At the very heart of running a sales pipeline is opportunity management. Opportunity management consists of, first, setting up a sales process. This means knowing the various stages that your opportunities pass through, from lead all the way to close. When you know how long a deal takes to make it through the pipeline, and how long it should take for an opportunity to make it through each stage of that pipeline, you’ve got a fairly accurate sales process.
A note, though, is that a sales process should be dynamic. When you find flaws in the sales process or changes happen in the marketplace necessitating changes to it, you need to be able to rapidly make those changes and keep right on doing business. Pipeliner CRM is flexible enough that you can instantly make such sales process changes when needed, and it requires very little training.
An important aspect of opportunity management is visualization. The easier it is for a sales manager to visually see the pipeline and opportunities, the more effective sales management will be.
But for Pipeliner, it’s not just visualization but instant dynamic visualization. Data is being manipulated instantly and dynamically, by or right with the reps being managed. Data changed is immediately seen by anyone involved.
Pipeliner CRM provides a number of different views of opportunities, so that a sales manager can choose which is best for them.
Filter View—instantly filter data so that you can have the precise view you need. You can filter and view tasks based on any field. Views that will be regularly used can be saved.
Pipeline View—a graphical representation of your sales process. From left to right, opportunities are shown within the sales process stages in which they currently reside. You can hover over them or click on them for further detail. The Pipeline View also applies to Pipeliner’s unique Archive, where lost deals are stored complete with all data.
Bubble Chart View—a 3D map of opportunities that includes 3 crucial dimensions: the sales process stage in which the deal resides, the estimated close date and the deal size.
Compact View—with which you can, at a glance, view the last time a prospect was touched, the sales opportunities that involve them, and activity from their running feed (latest internal messages, social CRM updates or emails). Compact View can also be applied to opportunities, leads, accounts, contacts, and opportunities within the Archive, which is the place where lost deals can be viewed.
List View—see your leads, opportunities, accounts, contacts or opportunities in a column/row format, totally customizable for your particular needs.
Highlight Changes in List View—In List View, you can automatically view opportunities that have changed within a time period that you specify. Highlight opportunities that have been downgraded, updated or otherwise changed.
Map View—The map view allows you to see exactly where your leads, opportunities, accounts and contacts are located on an interactive world map.
Calendar View—The calendar view displays appointments and tasks with the selection of day, work week, week and month. On the right-hand panel is the Activity Stream, which displays upcoming and overdue appointments and tasks.
Task Board View—The task board view displays tasks organized by activity status. The activity stream in the right-hand panel displays upcoming and overdue appointments and tasks.
Mouse Over View for Stages—Mouse over each stage, and immediately view important statistics for that stage, such as Open Versus Lost, Loss Rate, Average Velocity (time opportunities have spent in that stage), and Conversion Ratio to Next Step.
Opportunity management, in each of its phases, should be totally aligned to the sales target for that sales period. Pipeliner is also unique in this regard in that the target for the current sales period is always in view, and therefore always in mind for the sales team and sales manager. Any system should be geared around the target—what must be accomplished in any given time frame, be it a week, month, quarter, half-year or year.
Pipeliner CRM offers five different target views, for varying aspects of the target.
Unweighted Sales Target: The value of all opportunities in a pipeline without any closing probability percentages. This can be useful if you have some historical data that says, for example, that a rep closes 10 percent of all opportunities. You would look for the Unweighted Sales Target to be at least 10 times the goal.
Weighted Sales Target: The Weighted Target is equal to the sum of the total opportunity values in each sales stage, multiplied by the probability of closure for that sales process stage.
Ranked Target: Each rep has the ability to apply a personal ranking to each of their opportunities, from one to five stars. The Ranked Target shows their level of confidence in their opportunities.
Balanced Target: The Balanced Target can be looked at as a “worst-case scenario,” because it balances the Weighted Target and the Ranked Target.
Real Target: The Real Target represents the actual closed or won opportunities.
An important aspect of opportunity management is speed through the pipeline. In each pipeline stage, it often happens that documents or collateral must be attached to emails or otherwise provided to the client. It’s a substantial benefit if a sales rep doesn’t have to go poking around outside CRM for a proposal or template, since they’re right there one click away. Pipeliner offers this functionality—and in fact no other CRM system allows such simple and easy access for the attachment of documents in each stage.
Following Up on Opportunities
For following up opportunities, Pipeliner CRM allows you to send emails directly from Pipeliner, to a single recipient or a group, for Office 365 or Gmail. You can utilize customized email templates, and quickly and easily add fields from Accounts, Contacts, Leads or Opportunities, as well as sender details.
Companies that have large teams and routinely create big deals can create an approval process. It can be made mandatory that deals over a certain amount of potential revenue must be approved by management before they can proceed, and a process can be created that the deal must progress through before it can be moved forward. On the front end, the user will be notified that the deal has been locked for editing and is waiting for approval. The approval process allows the person responsible for approval to simply check boxes to approve, reject, delegate or cancel the deal. The salesperson responsible for the deal is then automatically notified of the deal approval status.
