always have a due date. If you don’t, you risk a task having no specific date and not appearing on reports.

Recommended blog post:
How To Spot Neglected Accounts You Should Focus On. This article explains how to spot customers and prospects that need your attention.

Now, all funnels leak deals. That’s the nature of the game. But you might be wondering, what’s the best way to measure pipeline leakage?

 

11 – Leaking Funnel Report

The Leaking Funnel report helps sales managers answer two critical questions:

First, is the funnel leaking too much? And second, is it losing deals in the right place?

The report tells you both of these things. Here’s how it works.

This Salesforce dashboard chart describes the ‘From’ and ‘To’ opportunity stage movement.

In our example, it does this for deals set to Closed Lost in the last 120 days.

In other words, it shows how often opportunities have moved to Closed Lost from each prior opportunity stage.

For example, the dashboard chart shows that eight opportunities have moved from Prospecting directly to Closed Lost.

All other things being equal, it is good that the first stage has the highest number of opportunities that moved to Closed Lost.

It implies we are qualifying-out deals we are unlikely to win. As a result, salespeople are not wasting time, effort, and resources chasing deals where they are unlikely to succeed.

In other words, if you’re going to lose the deal, it’s best to lose it quickly.

However, look at the Negotiation Stage. Five opportunities went directly from Negotiation to Closed Lost.

Again – all other things being equal – that movement in the Opportunity Stage isn’t good news.

It means we invested time and effort in moving the deal through the sales cycle, only to lose the opportunity at the last moment.

Of course, we need to know more. What happened, exactly?

For example, is the shift from Negotiation to Closed Lost linked to new versus existing customers? How does the trend compare across salespeople? Does it apply only to opportunities with certain product groups?

Like all dashboard components, the Leaking Funnel charts and reports don’t tell you the answer. Instead, what they do is tell you what questions to ask.

And that’s the art of good sales management.

Recommended blog post:
3 Steps To Plug A Leaking Sales Funnel In The Right Place. This article provides examples of the leaking funnel report and explains best practices on the steps to take.

This report leads us nicely to the last of our 12 must-have Salesforce dashboard charts. It’s a topic that makes everyone attentive.

 

12 – Sales Performance versus Target

You might be wondering:

Where’s the Target tab in Salesforce?

There isn’t one. Of course, that’s surprising because sales versus quota is an activity every sales team needs to do.

So how do you measure sales against targets in Salesforce? Here are the four ways:
1. A dashboard gauge chart.
2. The Forecasts tab.
3. The Performance Chart.
4. Our GSP Target Tracker app.

Here’s an example of the first of those options.

The dashboard gauge runs from a report that measures Closed Won opportunities. You need to manually set the red, amber, and green sectors within the chart.

The dashboard gauge is quick and easy to set up. One downside is that it provides no insight into pipeline coverage. In other words, whether there is enough funnel to meet the sales target next month or this quarter.

Also, you’ll need separate gauges for each salesperson and sales team per month.

In summary, it’s an easy but simplistic and high-maintenance option.

Secondly, the Forecasts Tab is a standard feature within Salesforce.

It includes the ability for managers to override their team members’ targets. Unfortunately, here’s the thing about the Forecasts tab:

It’s complicated, hard to use, and difficult to understand.

Training is needed for salespeople and managers to use it effectively. Even then, it’s a challenging piece of kit.

Thirdly, the Lightning Home page Performance Chart is another simple option.

Unfortunately, you can’t fine-tune the chart. And the insight it provides is minimal.

Dissatisfaction with the other options led us to build the GSP Target Tracker. We wanted to make measuring quotas intuitive, straightforward, and powerful for salespeople, managers, and executives.

It’s the fourth way to measure targets in Salesforce.

The Target Tracker contains easy-to-understand charts and metrics that measure two things. First, sales performance versus current and historical quotas. And second, pipeline coverage versus future targets.

Most importantly, it avoids the need for salespeople to create or update anything manually.

Target Tracker by GSP

Measure won and pipeline deals against
target and quota.

Recommended blog post:
The 4 Ways To Measure Sales Versus Target In Salesforce. This article explains the four options in detail.

GSP Target Tracker on the AppExchange. The listing includes a video, screenshots, and a free trial. And as you’re wondering, the app costs $350 per month, unlimited users.

What To Do Now

Here are four things I recommend you do next:

1. Install the GSP Sales Dashboard. It’s the best Salesforce dashboard, and it’s free. The package contains all the charts described in this blog post. Use it as a dashboard template and fine-tune each chart and report to suit your business.

2. Download the eBook. We have an eBook that explains each chart in the dashboard. Again, you can download it for free.

3. Look at the GSP Target Tracker. Measuring revenue and pipeline versus quota is critical. We make it super-easy and practical with the Target Tracker.

4. Get in touch. We’ll give you a free, thirty-minute web meeting to talk about opportunity stages in your business. In the session, we’ll talk through your scenario and discuss our recommendations. There’s no catch, just straightforward advice, and tips.

Here’s how you can Contact Us.

Finally, you’ve read the blog, now watch the movie:

Recorded Webinar | 12 Must-Have Salesforce Dashboard Charts

Join me, Gary Smith, and Dan Bailey as we demonstrate each of the 12 charts in action. We explain the visibility each chart provides and how it will help you manage the sales team more effectively.

Webinar | 12 Must-Have Salesforce Dashboard Charts

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The Best Sales Pipeline Report To Use This Year

The Best Sales Pipeline Report To Use This Year

Nothing is more valuable to a sales manager than a pipeline report and dashboard chart giving complete visibility of the funnel.

That’s why this article has everything you need to know about the best sales pipeline report and Salesforce dashboard chart. 

Together, the report and chart give the visibility you need for pipeline reviews and revenue forecasts. 

I’ll explain precisely how to use both. And show you how to get both items into your Salesforce system quickly and easily.

Bottom line:

If you want more benefits from Salesforce dashboards, you’ll love this pipeline report and chart. It’s my favorite in our 12 Must-Have Salesforce Dashboard Charts.

Don’t have time to read the whole article right now?

No problem, download the PDF by completing the form below.

Here’s what we are talking about:

The Best Pipeline Report and Dashboard Chart

The Pipeline by Month and Opportunity Stage report is the best tool for accurate forecasting and effective sales management. It shows the value of Opportunities due to close each month. The report splits the amount by the various Opportunity Stages within each month.

The report provides essential information for accurate forecasting, managing the sales pipeline, and tracking sales versus target.

Here’s what it looks like as a Salesforce Lightning dashboard chart.

We can see, for example, $60,000 of the pipeline is due to close in October. Of that, $11,000 is in the Negotiation Stage.

Drill down from the chart to see the exact numbers in the pipeline report:

If you’re using the Salesforce Classic interface, then the pipeline chart is going to look pretty similar:

However, in Classic and Lightning, Salesforce reports are often built differently. As a result, the Classic pipeline report might look like this:

In other words, in Classic, the months usually go on the horizontal axis, although Lightning prefers them vertically.

Nevertheless, although the reports look slightly different, the way they deliver robust pipeline visibility and accurate revenue forecasts are the same.

How to get this pipeline report and chart

You might be asking:

How do I get my hands on this pipeline report and dashboard chart?

You have two options.

1. Build it yourself. Use a straightforward Opportunities report, grouped by Stage, displaying the Amount field.

2. Install our free GSP Salesforce Dashboard. You can download it from this AppExchange Listing. The dashboard contains all twelve of the Salesforce pipeline charts and reports I recommend.

So, no excuses for not having this pipeline report and chart at your fingertips. 😊

Sales Dashboard by GSP

Superb Pipeline Visibility and Sales
Performance Metrics from this free Dashboard.

How to use the pipeline report in the current month

Let’s assume it’s the middle of October right now. Also, let’s say our average sales cycle is three months or thereabouts.

What do the report and charts tell us?

In our current month (October), we can see that there are $60,000 of Opportunities due to close.

Furthermore, this value splits by the various Opportunity Stages. In Salesforce, hover over each stage for additional detail.

As a sales manager looking at my October projected revenue, I want to know: just how robust is the October pipeline?

Here’s what to do. Expand the report so that it shows the names and owners of the individual opportunities. Click Edit on the report, then check the Detail Rows option.

Think about the deals in each stage.

For example, those deals that are in Prospecting:

If our average sales cycle is three months, you need to be confident those deals will close this month.

Ask yourself, should some of these opportunities be at a more advanced stage? Do the close dates need to be moved to a later month? Have the close dates on some of these opportunities already slipped from one month to another?

That’s because if the answer to any of these questions is yes, it means you do not have a robust pipeline or an accurate forecast for the current month.

The same with the Investigation and Proposal Made stages. Are we going to close these opportunities this month? If not, then it means our October pipeline is significantly over-inflated.

Here’s something that happens time and again with deals due to close in the current month. They slip from one month to the next.

This post isn’t an article on how to manage that problem, but this is.

You might want to bookmark it to read later.

Or watch this video on pipeline quality metrics.

7 | Pipeline Quality Metrics Salesforce Dashboard Table

Key point:

Go through the deals due to close this month and make sure the opportunities are at the right stage and the close date is realistic..

December pipeline strength

Let’s look at another month in the sales pipeline chart: this time, December.

What about those deals in the Negotiation stage?

Are they at the correct stage? If so, is it going to take us three months to close these deals? Is there anything we can do to bring them forward?

Looking at the December pipeline report, here’s what I notice:

There’s a lot of funnel due to close at the end of the year.

