Visualizing Sales Pipeline Patterns to Drive Predictable Revenue

Background

Every salesperson has a way of working that produces a distinct sales pipeline pattern, and that pattern either contributes or works against predictable revenue generation. To see these patterns you need to visualize the sales pipeline. Until recently this had to be done on spreadsheets, but new tools are enabling sales organizations to produce the pipeline or “Board” pattern for individual salespeople.

 

The Ideal Sales Pipeline Pattern

The starting point, is to look at the ideal sales pipeline pattern, one that when maintained, keeps on producing predictable income, against the monthly and quarterly deadlines. The Ideal Pipeline pattern takes into account the fact that you lose opportunities as you
move from stage to stage across the pipeline.

Ideal

 The Stalled Pipeline Pattern

Notice that there are quite a number of deals in the “middle pipeline”. Many of these deals are stalled or have been placed as “falldown” i.e. officially stalled! This pattern of pipeline happens where the industry produces lot of quotes and proposals, from competing suppliers, yet each supplier often thinks they will (definitely) get the deal.

Stalled

The Not Finishing Pipeline Pattern

This pipeline indicates that the salesperson cannot finish the job i.e. close the deals. Sometimes it is literally the case that a salesperson puts in a good level of honest activity and lacks the skills to deliver a signature, against a deadline. But the more common cause of the “not finishing” pipeline pattern is that the salesperson doesn’t so much have a “closing” problem, as an “opening” problem i.e. he or she creates opportunities that are unhealthy from birth. For example, if you connect with stakeholders who might be open and friendly, but cannot move the conversation forward, then you have an opening problem.
Can't Finish

The Skinny Pipeline Pattern

The nature of this pipeline pattern is self evident and there are three main causes. First, some industries have low volume prospects, so pipelines will be skinny anyway. Second, the company’s marketing effort may be ineffective or inadequate, so there is a shortage of inbound enquiries, interest and leads. Or third, the salesperson might be doing too little prospecting work.

Skinny

The Success Vacation Pipeline Pattern

The Success Vacation pipeline pattern is familiar to most salespeople including many of the most successful salespeople. It is characterized by a month or quarter of high closes, followed by a month or quarter of drought! It occurs when closing and account management work take over from prospecting in the short term, and you suffer the consequences down the road in terms of a skinny or empty pipeline. When you visualize your current pipeline, you will see this problem coming at you!

Success Vacation

The Hanging On Pipeline Pattern

To understand this pipeline pattern, you will also need to look a little closer at the Board, i.e. the tiles with the red circle. You’ll notice that the sales cycle on these deals is very long, as measured in days. While some sales cycles can be “long” it’s unusual that the norm will be 300 or 400 days. There is common misconception in sales that the longer a deal is in the sales pipeline, the “better” it is getting, but in 99% of cases, the deal is either already dead or dying fast.

Hanging On

The Big Deal Pipeline Pattern

This pipeline pattern can occur simply because the market offers only a handful of large deals to the suppliers. But the more common cuase if that the salesperson depends on too few, large deals to make the sales target.

Big Deals

The really big lessons from identifying pipeline patterns

  1. It’s crucial that the salesperson sees and understands their own pattern. Pipeline pattern analysis should not be a secret project to identify poor reps. Share the picture with the salesperson and collaborate to optimize the pipeline shape and inventory.
  2. When sales organizations want to move the needle on sales performance, they tend to tell, teach and preach more skills. They share content and best practices. But for all that to make sense, salespeople need to see the outcomes that the current way of working is creating, and spot the opportunities for improvement, themselves. Sharing the pipeline patterns with your sales team, is the first step to encouraging people to begin working on their own performance.
  3. Even on a single team, a manager has to optimize a mix of patterns every month or quarter: last quarter Ryan was close to the ideal pattern and this quarter he is heading for a rollercoaster spell, but Sarah is back on an ideal pattern to compensate and so on.
  4. Some businesses structurally have certain patterns. For example, a company might have U-Shaped pipeline formation because most of their opportunities come from existing clients. With the right tool to view these patterns, the manager is more aware of what is needed to create predictable revenue and their ability to optimize patterns becomes much easier.

(Pipeline patterns courtesy of Veritas Training)

DEI International can help you implement the visual Board™ approach through our Prospect Management System™, that has been used by over 10,000 companies worldwide. including a customized program for Salesforce.com users and an option if you have no CRM at all. Contact Us for U.S.A. & EMEA inquiries.