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Every sales manager needs to know their sales pipeline trend.

That’s because they are under pressure to grow revenue.

And it stands to reason:

All other things being equal, you cannot increase sales if your sales pipeline trend is flat.

Or even worse, heading downhill.

That means managers need clarity on the trend in their sales funnel over both the long and short-term.

Of course, how you define long and short-term is up to you. It’s a function of your sales cycle length.

However, the principle is the same whatever the time periods. You need to know whether your sales pipeline is growing or shrinking.

Here’s EXACTLY how to achieve funnel trend clarity using Salesforce dashboards and reports.

Long-term sales pipeline trend report

Here is the specific salesforce report you need to get visibility of the long-term trend in your sales pipeline:

It’s the Opportunity Trends report. But I prefer to call it the As-At report.

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

Why do I call it the As-At report?

Simple.

The report shows the size of the sales funnel ‘As-At’ the 1st of each month.

That means it gives us valuable insight into the medium and long-term trend in the sales funnel.

The Opportunity Trends report gives valuable insight into the medium and long-term trend in the sales funnel.

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

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

All other things being equal, that stands us in good stead for a strong finish to the year.

How the Salesforce 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 opportunity later closes. What we’re interested in is the opportunity status on the 1st of each month.

An example:

An opportunity is in the Prospecting Stage on January 1. So it’s included in the January column on the chart. Specifically, it’s in the Prospecting group.

By February 1, it’s at the Investigation Stage. So the Opportunity appears in the February column. Of course, it also continues to appear in the January column.

However, in March the deal is qualified out. It’s set to Closed Lost.

Therefore, the Opportunity appears in the January, February and March columns. In contrast, it doesn’t appear in the April column.

However, the opportunity will be included forevermore in the January, February and March columns. That’s because As-At the first 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, irrespective of when those deals are due to close.

Analysing long-term pipeline trend detail

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

The report gives detail in the sales pipeline trend over time and highlights where the funnel has grown and shrunk.

The report and dashboard chart show 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.

In fact, the Negotiation Stage has continued to remain 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? Pleased? Should we even be concerned?

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

However, here are four things we might want to think about.

Perhaps these apply in your business?

1. Downward pipeline trend

A downward trend in pipeline size is not necessarily something to be concerned about.

Surprised?

Well, it’s true if 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.

This blog post will help you weed out poor quality deals: Spot Poor Quality Deals Using Salesforce Dashboards.

2. Early Stage pipeline growth

Take a look at the chart below. It’s the As-At report taken from a live Salesforce system.

Shows the jump from December 2018 to January 2019 on the Long Term Pipeline Trend Chart

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

Probably not.

Yet it’s a trend I often see.

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

Are these genuine, well-qualified opportunities? Not in most cases.

And of course, there’s a mis-leading level of growth in the As-At report.

Instead, the company would be better off creating proactive account management plans rather than pseudo opportunities.

3. Growth in early stage opportunities

Let’s assume you’ve maintained pipeline quality. Then it’s likely a good thing that there’s growth in the value of early stage opportunities.

In other words, you’re building 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?

In particular, is it down to an increase in Leads converted into Opportunities?

Or, have more opportunities been created on existing Accounts? In other words, are we talking about new logos or are we farming the existing customer base more effectively?

Here’s a great resource to help analyse that: Lead Conversion Dashboard from GSP

This dashboard provides great insight on where opportunities have come from and what happens to them. For example, it compares conversion rates on Opportunities created from converted Leads with Opportunities created directly on Accounts.

Use the dashboard in conjunction with the Opportunity Trends report to analyse pipeline growth.

4. End of year sales drives

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

Closing existing deals.

Everything else takes a back seat.

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

First, no new opportunities get created.

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

So naturally, the total pipeline size goes down.

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 will be reassuring if there’s an upward trend. That’s because deals are coming out of the pipeline and turning into revenue.

The sales pipeline trend will be smaller if many deals are being won and therefore removed from the funnel.

Second, look at the Deals Lost chart. We’re likely to see an increase in deals removed from the pipeline as salespeople close out no-win opportunities.

Likewise, if deals are being lost they are also removed from the pipeline and therefore the funnel trend will be shrinking.

Third, examine the dashboard chart that shows the number of opportunities created.

You’ll likely see few new opportunities.

The pipeline by Created Date is an early indicator of a change in the sales pipeline trend.

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?

Easy.

You’ve two options.

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

Shows the Opportunity Trends report type being selected in the Report Type menu

Second, install the GSP Sales Dashboard from the AppExchange. Here’s the link to the Enterprise version.

There’s also a version for Salesforce Professional here.

More about the difference in the two dashboard versions in the next section.

Short-Term Pipeline Trend

The As-At report tells us about the size of the sales funnel trend on the 1st of each month.

As such, it’s an excellent guide to the overall trend in the sales funnel.

However, what about short-term 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.

The report Opportunities with Historical Trending shows the short-term change in the sales pipeline.

However, bear in mind 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 pipeline trend chart gives the short-term information needed for day-to-day sales performance management and funnel reviews.

In the example above, we’ve set the report to provide a snapshot for each of the last 6 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:

Drills down on further detail within the Short Term Pipeline Trend chart

To create this type of report first enable the Historical Trends reporting function.

Do this by clicking 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 Trend Visibility In Your Business

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

Then the question you’re asking is: how do I get both of these reports?

Easy.

If you are using Enterprise Edition or above, install the EE version of the GSP Sales Dashboard from the AppExchange. The dashboard delivers great 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 features 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 to first enable Historical Reporting in your system.

Video Demonstration on Sales Pipeline Trend Dashboard Charts

I’ve recorded a 3-minute demonstration of both charts in action. The video includes additional commentary on how to use these charts in the context of the traditional funnel dashboard graph.

Related Articles on Pipeline Trends

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

I also recently ran a webinar with special guest Derek Davis, Director of Sales Support at Gilbarco Veeder Root. We demonstrated a wide range of dashboard charts that give increased visibility of the sales pipeline. They also directly addressed the question of how to measure the trend in the sales pipeline. Watch and listen to the webinar recording or read the Q&A published.

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