Are these deals in December because the financial year of many customers ends that month? If so, can we legitimately expect many deals to complete in the run-up to Christmas?

Likewise, look at those opportunities closing in December. Have they been sitting in the pipeline for a long time?

For example, were salespeople under pressure earlier in the year to boost the size of the pipeline? If so, salespeople may have entered December as the close date on the basis that (hopefully) the opportunity is “bound to close sometime during the year.”

If that is the case, it means the December pipeline is nowhere near as reliable as we hope. So take a hard look at it.

Tip: this blog post explains how to get pipeline metrics that reveal how long the deal has been open and the number of days since the last opportunity stage change. Use these metrics to identify opportunities that have an increased chance of slipping to another month.

January pipeline strength

The sales pipeline chart shows there’s a dip in the size of the funnel in January.

Perhaps this dip is due to a legitimate seasonal variation. Alternatively, maybe it’s right to expect a slow start to the new year.

On the other hand, is it something about which we should be concerned? The pipeline report may be telling us we may need to start organizing marketing campaigns now to boost the pipeline three or four months from now.

12 Must-Have Dashboard Charts

Our 27 page eBook shows you the 12 killer
Sales Charts for your dashboard.

Deals due to close in earlier months

Let’s stick with our assumption that right now, we’re in the middle of October. Consequently, what are these deals doing here on the sales pipeline chart? These, closing in September.

Unless you have a time turner, those deals aren’t going to close in September.

But we see this very often. In other words, open opportunities with close dates in the past. Either those deals are closed, and the opportunity stage is not up to date. Or, the close date needs to move because the opportunities are still open.

Unfortunately, both circumstances mean the pipeline forecast is not accurate.

A case in point:

Colin Parish, VP of Sales at Moderna, downloaded the GSP Sales Dashboard from the AppExchange. However, Colin’s pipeline report didn’t look like our beautiful example.

That’s because Colin’s funnel was full of opportunities with close dates in the past. It’s such a common problem that we gave it a name: The Bedraggled Washing Line Pipeline Report.

See what I mean?

Fortunately, there are five things you can legitimately do if your best pipeline report looks like a bedraggled washing line:

  1. Go through the opportunities one by one yourself and update them.
  2. Get salespeople to update their deals.
  3. Update all the opportunities to Closed Won or Closed Lost en masse.
  4. Mass update all opportunities with close dates in the past to a future date.
  5. Sweep the problem under the carpet.

Yes, you read that last one right.

I explain exactly why and when you should use each course of action in this post:

Don’t Let Your Best Pipeline Chart Look Like a Bedraggled Washing Line.

Don’t hog it. Get your team using the best pipeline report.

The sales pipeline chart and underlying report give sales managers complete visibility of the funnel. It does this in a meaningful and valuable way.

However, like any other pipeline report, it doesn’t just need to be visible to managers.

Salespeople can manage their pipeline using this same pipeline chart. Filter the report to show ‘My Team’s Opportunities.’ In other words, the pipeline report contains the opportunities belonging to each team member.

Pro Tip: to make sure My Team reports show accurate pipeline information, check your Role Hierarchy. That’s because Salesforce uses this feature to define what My Team means for each person.

Now, each team member can take responsibility for managing their pipeline.

Best sales pipeline report video

In this video I demo how you can use the sales pipeline report and the dashboard chart.

2 | Pipeline by Month and Stage Salesforce Dashboard Chart

Create the Opportunities by Close Date and Stage report

Remember, you can install the GSP Sales Dashboard from the AppExchange. That’s the quickest way to get the Pipeline by Close Date and Stage report and dashboard chart. You will, of course, get all the other pipeline reports we recommend as well.

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Want even more pipeline visibility? Try these blog posts:

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How To Measure Sales Versus Target In Salesforce

How To Measure Sales Versus Target In Salesforce

If you want to track sales versus target in Salesforce, there’s a superb app that empowers you to do it.

It’s called the GSP Target Tracker.

Here’s a summary of the essential things the Target Tracker helps you do in Salesforce:

  • Compare rep, team, and company sales versus target.
  • Measure the pipeline coverage ratio. Expressly, understand whether you have enough funnel to meet your sales quota.
  • Conduct meaningful pipeline reviews and salesperson 1.1s.

Furthermore, the app delivers target performance metrics and pipeline visibility that you are unlikely to get elsewhere in Salesforce.

The Target Tracker app is straightforward to use for both salespeople and managers. You can customize the app within Salesforce to meet the specific needs of your company.

And here’s the best thing of all. The Target Tracker costs $250 per month per company, and there’s no user-based fee. We think that’s an excellent price.

Measure Sales Versus Target In Salesforce with the GSP Target Tracker

Measure Sales Versus Target In Salesforce with the GSP Target Tracker

Here’s what we cover in this article:

  • How the Target Tracker works in Salesforce.
  • The Salesforce Target Tracker dashboard.
  • Ways you can customize the Target Tracker.
  • How to trial and buy the Target Tracker app.
  • Best practice for conducting pipeline views using the Target Tracker.

Let’s start.

Section 1

How the Target Tracker works in Salesforce

Sales rep targets in Salesforce

Here’s an example of a target record for a sales rep in Salesforce.

It’s the quota record for Dave Apthorp, for March 2020.

Dave’s quota for the month is $50,000. So far, he’s won $30,000. Consequently, he’s achieved 60% of his target.

Now let’s look at this pipeline coverage. We can also see that Dave’s pipeline for the month is $48,000. However, the weighted value of his funnel is $14,200. (Weighted pipeline is the Probability of each Opportunity multiplied by the Amount).

As a result, Dave’s Total Expected Revenue for the month is $44,200. That figure is the sum of Closed Won and Weighted Pipeline.

The result?

That means Dave’s pipeline coverage ratio is not high enough. Consequently, his Expected Variance against the target for the month is negative, to the tune of $5,800.

On the right-hand side, those numbers are all shown as percentages of Dave’s sales goal for March.

For example, Dave has achieved 60% of his target; his total pipeline is 96% of the target, and his Weighted Pipeline is 28% of his sales goal.

The chart further to the right shows Dave’s target performance.

Target Tracker by GSP

Measure won and pipeline deals against
target and quota.

As we can see, Dave has a shortfall against his quota.

Beneath this graph, the doughnut chart analyses Dave’s funnel for March.

As Dave’s manager, I should be concerned. That’s because more than half of Dave’s funnel for the month is still in the Qualification opportunity stage. A further quarter is still in Needs Analysis.

We need to ask:

Is it realistic these deals will close this month?

If not, then Dave’s sales performance versus target for the month is potentially worse.

 

Opportunity Conversion Rate Metrics

The Target Tracker provides valuable opportunity conversion rate metrics in Salesforce.

Conversion rates calculate by comparing the ratio of deals won to opportunities lost in the period. Here’s an example:

In this case, we can see that Dave has won three opportunities in March and lost seven.

That means his opportunity conversion rate in Salesforce is 25% by record count.

However, we also calculate the opportunity conversion rate by the value of opportunities.

For example, we can see that Dave has won $30,000. He’s lost $120,000. As a result, Dave’s opportunity conversion rate by value is 25%.

The conclusion?

Dave is successfully winning a higher proportion of large-value deals. We know this because his win rate by value is higher than his win rate by record count.

 

How Opportunities Link To Quota In Salesforce

Further down the page, we can see the Salesforce opportunities linked to Dave’s March Target.

These opportunities link automatically to the target. Consequently, everything is straightforward for the sales rep, with no additional work necessary.

If the Close Date moves, the opportunity automatically re-links to the relevant sales target. Again, no additional work for the salesperson.

Also, the Target Tracker makes it easy to see the essential, large deals that Dave must focus on to achieve his sales goal for the month.

In Section Three, we explain some of the customizations you can make to the Target Tracker. For example, you can use quarterly or annual targets. You can also use fields other than the Amount to compare opportunity revenue with quotas.

However, before that, let’s look at the Salesforce target dashboard included in the app.

Section 2

Sales Target Dashboard in Salesforce

The Target Tracker comes with a pre-built Salesforce dashboard containing twelve charts and reports.

You can modify any of these charts and reports to suit the structure of your own sales team.

Let’s look at several examples from the target dashboard.

 

Sales Rep Versus Target

You’ll recognize the first. It’s similar to the chart for Dave, showing his sales versus target for this month.

The dashboard chart compares the sales of all reps versus the target for the month.

In other words, the chart combines the quota, pipeline, and variance for all reps.

It’s straightforward to modify the report and create dashboard graphs based on territory, region, or another grouping.

In this example, we see a positive variance for two reps; and a shortfall in target performance for the two others.

 

This Month, Pipeline Analysis

This chart shows the pipeline due to close this month for all salespeople. As with the example for Dave, we can start to gauge whether the funnel is robust, and if our sales forecast is reliable.

Drilling down to the detail, we can identify opportunities that might let our sales forecast down.

Now, we can start to question these deals and potentially move them to a later month.

 

Sales versus Target This Year

This dashboard chart shows the month-on-month performance for the whole year.

It’s an effective way to know whether there is enough pipeline coverage for the upcoming months. The chart also shows clearly how your team has performed against its month-on-month sales goals.

Like all the charts and reports, you can easily fine-tune it to show information based on the individual sales rep, team, or territory.

For more information on exceeding Year-End targets, here’s an article we produced specifically on Q4 Sales Strategies

 

Sales Rep Conversion Rates

The Target Tracker captures the opportunity conversion rate for each salesperson.

