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The Sales Pipeline is No Place For Leads

Does your sales pipeline measure up?

Most sales leaders are obsessed with their sales pipelines. They review them weekly, push their sales teams to keep them accurate, and hope they have enough to make their sales number. The reality is that many sales leaders do not use a consistent methodology to track, measure, and value their pipelines. Often the difference between a lead and a qualified opportunity becomes blurred and pipeline values become overstated.

Want to learn more?  Join our webcast: Above the Funnel – How (and Why) to Measure Your Lead Pipeline

By implementing some basic best practices you establish pipeline standards that are understood by the entire organization and gives you the greatest visibility to your real pipeline value. To start with, it is critical to know the difference between a lead and a prospect. This seems very basic but some companies don’t differentiate between the two. In 3forward’s definition a lead is a company that is in your target market and is strong or neutral fit based on your sweet spot analysis. A prospect is a company that is actively looking to solve a problem or an issue, meets the above definition of a lead, will make a near to mid-term busing decision, and you are engaged at a decision maker level.

Another simple best practice you can implement immediately is to clearly define your sales stages. For instance we believe it is critical that everyone agree on when a lead becomes a qualified opportunity. The definition of “qualified” will vary from company to company but we generally find that a lead becomes a qualified opportunity when the prospect agrees to review your solution including pricing and associated timelines. Now that you have a definition of a qualified opportunity you can apply it to all deals in your existing pipeline to assess any gaps you may have.

The chart below illustrates 3forward’s recommendations for a logical path from lead identification through sales close, loss, or delay.  We see this process fitting many services sales models or other lengthy / complex selling processes.

(Click Image to Enlarge to Full Screen).

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