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A Sales Business Plan helps identify critical factors impacting sales team performance. Pipelines are leading indicators of sales success.



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Sales Pipeline and Forecast Management

What Gets Measured Gets Done

Managing pipelines and forecasts is fundamental to driving an effective sales force and successul business practices that are inter-dependent on sales. It is a combination of Goals, Progress and Accountability.


The sales organization should be measured and incentivized for meeting all, or a subsection, of the company's Key Performance Indicators (KPI's). These goals should be assigned to sales teams and individuals in the form of quotas that may in-turn be subdivided by factors such as: products, time lines, channels to market. The goals should be clear, unambiguous, and highly visible.


Measuring progress toward meeting goals can be influenced by many factors, but is dependent on understanding, reviewing, and documenting steps in the Sales Cycle and Average Sales Cycle review and analysis.

The Sales Cycle

Steps in the Sales Cycle vary by industry, company, product line, price-point, to name a few. Steps in the Sales Cycle should be consistent within a defined sales team, selling the same product into similar customer bases. This is not meant to be over-complicated. Simply said, if one sales rep manages to take a new opportunity from Lead to Close in ten steps and his teammate takes twenty steps to accomplish a similar sale, it deserves analysis.

Depending on the company/product/client, steps in a Sales Cycle might include the steps described in this graph. They may also have other inter-dependent steps, for instance: testing, successful integration, return-on-investment analysis, trial, and/or proof of concept.  This is not meant to be an inclusive list. Steps in the Sales Cycle should be studied and documented carefully to model best practices in order to have the greatest positive impact on sales.

Across a distinct sales organization, selling the same product into a similar customer base, steps in the Sales Cycle should be the same.

Average Sales Cycles

Average Sales Cycles are a timing measurement. Track average times for individual team members to progress through each stage of the Sales Cycle. Use these average times to identify outlying performance and encourage discussion with the owner of the sale. Briefly explained, if the average time between Demonstrating Solutions and Delivering Proposals is one week, question the justification for a sales representative waiting three weeks to deliver a proposal. There can be many reasons that a sale will not follow a proscribed path. There are few absolutely right or wrong answers for outlying behavior, however, it presents an opportunity to examine the sales process and provide management oversight.

Pipeline analysis can be a powerful leading indicator of opportunities to improve sales performance.

Regular and steady progress toward moving Qualified Leads to Close allows management to Forecast sales revenues and profits to stockholders, stakeholders and interdependent areas of the business. Important uses for the Sales Forecast include demand projections for supply-chain-management, manufacturing output, materials requirements, support staffing, shipping and receiving and related business unit requirements.


Accountability is a combination of sales teams and sales representative understanding their Goals, following the Sales Cycle and being prepared to report to management on the progress of their opportunities moving from Lead Qualification to Closing.

CRM Software

Accountability may be integral to an adopted CRM solution. The sales representative could be responsible for updating sales progress on a daily basis giving management visibility to updates and access to progress reports. The CRM system should match the Steps of the Selling Cycle and allow for detailed tracking.

Email and Text

Sales representatives may be responsible for providing updates via email or other company communication tools. Communication regarding the pipeline and forecast should be standardized where possible.

Sales Meetings

The most effective Pipeline and Forecast Management Accountability is a combination of electronic data and regular sales meetings designed to review and set action items for progressing opportunities toward close. These meetings may be held daily, weekly, as a team, one-on-one, monthly, during quarterly business reviews, during annual business reviews and for the greatest possible effectiveness, all of the above.