The conversion rate dashboard chart shows the win-rate by value and number of opportunities. These metrics are highly-valuable for identifying training and development opportunities.

Sales Dashboard by GSP

Superb Pipeline Visibility and Sales
Performance Metrics from this free Dashboard.

Section 3

Tailor the Target Tracker to your business

Here are some of the ways to can adapt the GSP Target Tracker to the specific needs of your business.

  • Monthly, quarterly, or annual sales targets.
  • Use a custom field instead of the Amount.
  • Exclude certain types of opportunities from the target roll-up.
  • Modify the reports and dashboards based on your sales structure.

We explain each one below.

Incidentally, if you have a business need that we haven’t listed here, then what you should do is very simple: get in touch to talk to us about it.

 

Monthly, Quarterly or Annual Sales Targets

By default, the Target Tracker uses monthly sales quotas. Remember, reports and dashboard charts can summarize monthly targets for each quarter and year.

However, you can instead set the Target Tracker to use quarterly, or even annual quotas, if that’s how sales performance measures work in your business.

It’s a simple process to make this change. We explain the steps very clearly in our setup guide.

 

Use A Custom Field Rather than Amount

Not all companies use the Amount field on the opportunity to measure the size of a deal.

For example, Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR), Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR), and Margin are all examples of fields that represent the value of a deal.

In these cases, it’s the value in the custom field that must be compared with the sales target.

The Target Tracker can do this.

We need to adjust some settings within the app and modify the reports and dashboards. We offer a free service to make these changes for you. Simply get in touch, and we’ll identify what you need.

 

Exclude Certain Types of Opportunity

Sometimes, not all opportunities should count against the sales target.

For example, perhaps renewal opportunities are not included in measuring sales versus target.

You can do this quickly in the Target Tracker. All you need to be able to do is set up a workflow rule in Salesforce. Again, we explain step-by-step how to do this in the setup guide.

 

Modify the Salesforce Target Dashboard

Many sales teams organize by territory, region, or another segment.

However, the pre-built reports and dashboard charts measure sales versus target for all salespeople. In other words, the charts are at the company level.

That’s because we can’t predict or foresee how each sales team is setup.

Fortunately, that’s no problem. You can easily modify the standard reports and dashboards to reflect your sales team structure. Simply create a copy of the report (using the Save As function) and adjust it based on the sales team organization in your business.

Section 4

How to buy the GSP Target Tracker for Salesforce

Here’s how to take a free 14-day trial of the Target Tracker. You can try it for yourself to see the sales management benefits your business.

All you need to do is visit the AppExchange Listing for the Target Tracker.

Click the Get It Now Button and follow the instructions. 

From the Listing you can also:

  • See what other people think about the app.
  • What a video showing how the app works. 
  • Set more screenshots showing the Target Tracker in action.
  • Read the setup guide.

Don’t delay, take a trial today!

 Any other questions about the GSP Target Tracker?

Get In Touch Below

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To Exceed Year-End Quota, Apply These Q4 Sales Strategies Now

To Exceed Year-End Quota, Apply These Q4 Sales Strategies Now

It’s the time of year when sales teams worldwide are under pressure to get deals closed in Quarter 4 and meet year-end quotas.

I have worked with many companies under their quarter and year-end pressure.

Here’s what I’ve found:

Successful teams apply five year-end sales strategies:

  1. Sort the wheat from the chaff.
  2. Adjust direction based on whether there is enough pipeline to hit quota.
  3. Prioritize time and energy on high impact deals.
  4. Create a close plan for each high priority opportunity.
  5. Protect themselves against margin-eating discounts.

The best bit?

These strategies are all working well right now, during Covid-hit 2020.

This guide explains how to implement these five end-of-year sales strategies in your company QUICKLY.

Q4 Sales Strategies

These Q4 sales strategies significantly increase the likelihood you will hit quota.

Let’s dive in.

1 – Sort the wheat from the chaff

This strategy is the first that successful executives apply at year-end.

They weed out deals that with the best will in the world will not close successfully in Q4. Doing this makes the other four sales strategies far quicker to implement.

For example, let’s go back to January 2020.

Sarah Jones is under pressure to boost the size of her sales pipeline.

The pressure is coming from the VP of Sales. “Come on, Sarah, you’ve got lots of potential in that territory. Let’s ramp up the pipeline.”

You can’t blame him.

The Board is setting aggressive growth targets for the year and expects the VP of Sales to deliver.

Sarah works through her Accounts.

She picks a prospect with whom she had a meeting three months ago. “I reckon there’s a decent chance with this one,” she thinks.

Sarah creates an opportunity in Salesforce.

“It’s bound to close sometime this year,” she says to herself, hopefully.

Naturally, Sarah doesn’t want to put herself under any undue pressure. That means she enters the Close Date as December 31, 2020.

The pipeline has increased. Everyone is happy, for now.

However, fast forward eleven months. Sarah is under pressure to hit her year-end quota.

On the face of it, there’s plenty of deals in the funnel. But even Sarah, ever the optimist, knows she’s drawing a blank on many of these deals.

Especially those forecast to close on December 31.

In other words, the pipeline is bloated with deals that no longer (if ever) had legs. However, the most successful sales executives remove these distractions from the funnel to get real visibility of the pipeline.

There are three ways to go about sorting the wheat from the chaff with Q4 deals in your company.

 

Review Opportunity Stages and Get Real

In Sarah’s company, here’s what the pipeline looks like by the time we reach Q4.

There’s a surge of deals due to close in December. Ask yourself whether these are realistic opportunities.

For example, if the sales cycle is typically three months, then are the deals in the prospecting and investigation stages of the sales pipeline realistically going to close in Q4?

In other words, the first step is to review deals by Stage and Close Date. Remove dormant opportunities from the pipeline. And move deals that still have legs, but realistically won’t close in Q4, to a later date.

It’s tough love, but vital.

 

Review Opportunities by Created Date

Here’s another way to assess the strength of the Q4 pipeline. Look at deals due to close in Q4, by Created Date.

Again, if the sales cycle is three months, carefully examine deals that have been open substantially longer.

Shake them out of the tree if they’re unlikely to close this quarter.

 

Analyse Pipeline Quality Metrics

In addition to the age, two other deal metrics provide insight on sales pipeline quality.

  • The number of Close Date month extensions.
  • The number of days since the last Stage change.
This dashboard table highlights these quality metrics for deals due to close in Q4.

We can see, for example, the Oxted Manufacturing opportunity has been open 237 days. The Opportunity Stage was last updated 100 days ago, and the Close Date has moved from one month to another four times.

Do those pipeline quality metrics give you confidence the deal will close successfully in Q4? They don’t work for me.

So that’s the first of the Q4 sales strategies: Sort the wheat from the chaff.

Doing this will help hugely with the remaining year-end strategies.

Of course, you want to get these pipeline quality metrics and reports quickly.

Here’s a blog helps you. It precisely explains how to use the reports and get the pipeline quality metrics and dashboard for free:

12 Charts That Should Be On Your Sales Dashboard.

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Superb Pipeline Visibility and Sales
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2 – Compare the pipeline to your sales target

This Q4 sales strategy recommendation is critical.

You need to know whether the real pipeline is big enough to hit your remaining year-end sales quota.

Why?

If you have enough pipeline, you can focus on closing the deals you already have.

However, if the funnel is not big enough to hit your target, you need to increase your pipeline AND focus on closing the deals you already have.

That’s two very different approaches.

Do you see why it’s essential first to weed out the dormant deals and the no-chance opportunities?

So, you might be wondering:

How do I know if the pipeline is big enough for me to hit the target?

Of course, you can take the deals already won and add the full value of the pipeline.

Often, that will give you a positive feeling. After all, the two added together will likely exceed the quota.

Unfortunately, it’s divorced from reality. I doubt you are going to win 100% of your sales pipeline.

A more pragmatic way is to set a realistic probability of winning each deal. Then use this to calculate the Expected Revenue of the pipeline.

And of course, remember that in Salesforce, you do not have to accept the default probability associated with each Stage. Modify these probabilities on each opportunity, based on the likelihood of winning the deal.

Then, determine whether you have enough pipeline to hit your Q4 target. You can do this with a Salesforce report based on Expected Revenue. Include both Closed Won and pipeline deals.
Next, compare the total value in the report with your target. Now you know whether you have enough pipeline to hit your target.

Of course, if you have a shortfall, it may not be easy to find new deals that will close in Q4.

The circumstances will be different for every business.

However, are there existing customers to whom repeat sales are possible? What about upgrades? Can you make cross-sales to customers that bought certain products?

Only you know the answer to these questions.

However, ideally, you don’t leave it until Q4 to measure the pipeline against your target.

This blog post explains how to track won and pipeline deals versus your sales quotas in Salesforce:

4 Ways To Measure Sales Versus Target In Salesforce.

What’s next?

3 – Prioritize high impact deals

Focus time, resources, and energy on opportunities that make the most significant contribution to quota.

Sounds obvious, right?

But how do we decide which opportunities are high impact?

Here are three questions to ask that help to identify the most critical opportunities.

  • Can we win it?
  • Is it worth winning?
  • Do we want to win it?

You can answer the first two questions by creating a report that lists the opportunities by Stage, Amount, and Probability:

You may also want to adapt the report to categorize the pipeline by existing customers and new logos.

After all, new logos have more kudos. But existing customer deals are often easier to win.

