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dashboard visibility Salesforce.com dashboards can give powerful visibility of sales performance and the sales pipeline. But often companies fail to achieve the full benefits of this important feature. The result is a lack of robust management information to manage the sales team and lost sales opportunities.

This was the theme addressed by Gary Smith and special guest, Derek Davis, Director of Sales Support at Gilbarco Veeder Root, in their webinar on 2nd October. Gary and Derek used a live Salesforce.com dashboard to demonstrate examples of how to:

  • Accurately measure the size of the sales pipeline.
  • Easily spot poor quality deals that have little chance of ever closing successfully.
  • Monitor the short and long term trend in the pipeline – is it growing or shrinking?
  • Identify gaps in the pipeline that may lead to future shortfalls in revenue.
  • Prevent sandbagging – or its opposite – artificial inflation of the sales pipeline.

If you missed the webinar – or would like to listen again – then here’s the recording. Or click ‘Read more’ below the recording to see the full set of questions asked by the audience and Gary’s answers!

Measure sales pipeline velocity

Question: What’s the best way to measure sales pipeline velocity?

Answer: There’s several ways to measure the speed with which deals move through the pipeline. The simplest is to create an Age formula field and compare the average age of opportunities that are Won, Lost, or still in the pipeline. The trick here is to ‘stop the clock’ when the opportunity is set to Closed Won or Closed Lost. To do this you need to create a custom field that is updated by workflow when the opportunity is Closed. Then you can apply a formula field to calculate the difference between the Created Date and your custom field.

The Age of an opportunity is useful but doesn’t tell us anything about how quickly the deal is moving through the various opportunity Stages. Consequently we created the sales velocity chart shown below. It’s embedded into page layout for each opportunity.

Sales Velocity

The chart shows:

– the average length of time Closed Won opportunities have been in each of the various stages.
– how long this particular Opportunity has been in each Stage.

The equivalent chart on the dashboard shows the rolled up values for all Closed Won, Closed Lost and Open opportunities.

Let us know if you’re interested in having this deployed in your own Salesforce instance.

Short term historical trend

Question: How do I create the historical trend report that shows the change in the sales pipeline over the last few days or weeks? I can’t see the report type when I click New Report.

Answer: The first thing to do is enable the Historical Trends function. Go into Setup, then under Customize select Reports & Dashboards. Scroll down and choose Historical Trending. Select Opportunity from the list of all objects and click Enable Historical Trending. Then you’ll be able to create the report in the standard way.

The report we looked at was a matrix report grouped by Stage (Historical) and Snapshot Date.

12 Must-Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

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Highlight zero pipeline in one month

Question: Let’s say I’ve nothing in the pipeline for January. When I display this in a report or dashboard chart, salesforce ‘skips’ the month with no pipeline and shows only the data for December and February. Is there a way to highlight the fact there’s no pipeline in one month?

Answer: There’s not much you can do about this using standard reporting capabilities. The report and dashboard will not show a zero level column for the month with no pipeline.

One rudimentary solution is to create a zero value opportunity for every month going forward. This way the report would show the month, albeit with no figure against the pipeline value. It would still show up in any report showing the record count of course. And there’s the potential for confusion when users see a pipeline opportunity with no value.

An alternative is to create a custom Target function in salesforce. With this approach the target for each User for each month (or quarter) is stored in a custom object. A code-based trigger automatically links each pipeline opportunity to the relevant future target. This linkage is based on the Close Date of the opportunity and the to/from date of the targets. Then in the dashboard, you report on pipeline performance against target rather than simply opportunities. Any month for which there was a future target, but no pipeline opportunities, will show up on the report.

Have a look at How to track this year’s sales targets in salesforce if this is something that interests you.

Stage movement report

Question: How did you create that report that showed the To / From opportunity Stage movement.

Answer: It’s an Opportunity History report. Create it as a matrix report, From Stage on the left and To Stage across the top. Put in a filter where Stage Change = True. Use Record Count at the metric on which the report runs.

Number of unique Accounts visited

Question: Derek talked about using metrics to count the number of unique customers and prospects that had been visited by his sales team during the month. How is this done?

Answer: It’s achieved by a code-based schedule that updates a field on the Account if an Event has been logged by a User.

Derek’s key point is that high value capital goods are not sold in a single visit. So you expect – and want – repeat visits. On the other hand you don’t want sales people only visiting Accounts their comfortable with and ignoring others. Similarly if a sales person makes 20 visits to 20 different Accounts then it might suggest a training need in getting to stage two in the sales process.

Therefore in the Gilbarco salesforce instance there’s several reports that track the number of unique Accounts visited together with the proportion of all target Accounts that have been visited. This provides insight to the sales leadership team in managing the sales team.

Read Dave Apthorp: the Best and Worst Salesman for a true story on this theme!

Time taken on Approvals

Question: Is there a way to measure the length of time each User takes to approve or reject Approval Requests?

Answer. Yes, this is fairly straightforward to do. It requires several workflow field updates to be added to the Approval Process. The first ‘stamps’ the date the the approval request was submitted. The second the date is was approved or rejected. A formula field then subtracts the difference. The metric can then be displayed in a corresponding report and dashboard.

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