Managing your Sales Pipeline - Shifting the focus from Activity to Value


CRM's are often a reflection of the way we recognise sales performance - activity.  So, most CRM's are stage based on the assumption that opportunities are linear and that each stage measures progression towards a sale.

What sales managers find though is that even when opportunities are in the Ready to Close stage, that the criteria that sits behind this is generally just the submission of a proposal.  The quality of that proposal, indeed, the quality of the relationship, the relevance and value to the opportunity of the solution presented in the proposal are not always easy to determine just from the CRM.

So, there is a tendency for sales people to continue to be measured on their activity rather than on the value of that activity and its impact on revenue generated.  And their KPI's reflect this focus which drives a "busy" narrative within the sales team regardless of the readiness of the prospect or whether there is a genuine opportunity to provide value with actions, such as the number of meetings and the number of proposals being the mark of forecasting.

To shift this focus, it's helpful to provide some criteria for stages to enable sales people to begin to have value driven conversations with opportunities rather than on "getting quotes/proposals" in the system.

Stages that are issues based can include a model such as this:


It is important to measure the ratio of opportunities won versus the total number of opportunities identified.  The criteria below provides an objective view of where you are in the process and assists to develop the next step strategy and relevant actions.

1. Need

  • Drivers

  • Motivation

  • Pain points

2. Authority

  • Decision makers

  • Influencers

  • Relationships

  • Level of authority

3. Value Proposition

  • Right product/service for the customer based on needs

  • Downstream focus

  • Areas of uniqueness

4. Decision Process

  • The process that the customer will use to make a decision

  • The criteria each stakeholder will use

  • Timing

5. Budget/Funding

  • Budgets

  • Sign-off levels

  • How they will pay

  • Timing

6. Competition

  • Major competitors for this opportunity

  • Level of relationships

  • Previous dealings

  • Internal competition

7. Solution

  • Connected to the overall need and needs of stakeholders

  • Must deliver value to the customer

  • Where are you unique?

This way, when you see opportunities in Ready to Close, you'll have more confidence in them actually closing and therefore in your forecast.

Tips from John Buchanan, Beyond 19, Coaching Practicing Lead:

1. Getting results is as a result of knowing the PROCESS for results

2. The 7 criteria for understanding opportunity and activity verses value and sale are important replicatable measures

3. Correlate the process with the outcomes or results being achieved

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