Consider also whether there are Accounts with multiple opportunities.

In Chart 6 of the GSP Sales Dashboard, we include a table and report that shows the pipeline by Account.

In this example, GenePoint has opportunities due to close in Q1 AND Q2 next year. Is it possible to amalgamate these deals into one more significant opportunity, with a successful close in Q4?

You can also quickly identify the deals you and your team will focus on using a different field, “Q4 Focus”.

What about that final question? Do we want to win it?

The deal may be significant, but if you need to discount heavily or other onerous terms, the opportunity may not be worth winning.

So ask yourself whether we want to win this deal in Q4. Is it better to wait until next quarter, when the commercial dynamics may be different?

With that, let’s talk about how to close the critical opportunities.

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4 – Create a Close Plan for each opportunity

Most successful sales executives create a Close Plan for the essential deals on which they are working.

These plans are especially vital in Q4 when the pressure is most significant.

However, there’s no need to overdo it.

You can enter the Close Plan using a simple rich text field on the opportunity.

Alternatively, enter it into the Chatter feed for each opportunity. Using Chatter makes it easier for colleagues and internal stakeholders to collaborate on the deal.
Either way, the Close Plan defines the specific activities needed to bring the deal to a conclusion.

Often you do this by working backward. Identify the latest date you need to get the deal inked. Sometimes, holidays and other constraints mean the realistic latest date is circa December 20.

In other words, much earlier than December 31.

Then, work out the timeline for all the steps that must take place. Occasionally, you’ll find it just can’t be done. If the only way you can achieve the reference site visits, contract negotiations, and other actions is by starting in the past, remove the opportunity from your Q4 priority list.

Likewise, agree on the Go / No Go Date with your prospect.

This date is not the day you expect the deal to close. Nor is it a commitment by the customer that she will sign the contract.

Instead, it is the deadline by which you and the customer will aim to close the deal one way or the other.

For example, this date might be December 15.

We don’t know whether the outcome will be a won or lost deal. However, the Go / No Go date is the point at which you and the prospect both agree the opportunity can no longer be closed in Q4. Instead, you will revisit the deal in the New Year.

It’s a great way of focusing everyone’s mind and gaining commitment to the Close Plan.

In Salesforce, record these dates in a custom field. Track them through a report and the Q4 dashboard chart.

So far, our year-end sales strategies are about identifying real deals, prioritizing effort, and achieving successful outcomes.

The final Q4 strategy is different.

5 – Protect against damaging discounts

We all know that customers and prospects gain extra discounts and volume related deals in return for committing in Q4.

That’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

Indeed, many companies have inadvertently trained their customers to leave purchases to the end of each quarter.

However, successful sales executives keep track of each discount and give-away rationale, especially those given in Q4.

For example, you give a discount or preferential terms because the customer agrees to buy 10,000 units over the next twelve months. Perhaps you arrange this in a framework agreement.

Keep a record of the rationale for the discount or special terms. That’s because, let’s say, it turns out the customer only ever orders 8,000 or 9,000 units.

You won’t always go back and negotiate a retrospective price increase.

However, this information is invaluable when negotiating future discounts. That’s especially true right now when the customer is putting you under pressure on a Q4 close.

Look back over historical deals. Did the customer fulfill their side of the bargain? If not, use this information to strengthen your negotiating hand.

The Chatter feed on each opportunity is an excellent place to record the rationale for discounts and other terms given away in return for customer commitments. That’s because the information is always right there, on the opportunity, not buried in your email box.

That’s the fifth of the Q4 sales strategies that successful executives apply:

They keep track of the rationale behind the agreement and make this information easy to find when under pressure.

Our blog post, 10 Expert Tips For Improving Discount Control, has excellent advice on managing margin-busting discounts.

Over to you

These Q4 sales strategies are used by companies to maximize their year-end success.

Here’s one more step you can easily take.

Get in touch for a free consultation on implementing these strategies in your Salesforce system. Hundreds of companies have done this, and we guarantee to help you find quick-wins and benefits from Salesforce.

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5 Easy Tips That Will Make Opportunity Probability Your Trusted Friend

5 Easy Tips That Will Make Opportunity Probability Your Trusted Friend

Opportunity Probability stands in the corner at pipeline review parties.

Usually, he barely gets a second look.

Everyone knows he’s always invited. But no-one feels like speaking to him.

Sometimes, it would be better if he just went away.

Nevertheless, here’s the thing:

Opportunity Probability can be your helpful friend. He’s much more engaging than you think.

“Used in the right way, Opportunity Probability increases forecast accuracy and roots out deals that should be qualified-out of the sales funnel.”

It’s just a matter of knowing what to do with him.

So let’s understand who this Opportunity Probability chap is and why he’s undervalued.

Then I’ll explain five best practice tips that will turn him into your valuable and trusted friend.

 

Opportunity Probability Defined

Opportunity Probability is the standard field in Salesforce (or any other CRM system for that matter) that quantifies the likelihood of winning an opportunity.

If the Opportunity Stage is Closed Won, then the Opportunity Probability is 100%. If the Opportunity Stage is Closed Lost, the Opportunity Probability is 0%.

If the opportunity is still open, then Opportunity Probability is somewhere between 1% and 99%.

Why Opportunity Probability Is Disliked

There are three reasons why sales executives don’t make the most of Opportunity Probability.

Understanding why these reasons are not valid is vital to making the most of this metric.

Here they are.

 

Sales Deals Are Binary

Sometimes, salespeople win only part of the deal. For example, the customer negotiates a lower price. Or she doesn’t purchase everything on the proposal. Nevertheless, the sales process still concludes successfully, or it doesn’t.

Therefore, the binary nature of sales means some executives don’t see any value setting an Opportunity Probability for pipeline deals.

But here’s the thing. 

No-one knows the outcome in advance. If people did, there would be no point in having losing deals in the pipeline in the first place. The reality is, you will win some deals and lose others. The problem is you don’t know which ones.

That means that once there’s a critical mass of opportunities – and that number can be quite low – Opportunity Probability can calculate the Expected Revenue

Expected Revenue is a proven way to create robust sales revenue forecasts. It’s not the only way. However, using it alongside other methods, a sales forecast based on Expected Revenue stands up to inspection from colleagues and internal peers.

However, that assumes one thing: the opportunity probability is reliable.

Accurate Opportunity Probabilities

Often, there are many unknowns with sales deals.

We can’t be sure what the customer is honestly thinking. Likewise, we don’t know the moves our competitors are making. And it’s hard to know all the stakeholders involved.

That means Opportunity Probability can difficult to quantify. Or it has a spurious degree of accuracy. Is the probability of winning this deal 65%? Or 70%? Or some other figure?

However, Opportunity Probabilities should be set based on evidence from the customer. This evidence indicates that a deal is more likely or less likely. Every sales process is different, so agree on what constitutes positive and negative evidence in your market place.

More about this in Tip #2.

Opportunity Probabilities are locked to Opportunity Stages

Many Salesforce users believe Opportunities Probabilities lock to the Opportunity Stage.

They’re not. It just seems that way.

The Opportunity Probability is changed when salespeople update the Opportunity Stage. It moves to the default for that stage.

However, the default value may not be realistic.

That’s why the figure can be manually adjusted. Salespeople can override it and enter a new value. 

Therefore, use this flexibility to set a realistic Opportunity Probability on each deal.

5 Opportunity Probability Best Practice Tips

So here are the five tips that will make Opportunity Probability your trusted friend.

 

1. Adjust the Opportunity Probability On Each Deal

Too often, salespeople regard Opportunity Probability as fixed for any given Opportunity Stage.

As we’ve said already, it isn’t.

Double-click on the field or Edit the Opportunity to set the value right for the deal.

Adjusting the opportunity probability directly on the opportunity

Recommendation: Make sure salespeople understand how to adjust Opportunity Probabilities and why this is important.

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2. Set Opportunity Probabilities Based On Evidence

Think about this situation for a moment.

Let’s say four companies are competing for a deal. They all have an Opportunity Stage of Investigation, with an Opportunity Probability of 25%.

All four companies submit their quote and move the Opportunity Stage to Customer Evaluating. Let’s assume the Stage has a default probability of 30%.

So now the combined Opportunity Probability is 120%. However, that’s silly.

The only thing that has happened is that the sales process has moved forward for each seller.

However, Opportunity Probability reflects the state-of-play in the selling process. It doesn’t say anything about the buying process.

So instead, base Opportunity Probabilities on evidence from the potential customer. Here are three examples of confirmation from the customer that might warrant an increase in probability.

  • You are get preferential access to key stakeholders to conduct discovery.
  • After receiving four proposals, the customer selects you and one other for presentation.
  • The customer Sponsor communicates to colleagues that she prefers your bid over the competitors.

Recommendation: Define and agree on the customer and buyer behaviors in your marketplace that indicates a positive intent from the prospect. Standardize and agree on these across the sales team.

Admittedly, setting Opportunity Probabilities based on customer evidence is more complicated than merely relying on the default Stage values. But it encourages salespeople to think through the sales process and to seek out customer commitment. That in itself increases the likelihood of a successful sales outcome.

 

3. Use Non-standard Opportunity Probability Values

No-one mandates that increments of 10 or 20 percent apply to Opportunity Probabilities.

Here’s what a highly successful VP of Sales at one of our customers says to his team.

“I know the chance of winning this deal is 50:50. But use your instinct. Set the Opportunity Probability to 49% or 51%. I want to know which side of the fence you’re on.”

