Tyler Gaffney — CEO, ZenHub shares how sales managers gain an upper hand in forecasting accuracy by conducting efficient pipeline reviews.
BoostUp: What are the common pitfalls with sales forecasting, and why does that happen?
Tyler: So much of forecasting requires everybody involved to do their job well. Sales reps have to run a good process on the deal and have to be very diligent about entering that information into a CRM. Then to get a snapshot of the likely deals, sales leaders need a series of discussions with the reps, managers, and sales ops.
Incomplete data is usually a big problem. CRMs still require manual data entry even though there are some plugins available. If you have diligent reps who take this seriously, then you possibly can have a better picture of what’s going on. If we don’t get useful data from the sales rep directly, then pipeline reviews become crucial, To get real information out of sales reps, we then need sales managers to conduct efficient pipeline reviews. Some sales managers are strategic. However, inexperienced sales managers often keep circling with the same questions. Sales reps know the pattern and can dodge them. In such cases, to get a real understanding of the deals is a challenge.
We are trying to find out deals that are at risk and need the most help. The last thing we want is forecasting a deal that falls off, and in the post-analysis, realize we had not uncovered key red flags in the deal. If we don’t have good data and have poor pipeline reviews, then we can’t have high confidence levels in our forecasting.
BoostUp: What are the challenges that sales managers face with pipeline reviews?
Tyler: While many sales teams do an excellent job with the sales process, there is much improvement desired in the pipeline review process.
To conduct an efficient pipeline review, a sales manager needs to have the ability to level up the sales rep and get them to think differently about their deal. They should be able to pull out information that the sales rep might not even think about, which will help inform whether a deal is at risk or not.
The reality is that most sales managers have never done this job before. They were high performing reps who got promoted to management. They are not trained to develop the consistency and clarity required for pipeline reviews. Managers are also spread too thin and are usually managing more reps than they should. This leaves them with little time to coach reps or to prepare themselves for deal reviews.
We spoke about the data challenges earlier. With data inputs still fairly manual, when managers open their CRM, there is complete mayhem in there, and it takes effort to get the relevant information about the deal. Today, we are still heavily reliant on an individual’s opinion and ability to summarize things the appropriate way.
Considering they are usually pressed for time and not trained, sales managers are underprepared for pipeline reviews, ask irrelevant questions and rely on sales reps to think critically about a deal by themselves.
BoostUp: What are some of your suggestions for managers to conduct good pipeline reviews?
Tyler: Managers need training in conducting efficient pipeline reviews. They need to focus on creating high-quality conversations that ensure strong confidence in the pipeline for all stakeholders involved.
A good sales manager makes sure that we’re qualifying appropriately and have de-risked the deal by making sure more than one person from the buying side is involved in the deal, we understood the full buying process, and have kicked off things that might delay the deal. There are many moving parts to manage. They need to understand the various data points, deduce the information, and identify the gaps to assist reps.
Before the review meeting, they set clear goals for the meeting. They identify the type of deals to be reviewed and actionable steps for the various deals. They also ensure that everyone participating in the meeting comes prepared.
During the review, the focus should be on the actionable steps required on the deals and not just on updating the deal status. They are prepared with 4-5 questions that validate and drive each deal forward.
When sales reps see better outcomes on their deals through scientific pipeline reviews rather than opinion driven reviews, they understand the impact of running a data-driven process. It reiterates the purpose of complete data input and reporting for accurate forecasting.
BoostUp’s 360-degree automated deal evaluation presents the unbiased truth and makes deal reviews fact-based and non-judgmental.
By indexing buyer & seller interactions from all communication channels & summarizing the buying signals of each deal, BoostUp.ai provides an instant separation of deals with real buying intent vs. deals that are a waste of time.