Sales leaders spend a lot of time explaining their sales opportunity pipeline to their peers in company leadership.  But can they do a good job?  Can they quickly focus in on the important components and key values that a “sales outsider” is expected to know?

Strangely, many CSO’s struggle in this very important responsibility – and if the numbers or their explanations sound fuzzy – other members of the team may decide the sales leader has something to hide.  Even worse, the rest of team may think the sales leader simply does not understand the numbers themselves.

If you are a Sales Leader with this responsibility we have a few suggestions before conducting your next management level pipeline review.  These guidelines will help guide the discussion and position you as the authority on your pipeline.

  • First, apply definitions to your most important pipeline elements, write them on a terms sheet then provide that information at the beginning of the review meeting.   Definitions will make it far more likely everyone understands and sees the numbers the same way, and allow you to spend time on the important parts of your pipeline review.
  • Second, test your sales logic on how the numbers look and feel.  Look at the implications of close rates both on existing pipeline and target values (do you have enough qualified opportunities at current close rates to achieve the goals)?   Review average opportunity age and duration to make sure you are not portraying deals that are likely dead as still valid.  Have ‘up to date’ status on the largest opportunities as they are the ones most scrutinized when review teams come together.
  • Finally, consider applying activity definitions to your stages, along with traditional stage names.   Activity definitions such as those we suggest in 3forward’s pipeline stages and definitions template greatly increase the consistency with which opportunities get classified in the CRM and therefore improve the integrity of the pipeline value estimates.

We have seen too many pipeline reviews end badly for the sales leader when confusion or misunderstanding around the numbers casts doubt on the data. Simple steps like these can greatly reduce the likelihood that will happen at your next review.