Not every 51% deal is won, and not every 49% deal is lost. But the act of coming down on one side or the other encourages thought and analysis.

In this business, managers work through each deal with the sales executives to coach them on driving the buying process forward. This dialogue – assisted by the Opportunity Probability – contributes to conversion rates well above industry norms.

 

4. Set realistic default values for each Opportunity Stage

We’ve talked about setting an individual Opportunity Probability for each Opportunity. But the default Opportunity Probabilities associated with each Stage still have a role to play.

These default values should reflect the norm for your business.

They provide a benchmark for salespeople.

If the Opportunity Probability is above the benchmark, can it be justified? If it’s below, can the sales approach be improved?

But here’s my experience.

In many cases, the default Opportunity Probabilities set for early Opportunity Stages are too low. And the default values set on the latter Stages are too high.

Recommendation: Take a hard look at the default Opportunity Probability values in your Salesforce environment. Discuss them in a team meeting. Reach agreement on the correct values for your business based on experience and input from the sales team.

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5. Automatically set Opportunity Probabilities based on historical outcomes

So far, we’ve talked about the standard Opportunity Probability field in Salesforce.

But what if you could automatically set the Opportunity Probability field based on experience?

That means the probability is automatically set based on, for example:

  • The win rate for new versus existing customers.
  • Historical performance of salesperson performance.
  • Size of the deal.
  • Region or geographical territory.
  • Products associated with the opportunity.

We are implementing this for some customers.

We have developed methods to gather statistical data from Salesforce that is not available via the user interface. 

This data means we are helping companies predict the outcome of new opportunities based on historical evidence.

Customers with this approach still apply the standard Opportunity Probability field. It means the salesperson can always use their judgment.

Get in touch if you want to find out more.

“If you’ve left Mr Opportunity Probability alone in the corner up to now then this is the time to bring him out into the open.”

Used in the right way, Opportunity Probability helps salespeople to think through their opportunities. It facilitates discussion between managers and salespeople. And it enables accurate forecasting based on Expected Revenue.

Start getting to know your friend better.

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Tracking your sales pipeline trend is essential.

That’s because all other things being equal, you cannot increase sales if your funnel growth is flat.

Or even worse, heading downhill.

In other words, managers need clarity on the historical trend in the size of their sales pipeline over the long, medium and short-term.

Therefore, in this blog post, I’m going to explain exactly how to measure your sales pipeline trend using Salesforce dashboards and reports.

As a bonus, I’ll also show you where you can quickly get the opportunity trend reports without having to build them yourself.

With that, let’s kick things off by measuring the long-term pipeline trend.

Long-term Sales Pipeline Trend

The specific Salesforce report you need to get visibility of the long-term trend in your sales pipeline is the Opportunity Trends report.

However, I prefer to call it the Pipeline As-At report.

That’s because the report shows the actual size of the funnel ‘As-At’ the 1st day of each month.

Consequently, it gives tremendous insight into the medium and long-term trends in the sales funnel size.

Opportunity Trends Report Example

In this example, we see the funnel shrinking for three months in the middle of 2019.

Fortunately, the overall size of the pipeline has grown for the last three months.

All other things being equal, that puts us in the right place for a strong start to next year.

How the Opportunity Trends Report Works

Precisely which opportunities does the As-At trends report include?

Here’s how it works:

The Opportunity Trends report shows all open opportunities in the funnel on the 1st of each month. It doesn’t matter if the deal later closes. What this report shows is the opportunity status on the 1st day of each month.

An example:

An opportunity is in the Prospecting Stage on January 1. Therefore, the January column on the chart includes this deal. Specifically, it’s in the Prospecting group.

Irrespective of what later happens to the opportunity, it’s always going included in the January column because it was a pipeline deal on the first day of that month.

Let’s say that by February 1, it’s moved to the Investigation Stage. Therefore, the opportunity appears in the February column, this time in the Investigation section.

Of course, it also continues to appear in the January column.

However, in mid-March, the deal is qualified out and the stage set to Closed Lost.

Therefore, the opportunity appears in the January, February and March columns.

Why is it included in the March column on the chart? It’s because, on March 1, the deal was open.

In contrast, it doesn’t appear in the April column. That’s because the deal was set to Lost before the end of March.

However, the opportunity will be included forever in the January, February and March columns. That’s because As-At the first day of those months, the deal was in the pipeline.

In other words, the Opportunity Trends report tells us the overall size of the pipeline at the start of each month. That’s irrespective of when those deals are due to close.

Analyzing Long-term Pipeline Trends

To get more detail on the sales pipeline trend, drill down to the underlying report.

The report shows that the reduction in pipeline size in the first three months was primarily in the latter stages of the sales cycle. The Negotiation Stage, for example, reduced significantly in size.

The stage remained flat over the last three months, even though the overall size of the pipeline has grown.

That’s because the upward trend in sales pipeline size is primarily in the Prospecting and Investigation Stages.

Understanding Trends in the Long-term Pipeline

What do we make of the trends in this example?

Are we surprised? Should we even be concerned?

Of course, only you know that, in the context of your business.

However, here are four examples of conclusions we can draw from historical trends in this pipeline report.

1. The downward pipeline trend

We should not always be concerned about a downward trend in pipeline size.

Is that surprising?

Let’s say you have weeded out dormant deals. In other words, opportunities that, with the best will in the world, are never going to close successfully.

If you’ve got rid of the junk, then your pipeline size will naturally trend downwards, in the short-term at least.

However, your sales forecasts and accurate visibility of the sales funnel are dramatically improved.

Here’s the blog post that helps you weed out poor quality deals:

Spot Poor Quality Deals Using Salesforce Dashboards.

2. The negative early-stage pipeline trend

Take a look at the chart below. It’s the opportunity trends report taken from one of our Salesforce clients.

As you can see, there was a massive jump in the pipeline in January. Is that growth genuine?

Probably not.

For example, at the start of the year, the sales team is under pressure to build the funnel. They create aspirational opportunities with customers and prospects to whom they hope to sell.

Are these genuine, well-qualified opportunities? No, not in many cases.

Yet it’s a trend I often see.

Unfortunately, there’s misleading growth in the As-At report.

Fortunately, the new VP of Sales recognizes that the company is better off creating proactive account management plans rather than pseudo opportunities.

These plans explain how the customer or prospect relationship will be developed to produce legitimate pipeline opportunities.

3. The positive trend early-stage pipeline

Let’s assume you’ve maintained pipeline quality. Consequently, it’s probably good that there’s growth in the early-stage funnel.

In other words, you’re building a funnel that will wash through into a revenue increase down the line.

So you probably want to know where this growth has come from, right?

For example, is it down to an increase in Leads converted into Opportunities? Alternatively, are more opportunities created on existing Accounts?

In other words, are we seeing a trend in new logos, or are we farming the existing customer base more effectively?

Here’s a great free resource to analyze that: Lead Conversion Dashboard. You might want to download it from the AppExchange today.

We built this dashboard to provide excellent insight into where opportunities have come from and what happens to them.

For example, the lead conversion dashboard compares win rates on Opportunities created from converted Leads with Opportunities created directly on Accounts.

Use the dashboard in conjunction with the Opportunity Trends report for extra insight when analyzing trends in pipeline growth.

 

Lead Conversion by GSP

Detailed win rate and revenue metrics on
converted leads.

4. The end of year sales pipeline trend

In many companies, there’s only one thing that matters in Q4.

That is closing existing deals.

Nothing else gets a look-in.

That means there’s a downward trend in the size of the pipeline. That happens for two reasons.

First, no new opportunities get created. The sales team is focused solely on closing existing deals.

Second, existing deals are set to Won or Lost. That means they come out of the pipeline.

So naturally, there’s a downward trend in the total pipeline size.

However, how do you know that this focus on closing deals is the reason for the funnel size shrinking?

First, look at the Closed Won sales chart. It’s reassuring if there’s an upward trend. In other words, deals are coming out of the pipeline and turning into revenue.

Second, look at the Deals Lost chart. That may also be increasing. Salespeople are closing out no-win opportunities.
Third, examine the dashboard chart that shows the number of opportunities created.

You’ll likely see very few new opportunities.

These charts mean you can judge whether there’s a legitimate shrinking of the pipeline that’s due to short-term sales focus.

How to get the long-term pipeline trend report

You might be wondering:

How do I get the As-At report that shows the long-term pipeline trend?

You’ve two options:

First, build it yourself. You’ll need an Opportunities Trends report type.

Second, install the GSP Sales Dashboard from the AppExchange. If your company is using Salesforce Enterprise Edition, you need this dashboard.

 

Sales Dashboard by GSP

Superb Pipeline Visibility and Sales
Performance Metrics from this free Dashboard.

Alternatively, if for Professional Edition companies, install this version of the GSP Sales Dashboard.

Short-Term Pipeline Trend

The As-At report is excellent: It tells us about the pipeline size trend over the long and medium terms.

However, what about short-term pipeline trends? How has the funnel changed over the last few weeks?

Here’s the Salesforce dashboard chart that does that. It’s called Opportunities with Historical Trending.

However, bear in mind that the underlying report and chart mean you must be using Enterprise Edition or above in Salesforce. That’s because the report uses the Historical Trends feature, not available in Professional Edition.

This short-term pipeline trend chart gives the information needed for day-to-day sales performance management and funnel reviews.

In the example above, we’ve set the report to provide snapshots for the last six weeks. That means the chart measures the short-term impact of marketing campaigns and lead generation activity.

