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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.

Powerful Metrics on the Sales Performance of Converted Leads

Download the FREE Dashboard from the AppExchange today
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.

Awesome Pipeline and Sales Performance Visibility

Download the FREE Dashboard from the AppExchange today
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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