War Room Concept
At the heart of pipeline management is the War Room Concept, which was learned from IBM based on their 40 years of experience with a similar approach (We will be going into more detail on this concept in the last chapter). Pipeliner’s Power Panel, which allows precise filtering of rep or team performance statistics, is the core functionality of the War Room Concept. Through the filter a sales manager can see if a specific deal is moving (sales velocity), what kind of ranking the sales manager gave it, and how it’s progressing. The sales manager can rapidly view this data before meeting with a particular rep about a deal.
From a sales management perspective, we have to look at the War Room Concept approach from two different angles: deal management, and pipeline management. The two are often confused, and such a confusion can be a source of inefficiency when it comes to sales management.
Deal management applies to how a specific deal is progressing, and what activities should be conducted to move that particular opportunity forward.
A common mistake made by salespeople is not fully isolating buyer or prospect issues relating to the product or service being sold. The rep will consider that because a presentation or call seemed to go well, that the prospect is happy with the deal. The deal is at serious risk, though, when the salesperson doesn’t specifically know what problem their offering will solve for the client. If they haven’t isolated the need, they most likely haven’t checked the other three points besides need: budget, authority (does the decision-maker have the authority to make the purchase?), and timeframe (will this purchase be made within a reasonable amount of time?). A “feelgood” deal may be somewhat satisfying to the rep, but the rep won’t be able to move it to the next stage of the pipeline.
In terms of stages, deal management doesn’t always move in the forward direction. Sometimes a deal will actually move backward out of necessity. For example, as a sales rep you might be dealing with a parts buyer, who is almost to the point of closing, when that buyer is fired. A new buyer comes on and you are able to interest them—but you now must go back to stage 1, whereas your previous contact was already at stage 4.
For each stage, specified activities can be required, from the back end, to move an activity to the next stage, and can even be made mandatory. Checkboxes can also be required to be checked off before moving an opportunity forward. You can even specify automatic sequences to run for opportunities when they reach that particular stage, such as an email sequence, that must occur before moving to the next stage. On the front end, the seller can immediately view the required steps or automation steps in a particular stage, and (if allowed) can check or uncheck them for each individual opportunity. If a step is mandatory, the seller must check it before moving the opportunity forward. When a seller goes to move a deal to the next stage, they will be notified if all the required steps have been completed.
When working on a particular deal, the seller can rapidly view all details for that opportunity, such as services or products being sold, value, expected close data, ranking data, and more.
Pipeliner CRM fully empowers deal management with features such as org chart, buying center, task and activity management, and more. A sales manager should have a very good overview of deals, and with these tools, they will. Additionally, the seller’s activity should always be in response to the buyer’s action as an opportunity moves through a sales stage—another unique Pipeliner feature. This functionality allows for a very tight opportunity concept that allows for all necessary activities such as appointments, calls, emails and more.
While deal management addresses single deals, pipeline management is all about examining all the deals in the pipeline and evaluating their value, and whether or not there are enough of them. Meetings should be valuable meetings, and opportunities should be real opportunities, not leads mistaken for opportunities. Proper activity management, in which certain tasks must be completed before an opportunity can be moved to the next stage, is vital to effective pipeline management. Pipeliner CRM offers this as another of its totally unique features.
With pipeline management, you’re looking at the entire pipeline, as opposed to specific deals. How many deals are in a particular rep’s pipeline? Given that rep’s closing ratio, are there enough deals in that pipeline to make quota?
As an example, if the rep usually closes 3 out of 10 deals, and the quota is $50,000, there should be in the neighborhood of $180,000 worth of deals in the pipeline if the quota is going to be attained.
Remember that every salesperson is different; they have different closing ratios, different rates of deal movement, and different average deal sizes. You have to act accordingly in managing each rep. One rep may need 5 times as many deals in a pipeline to make a quota than another.
These are all the factors that go into sales management. If they are not all present, then it isn’t sales management that’s being done. Instant pipeline visualization, which is what Pipeliner makes extremely easy, is what is needed for a sales manager to share data with the sales rep being managed. If a sales manager is only going over complex reports by himself, how can the sales rep be changed for the better?
Because of its visual nature, Pipeliner is not only a sales tool but a psychological one. It influences a salesperson. They see their visual data and say, “Oh, my goodness!” From this visual approach it is much easier to come up with actions that will fill up a rep’s pipeline with more opportunities. If this isn’t done, they will never make it.
Both pipeline management and deal management can be conducted easily with Pipeliner. You can optimize them automatically—create reports and simply update them weekly. And wherever you go in Pipeliner, you can create an instant report based on the view at that moment.
Looking At the Same Data
For the sake of simplicity as well as transparency, the data seen by the sales rep in Pipeliner is the very same data seen by the sales manager. The only difference is that the sales manager can see data from all the other reps, whereas a sales rep can see only their own data. Transparency is the heart of great pipeline management.
All of this adds up to perfect, precise opportunity management!
I appreciate the insight this article provides