Again, the Salesforce report gives more detail on the sales pipeline trend:

To create this type of Salesforce report, start by enabling the Historical Trends reporting function.

To do this, click Setup, Customize, Reports & Dashboards, Historical Trending.

Check the box ‘Enable Historical Trending’ for Opportunities.

 

Then, when you create a new report, Opportunities with Historical Trending is an option under the Opportunities report types.

Get Sales Pipeline Visibility In Your Business

Like the sound of clarity on sales pipeline trends across your sales teams?

Remember, if you are using Enterprise Edition or above, install the EE version of the GSP Sales Dashboard. The dashboard delivers excellent visibility of the size, quality and trend in your sales pipeline. It includes both the long-term and short-term charts discussed in this blog post.

If you are using Professional Edition, install the PE version of the GSP Sales Dashboard from the AppExchange.

This dashboard includes the long-term sales pipeline trend chart. However, it excludes the short-term, historical trending report. That’s because the latter needs a feature only available in Enterprise Edition and above. In all other respects, the dashboards are the same.

So, if you are installing the Enterprise Edition, don’t forget first to enable Historical Reporting in your system.

Related Articles on Pipeline Size

If you liked this article, then read some of the other blog posts we’ve written on achieving full sales performance visibility using Salesforce. Try these:

12 Must-Have Salesforce Dashboard Charts

Is Your Sales Funnel Big Enough To Make Quota?

3 Killer Pipeline Quality Metrics That Tell You When To Be Sceptical

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3 Killer Pipeline Quality Metrics That Highlight When To Be Skeptical

3 Killer Pipeline Quality Metrics That Highlight When To Be Skeptical

Often skepticism is deserved when it comes to pipeline quality and the accuracy of the revenue forecast for this month.

That’s because deals that we assume will close this month, sometimes slip to the next month.

That’s painful if it’s unexpected.

Of course, in an ideal world, we can confidently rely upon every opportunity that is due to close this month.

In that world, close dates are always accurate. Customers sign agreements when we expect. Moreover, this months’ revenue forecast is invariably spot-on.

Unfortunately, life is not that simple.

It’s inevitable that sometimes deals slip. Often through no fault of the salesperson. It’s just the way life is.

However, that means we need pipeline quality metrics to help us decide which opportunities to question. These metrics highlight which deals we can be confident will close this month and which we should examine more deeply.

In other words, these funnel metrics tell us the pipeline opportunities about which we need to be skeptical.

They highlight when you should ask questions about deals due to close this month or quarter.

Sales Dashboard by GSP

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Pipeline quality metrics

The challenge is to use pipeline quality metrics to identify deals that have a high risk of slipping.

These are the deals that you need to question.

Sales managers should ask about these deals when tracking sales versus target. However, salespeople should also use these pipeline quality metrics to scrutinize and self-manage their pipeline.

These are the three key pipeline quality metrics:

  1. Number of Close Date Month Extensions.
  2. Number of Days since the last Stage Change.
  3. Number of Days the Opportunity has been Open.

No single pipeline quality metric dominates the others. Use the metrics in conjunction with each other.

Working together, these are the three pipeline quality metrics that highlight deals that have a high probability of slipping.

Bottom line: use these pipeline quality metrics to get a more robust sales forecast.

 

Robust Sales Forecast

The pipeline quality metrics allow you to accurately assess whether you have enough reliable deals to meet your sales quota. That’s because they help you identify the dormant deals that are over-inflating your sales funnel.

Think about it for a moment:

Let’s say your average sales cycle is three months.

You have a deal due to close this month. It’s making an essential contribution to your revenue forecast.

Now, suppose the Close Date has already slipped from one month to another four times. It’s in the final Negotiation Stage, but it’s been there for over two months. The Opportunity has been open a total of 180 days.

You’re probably right to question the close date of this month. It’s potentially a deal that should not be in your sales forecast for this month.

 

Displaying the pipeline quality metrics in dashboards

Here’s an example of these pipeline quality metrics on a single salesforce dashboard table.

In our example, the table shows deals that are due to close this month. However, the period can be anything you choose.

The key message is that these pipeline quality metrics are an excellent way to gauge the reliability of your revenue forecast for the period.

Watch this video to see me demonstrate the pipeline quality metrics in a salesforce dashboard.

Pipeline quality metric #1 – Number of Close Date Month Extensions

There’s a statistically robust way to forecast tomorrow’s weather.

Whatever is happening today, predict that’s what the weather will be like tomorrow. You’ll be right more often then you are wrong.

It’s the same with opportunities. If a deal slipped last month, there’s an increased chance it will move again this month.

The Number of Close Date Month Extensions gives us this data. This pipeline quality metric counts the number of times the Close Date has slipped from one month to another.

Close Date changes within a month don’t matter. Nor do changes that make the Close Date earlier. This metric tracks how often the opportunity Close Date has moved from one month to another month.

 

Pipeline quality metric #2 – Days Since Last Stage Change

This pipeline quality metric counts the number of days since the Opportunity Stage was last updated.

Life is not linear. Opportunity Stages don’t change at regular, pre-determined intervals. However, a lengthy period without a change – in the context of your average sales cycle – is a sign of a dormant deal.

Let’s say the Opportunity Stage hasn’t changed for a significant period. The deal has slipped from one month to another month several times. Then you are probably right to question the close date of this month.

 

Pipeline quality metric #3 – Number of Days Open

This pipeline quality metric counts the number of days that the opportunity has been open. When the deal reaches Closed (Won or Lost), the clock stops ticking.

This pipeline quality metric is valuable in its own right. Nevertheless, the primary purpose is to put context into the other quality metrics.

Deals that have had a significantly longer than average sales cycle have a lower chance of closing successfully this month. Particularly if the opportunity has already slipped from one month to the next several times. Of course, that’s especially true if it’s quite a while since the deal was last updated.

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Pipeline quality metrics underlying report

Here’s the underlying report that shows the three pipeline quality metrics for all opportunities due to close this month. Click on the image of the report to enlarge it.

We added conditional highlighting to the report to help focus the eye on the deals we might want to question.

In our case, for example, three or more Close Date Month Extensions are shown in red and two in amber. One or zero values for this pipeline quality metric are not highlighted.

If you download our free GSP Sales Dashboard from the AppExchange, then you can set the conditional highlight to whatever values you choose. Set threshold values that are right for your business.

The report shows the pipeline quality metrics for all the deals due to close this month, grouped by Opportunity Stage.

It also separates the opportunities into those relating to new customers – and those for existing customers.

This separation is because – as a rule of thumb – deals with new customers will take longer and can be subject to more uncertainty than deals with existing customers.

To emphasize, it’s not about one single pipeline quality metric. It’s about understanding the context. However, the report and dashboard chart draw the eye to the deals about which you might need to question.

To demonstrate, let’s take some examples from our report. Remember, each of these opportunities is due to close this month in the sales forecast.

 

Green Brothers

This Opportunity is in the Prospecting Stage, which immediately makes me nervous about whether it will close this month. (We’re assuming here, of course, that the opportunity is in the correct Stage and that there isn’t a case of sandbagging going on).

The Number of Days Open and Number of Days since Last Stage Change are the same because the opportunity has not progressed from the date it was first opened.

The opportunity hasn’t slipped from one month to the next. However, given that this is a new customer and the opportunity Stage hasn’t advanced, I’m doubtful the deal will close this month.

One that has a good chance of slipping, I’d say.

 

Greengate Hotel

The deal has slipped once already. It’s been open for over two months. We’re still only in the Investigation Stage and it’s due to close this month.

The opportunity is for a new customer. Again, another one to question. At least as far as a successful close this month is concerned.

 

Brown Estates

The opportunity has been in Customer Evaluating for over two months. The Close Date has twice moved from one month to another. Presumably, at some point, the salesperson thought it will close long before now.

This deal is for an existing customer. On the face of it, that gives us more confidence the deal will close successfully.

What do we know about Brown Estates? Are they a high-quality customer that has purchased from us many times before? How long do they usually take to make a decision? Do we have a relationship with the customer that allows us to have a straight dialogue about whether the deal will close successfully this month?

The answers to these questions may give us assurance the deal is likely to close this month. Again, it’s a matter of context. However, overall, the pipeline quality metrics may make me doubtful about including this deal in my revenue forecast.

 

Guilderland Court

Take a look at the pipeline quality metrics on this one.

The deal has been open for four months and the opportunity has moved from one month to another four times. It’s for a new customer and has sat in the Negotiation stage for over two months.

I’m certainly questioning this one!

 

High Hill Estates

Does this deal look better? Quite possibly.

The deal is 48 days old. The Days Open pipeline quality metric alone might make me doubtful about the close date of this month if our average sales cycle is 90 days. On the other hand, it’s for an existing customer, so a shorter sales cycle is a reasonable possibility.

The opportunity hasn’t slipped from one month to another. It was updated to Negotiation 4 days ago. If I look at the opportunity itself, are there planned actions that will expedite the negotiation? As the sales manager, do I know our trading history with High Hill Estates? Based on previous experience and my knowledge of the context of the deal, am I confident in the close date?

 

Install the pipeline quality metrics

You don’t have to create these pipeline quality metrics yourself. There’s a much easier way:

Install the GSP Sales Dashboard from the AppExchange.

The dashboard also contains 15 other components that allow managers to track the size, trend and quality of your sales pipeline. Together they give tremendous visibility of the funnel and sales performance.

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3 Proven Ways To Boost Pipeline Quality You Can Start Today

3 Proven Ways To Boost Pipeline Quality You Can Start Today

I’m often asked by sales managers:

How do I measure AND improve the quality of the sales pipeline?

It’s an ongoing challenge.

Well:

In this blog post I explain EXACTLY how to use salesforce to manage pipeline quality.

Not only that.

I tell you specifically where to get the highlighted relevant reports and dashboard charts to measure funnel quality – for free. And give examples of actions managers can take based on the information within salesforce.

By the way, I’ve also created a detailed video to accompany this blog post. If you’re interested, you can find the video just below

3 Proven Ways To Boost Pipeline Quality (You Can Start Today!)

3 Step Approach to Managing Pipeline Quality

Here’s the 3-step method that increases pipeline quality and funnel health.

1. Measure overall pipeline quality health. This is often the starting point for newly appointed VPs of Sales. They need to quickly and accurately gauge the health of the pipeline. However, existing sales leaders must also regularly assess overall funnel quality.

2. Assess the viability of individual deals. For example, I’ll explain how to manage by exception, identifying deals that are in the sales forecast, but which have a reduced chance of a successful outcome.

3. Improve quality through appropriate salesforce configuration. This can systematically improve the quality of the funnel. In particular, adapt your CRM system to improve deal qualification and validation.

Naturally, other factors can also drive funnel quality. Salesperson training, for example. However, unless you get these foundations in place, the impact of any other positive steps will be significantly reduced.

That’s why these steps are so important.

 

Benefits of High Sales Pipeline Quality

On the other hand, why bother?

Why not simply focus on increasing pipeline size? (By the way, if size is your main focus right now, then here are the reports you need: 4 Vital Dashboard Charts That Measure Pipeline Size). 

It’s because if you accurately measure and improve sales funnel quality, three things will happen:

1. Sales forecasts will be more accurate. This is because forecasts will not be muddied by poor quality deals that have little chance of closing successfully.

2. Salespeople and sales managers will waste much less time on irrelevant deals. Consequently they have more time to spend on viable opportunities, thereby increasing overall revenue.

3. You will have a realistic understanding of whether there is enough pipeline to meet your sales target. This is because when you compare a high-quality sales pipeline with your quota, you immediately know the chance of hitting your number.

Name me a sales manager who doesn’t want these benefits.

 

Step 1: 3 Reports That Measure Overall Pipeline Quality

Here are three quick and easy reports that give a great indication of overall pipeline health.

The three reports are:

1. Pipeline by Close Date.

2. Pipeline by Created Date.

3. Conversion Rate / Win Rate.

These are the three reports you should examine first.

Why?

Because each delivers insight into overall funnel quality from a different perspective.

I’ll explain.

 

Pipeline by Close Date and Stage

Normally we use this report when looking at pipeline size and sales forecasts.

But it’s a great quality indicator report too.

Take a look at the example below:

In this example there are open deals where the Close Date is in an earlier month. So unless the salesperson has a Hogwarts time-turner, these opportunities are not going to close in a previous month.

There are two possible explanations for these deals:
– The deal is still open, but the Close Date hasn’t been updated.
– The deal is closed, but the Opportunity Stage hasn’t been updated.

Either way, it’s a pipeline quality issue.

In fact, when I see a pipeline that has many opportunities with close dates in the past, it tells me something important:

The overall sales pipeline quality, as defined by open opportunities in salesforce, is highly suspect.

Here’s another way to run the same report:

Sales Dashboard by GSP

Superb Pipeline Visibility and Sales
Performance Metrics from this free Dashboard.

Now we can see that two salespeople, in particular, are responsible for the bulk of the deals with a close date in the past. Personally, I would be very interested in discussing the individual pipelines with these two team members.

I talk about this report more extensively in this blog post.

 

Pipeline by Created Date and Stage

Here’s the second funnel quality report to look at.

Its shows the current pipeline, grouped by the opportunity Created Date and current Stage.

For example, let’s say in your business the average sales cycle is 3 months. Obviously some deals will take less time and some will take longer.

However, what you’re looking for is a disproportionate number of opportunities created many months ago, which are still open.

That’s the case in our example.

In particular, many of these aged deals are still in early Stages of the sales cycle. That indicates a pipeline quality issue.

 

Conversion / Win Rate as an indicator or poor pipeline quality

You might be wondering:

How can conversion rate reports highlight potential funnel quality issues?

I’ll explain.

Let’s say that intuitively, the opportunity win rate in your business is around 30%. However, here’s a salesforce dashboard chart I often see:

In other words, the win rate averages 70%.

There are three possible reasons for this.

One: You have a world-class sales team and an irresistible product / price combination.

Maybe. Or perhaps it’s one of the following two reasons.

Two: Only deals that have a good chance of closing are being entered into the pipeline. Effectively, this means your pipeline quality is too high! In other words, the pipeline size is artificially low and you have poor visibility of the true funnel.

Three: Deals that no longer have legs are not being removed from the pipeline. Consequently, the overall quality of the funnel is low. That’s because it contains many opportunities that have no realistic chance of closing successfully.

So why does this last reason boost the conversion rate?

It’s because the conversion rate is the ratio of Won to Lost deals over a given month.

For example, let’s say that in April you win three deals, and lose seven. That means your conversion rate is 30%. However, deals that are never going to be won are often not set to lost in the system.

Let’s say, for example, only two deals are set to lost rather than seven. Your conversion rate is now 60%. And unfortunately, the pipeline now contains five low quality deals.

High Win Rates In Your Business

So, let’s say the conversion rate in your report is unrealistically high.

How do you tell which of these reasons is the cause in your business?

Simple.

Take another look at the Pipeline by Created Date and Stage chart. If there are many deals that have been open for too many months, then it’s likely to be the second of these causes. Weed them out.

Conversely, if the overall age of the pipeline looks good, but the win rate is too high, then it’s likely the first reason. Probably, early-stage deals are not being entered into the pipeline.

You can validate this by reviewing the funnel chart. It probably shows that the early stages of the pipeline are artificially small.

Now:

What’s the easiest way to get these three salesforce reports into my system?

Easy.

Install the free GSP Sales Dashboard from the AppExchange. It contains these three reports plus others that give visibility into the size, quality and trend in your sales funnel.

Step 2: Assess the Quality of Individual Sales Deals

So far, we’ve looked at how to examine overall pipeline health.

However, how can we identify individual deals that are reducing overall pipeline quality? For example, deals forecast to close this month, but about which we should have low confidence.

Three opportunity metrics highlight these deals:

1. Number of month Close Date changes.

2. Days since last Stage change.

3. Opportunity age.

Fortunately, the three metrics are also included in our GSP Sales Dashboard, so you don’t need to create them yourself either.

Number of Month Close Date changes

This metric counts the number of times the Close Date on an Opportunity has shifted from on month to another.

Usually, we’re not interested in changes within a month. Rather, it’s when the opportunity moves to a different, often a later month, that matters.

In the example above, that’s happened four times.

 

Days Since Last Stage Change

This sales metrics counts the number of days since the Opportunity Stage was last updated.

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In our case, it’s 90 days since the Stage was last changed.

 

Opportunity Age

This metric counts the number of days the Opportunity has been open.

For example, 200 days. That’s well above the average of 120 days.

 

Quality Metrics Dashboard component

Pull these three metrics together into a dashboard chart to see the bigger picture.

You might want to filter the underlying chart to focus on opportunities due to close this month.

This helps us manage by exception in an effective way.

For instance, I’d be very sceptical about the first two opportunities in the chart. They’re due to close this month.

XXX, for example, has been open 200 days. It’s still at the Proposal Stage. In fact, the Stage hasn’t been updated for 90 days. And the deal has slipped from one month to the next three times already.

You’re telling me this deal is going to close this month?

Tip: When implementing the GSP Dashboard, read the Configuration Guide to find out how to set these metrics running for existing opportunities.

 

Step 3: Configure Salesforce to Improve Pipeline Quality

We talked about reports and dashboard charts that provide insight into the overall health of the funnel.

And metrics that highlight specific low-quality deals.

However, here’s the next question:

How can salesforce design and configuration to drive pipeline quality management?

The answer lies in supporting the opportunity qualification process.

 

What is sales opportunity qualification?

Last year my co-founder at GSP, Sally Torkington, interviewed Eduard van Engelenburg. Eduard is a 39-year sales coaching career veteran at 3M. Full interview.

Here’s Eduard’s definition of a high-quality sales pipeline:

A high-quality sales pipeline contains only deals where the salesperson can answer three questions positively. First, can we win it? Second, do we want to win it? Third, is it worth winning?

For a sales deal to be regarded as ‘high quality’, the salesperson must be able to explain and justify why the answer is ‘yes’ to each of these questions. If not, the deal should be qualified out.

It’s a good a definition of deal qualification. Simple, but effective.

It follows that if you include only deals that pass this 3-step test you have a high-quality funnel.

One caveat:

I DO recommend creating early-stage, unqualified opportunities in salesforce. Set these deals to Prospecting. Often, they come from converted Leads. If you’re unsure when in the process to convert Leads to Opportunities this blog post will help.

 

Opportunity Qualification Field

Create these qualification tests as fields in salesforce.

Incidentally, you can see in this example we also have fields to track the close plan and other information.

Capturing this information in salesforce does several things that improves pipeline quality.

1. It forces salespeople to think-through the deal. Simply taking a few minutes to enter the information means reps must mentally analyse and justify the deal in their own minds.

2. It surfaces qualification rationale and makes it available for discussion. If managers, team leaders and sales operations can read the qualification rationale, then they can discuss and validate this with opportunity owners.

Note: this discussion should not be confrontational. Use the information entered by the salesperson as the starting point for logical discussion and non-emotive dialogue.

3. It makes the information available for marginal gains and improved sales and marketing alignment. For example, look back at lost deals and re-validate the qualification rationale. Did we qualify the deal robustly? Or, for example, did we kid ourselves that it was a deal work pursuing.

If you use other criteria to qualify deals fine. Create those fields instead.

But you get the idea: surface the information.

 

Formal deal qualification approval process

For some businesses, a few fields on the opportunity simply isn’t going to cut it in terms of deal qualification.

For example, Kentech deliver large-scale infrastructure projects within the oil & gas industry.

In this marketplace, every deal is subject to a formal bid and tender process by the customer.

Here’s the snag:

Simply bidding for an opportunity can cost Kentech over $250,000.

So you don’t want to get it wrong.

The solution:

All the qualification information and documents are stored in a custom object related to the opportunity.

Not only that, a formal approval process is used at each Stage in the opportunity lifecycle. In other words, a separate, formally controlled Bid / No Bid at each step.

That’s pretty heavy duty. Not many companies need that level of justification.

However, it’s horses for courses: capture the level of information that’s appropriate to your sales process and marketplace.

 

Pipeline quality management in your business

Has this blog post made you stop and think?

Then here’s what I recommend you do next:

1. Run the overall health reports. Doing this determines your overriding pipeline quality management approach.

2. Analyse individual opportunities. Weed out the specific opportunities about which you are sceptical.

3. Create qualification fields. This means that from now on, salespeople are taking a more thoughtful approach to deal qualification and funnel health.

4. Watch the video. It will give you more insight into driving pipeline quality management in your business.

5. Get in touch. I’ll hold a no-charge 45-minute web meeting with you and walk through the issues and challenges of pipeline management in your business.

That’s right. All you need to do is ask here.

In fact, I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

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Measure Sales Pipeline Size With These 4 Vital Dashboard Charts

Measure Sales Pipeline Size With These 4 Vital Dashboard Charts

Sales pipeline size matters.

Big is beautiful. That’s certainly the case when it comes to funnel size.

All other things being equal, of course.

That’s because bigger is better, assuming the sales pipeline only contains deals of the right quality. Fortunately, you can use these sales pipeline quality metrics to monitor the quality of your funnel.

Nevertheless, let’s focus here on the sales pipeline size.

In particular, I’ll show you how these four Salesforce dashboard charts and underlying reports accurately measure the size of your sales funnel.

By the way, you’re probably wondering:

How do I get my hands on these four dashboard charts?

Easy.

Install the GSP Sales Dashboard for Enterprise Edition or the equivalent version for Professional Edition.

Each dashboard contains the 12 charts and underlying reports I recommend for sales funnel reviews and pipeline tracking using Salesforce.

1. Measure sales pipeline size by Close Date and Stage

If you only use one dashboard chart that measures sales pipeline size, then make it this one.

Why?

It’s because this chart is the starting point for any funnel review focusing on pipeline size.

The Close Date by Stage chart is the starting point for any funnel review focusing on pipeline size.

The dashboard chart shows the sales pipeline size by Close Date. Within each month, the individual segments group the funnel by Opportunity Stage.

Why the Close Date and Stage dashboard chart is useful

Use this chart to assess the size and strength of the pipeline. Do this for the current month, current quarter and further into the future.

For example, here are three key areas our pipeline review should focus upon based on the example chart above.

  • Pipeline size this month.
    Let’s suppose we are at the beginning of March 2019. The dashboard chart shows there is $2.5 million due to close this month. Now, let’s assume the typical sales cycle is three months. In that case, can deals in the Prospecting and Investigation Stages can be relied upon to close successfully this month?
  • Negotiation Stage.
    May and June both have deals at the Negotiation Stage. Is it going to take several months to conclude these opportunities? Maybe. However, what has to happen to bring these deals forward?
  • Longer-term pipeline.
    There’s a substantial funnel due to close in August. Is it realistic that this will happen during the holiday period? Likewise, there’s also a significant pipeline due to close in September. If, for example, this is our company’s financial year-end, is there a compelling reason why more deals will close this month? For example, often, the last month in the year is entered into opportunities based on, “well, it’s bound to close sometime this year.” If this is the case, then the longer-term funnel size is probably overstated.

For more details on measuring sales pipeline size using the Close Date and Stage dashboard chart, read “If You Only Create One Chart Make It This One.”

Prefer a video? Here’s where I demonstrate the specific use of this funnel report in sales pipeline reviews:

2 | Pipeline by Month and Stage Salesforce Dashboard Chart

 

Close Dates in the past

There’s a common problem when implementing this dashboard chart.

It’s the same as that experienced by Colin Parish, VP of Modernis.

Colin’s team had lots of opportunities with Close Dates in the past. He said the chart looked more like a bedraggled washing line.

Fortunately, you can read how Colin resolved his opportunities with close dates in the past problem.

2. Measure sales pipeline size using the funnel chart

This chart measures the sales pipeline size in the form of a traditional sales funnel.

The funnel chart measures the sales pipeline size in the form of a traditional sales funnel.

Sales Dashboard by GSP

Superb Pipeline Visibility and Sales
Performance Metrics from this free Dashboard.

This chart is often the first Salesforce administrators create. That’s because it resembles a traditional funnel and it’s easy to produce.

Why this dashboard chart is useful

I have mixed views about this dashboard chart.

The funnel chart is an excellent way to check whether the pipeline is in proportion. In other words, does the overall shape of the funnel look healthy?

In the chart above, for example, the value of deals in the Investigating Stage and Customer Evaluating Stage is almost identical ($2.17 M versus $2.03 M). On the face of it, this suggests a shortage of sales pipeline in the earlier Investigating Stage. Potentially, our funnel is out of kilter.

Here’s another example. Look at the funnel size chart below.

The funnel chart shows where we are short of sales pipeline.

The total pipeline value is the same. However, the pipeline is short of deals at the first Opportunity Stage, Prospecting. We need to ask, is this highlighting a sales revenue problem further down the line?

Nevertheless, there are several things to watch out for with this chart.

First:

There’s no time context. The chart shows the total pipeline size, irrespective of when those deals are likely to close. Therefore we may have lots of early-stage funnel, but it all has an unrealistic near-time close date. That’s why it is better to start with the Close Date and Stage chart highlighted earlier.

Second:

The overall shape of the dashboard chart doesn’t vary.

What does vary is the height of the slices within the funnel, and the numbers associated with each stage. That means you have to look carefully at the chart to make sure you’re interpreting it correctly.

So be careful.

Nevertheless, it’s useful to eyeball this pipeline size dashboard chart every week. It describes whether the total pipeline is in proportion. That’s a good reason to have it on your dashboard.

Watch this short video to hear me discussing the funnel chart with one of our consultants.

3 | Funnel Shape Salesforce Dashboard Chart

3. Pipeline size dashboard metrics

When is a dashboard chart, not a chart? When it’s a dashboard metric.

Here’s an example:

Metric showing total value of sales pipeline.

A Salesforce dashboard metric gives a single total figure. The underlying report contains the detail.

You can, therefore, quickly know the total size of the pipeline using a metric.

Here are two other examples:

First, the total value of open opportunities due to close this month:

Metric showing total pipeline due to close this month.

Second, the size of the pipeline due to close next month:

Metric showing the size of the pipeline due to close next month.

Why this dashboard chart is useful

Dashboard metrics give an immediate measure of the overall size of the pipeline.

That means they’re an excellent ready-reckoner.

For example, you might use a rule-of-thumb to hit your sales target next month; for example, the pipeline coverage must be three times the quota amount. In other words, let’s say the target is $750,000. However, in this case, we only have 2x coverage based on our metric ($1.4 M).

So, all things being equal, we’ve got a problem.

Nevertheless, knowing that means we can potentially do something about it.

 

4. Pipeline Size Trend

This chart measures the trend in the size of the pipeline. It’s called the “As-At Historical Pipeline Trend” report and dashboard chart.

The “As-At Historical Pipeline Trend” report shows the trend in the size of the pipeline over time.

The chart shows the size of the pipeline ‘As-At’ the first day of each month. We can see that over three months, the trend is positive.

In other words, the pipeline is getting bigger.

Why this dashboard chart is useful

Effective managers know the sales pipeline size at any point in time.

But they also know the trend in the size of the pipeline. The trend tells sales managers whether they are doing the right things and moving in the right direction.

Incidentally, this dashboard chart also comes with a little sister. This alternative measures the trend in pipeline size on a daily and weekly basis. Read this blog post to find out more about measuring the trend in the sales pipeline size.

Alternatively, watch this video to see me demonstrate the pipeline trend chart in action.

5 | Pipeline Trend Salesforce Dashboard Chart

Sales Pipeline Size Dashboard

You probably want all four of these charts on a single Salesforce dashboard.

Don’t forget:

To get your hands on these pipeline charts – and many others – install the FREE GSP Sales Dashboard for Enterprise Edition or the equivalent version for Professional Edition.

Alternatively, for help measuring the size and quality of your sales pipeline, don’t hesitate, get in touch.

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Sales Charts for your dashboard.

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