Pipeline management is the key to sales success. Your sales pipeline allows you to evaluate, manage and improve your sales process over time. This detailed guide will help you better understand and manage your sales pipeline and - ultimately - close more deals.
The Deﬁnitive Guide to
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10 Best Practices for
8 Keys to a Healthy Sales
Why should you care about your
Pipeline management is a primary factor in
sales success. Your sales pipeline is the key
to evaluating, managing, and ultimately
improving your sales process – so you can
close more deals. Follow the steps in this
detailed guide to better understand and
manage your sales pipeline.
1. Separate Pipeline Meetings from
The sales pipeline is all about the top of the
funnel opportunities, not the opportunities
that are about to close this month. Because
of this, you should separate your pipeline
meetings from your forecast meetings.
You should use pipeline meetings to talk
about the overall health of your pipeline – is
it growing? Do you have enough leads for
the next month?
For your pipeline to function correctly, you
must have clearly defined opportunity stages
mapped from the customer’s point of view.
Instead of defining your sales pipeline by
your selling process, you should align it
with the buying process. This means
instead of “Qualification” and “Present
Solution” your pipeline should use terms like
“Acknowledge Pain” and “Decision.”
1. Opportunity Dollar Size vs. Average
Won Deal Size
How big is a specific opportunity? Is it
significantly larger than the average deal
your company wins? If a deal is much larger
than you’ve historically closed, it has a much
lower likelihood of closing.
2. Opportunity Age vs. Win Cycle
Much like opportunity size, an opportunity’s
age tells you a lot about how likely you are to
convert it into a deal. Opportunities that
linger in your pipeline are less likely to
convert, while newer opportunities are more
likely to become deals.
3. Win Rate (Probability of Winning Your
How many opportunities does it take you to
generate a deal? The inverse of this ratio
(Opps : Deals) is your Win Rate, and tells
you exactly how likely you are to convert any
1. Age in Stage
Stalled deals convert at much lower rates
than quickly progressing ones. Look for
opportunities in your pipeline that have
stayed in the same stage for as long as your
average lost deal, and flag them as at-risk.
2. Non-Linear Stage Leaps
The beauty of the sales pipeline is that it
matches the buyer’s journey. Therefore, if an
opportunity goes through the Pipeline
haphazardly - without a linear progression -
that opportunity is less likely to convert.
3. Opportunity Size
An opportunity’s size dictates a lot about
how it will act and how likely your reps are to
convert it. Inspect the pipeline and flag any
opportunities that are more than 3x your
average deal size.
4. Deal Size Changes
If an opportunity’s expected value changes 3
times or more, it is less likely to convert and
should be flagged.
5. Time Slippage
Does one of your opportunities keep having
its close date pushed back? If so, it is
probably unlikely to close at all. Flag it now.
You must understand your pipeline history in
order to put your current pipeline in context.
Look at how your pipeline has changed over
• Has it grown since last quarter or last
• Is it growing along with your growth
6. Assess Your Opportunities to
Achieve a Narrow Sales Funnel
A bigger pipeline is NOT necessarily a
You want your pipeline to be filled with high-
quality opportunities. You can create a
narrow sales pipeline by more stringently
qualifying opportunities at the top of your
sales funnel. Don’t allow weak opportunities
to waste your reps’ time.
Unless you prune your pipeline, it will
become bogged down with unlikely-to-
A smaller pipeline filled with high-quality
opportunities is better than one with low-
probability ones. If you fail to purge your
pipeline, it will skew your won/lost analysis
and impair your forecasting abilities.
As you start purging your pipeline, how do
you know which opportunities to eliminate?
Look closely at your Strike Zone.
Every company should know the types of
opportunities most likely to convert into
customers. Opportunities that are
significantly older or larger than the deals
you typically win are outside the Strike Zone.
It’s not enough to just add new opportunities
to your pipeline. You must add enough to
replace the opportunities that have flowed
out as Won and Lost deals.
This is your pipeline flow. To prevent your
pipeline from shrinking, you need to create
more opportunities than you lost – carefully
tracking your pipeline flow over time.
If you want to use your pipeline to make
accurate bookings forecasts, you need to
correctly define your pipeline stages and use
them to predict the likelihood of a deal
If an opportunity makes it to a certain stage,
you know the probability that it will ultimately
convert into a deal.
1. Design Your Sales Process for
Effective Pipeline Management
Your sales process should be mapped to the
steps your buyers take to buy from you.
According to CSO Insights, a formalized
sales process leads to:
• 53% increase in forecasted deals won
• 63% increase in reps making quotas
• 88% increase in companies hitting
Pipeline management is about tracking
open opportunities as they move through
your sales process.
If opportunities are stalling in particular
stages, you must look into the problem and
address it. The only way to do this is to
analyze your sales funnel by stage. Are you
losing a large share of deals in the same
When measuring your pipeline, you have to
know not just the number of total
opportunities in it, but also the value of all
If you have $5 million in your pipeline today
and a 31% overall win rate, you can feel
comfortable with hitting your $1 million sales
Sometimes you need a more detailed
understanding of your pipeline in order to
manage it effectively.
Don’t just look at your overall pipeline, but
drill down to view it at the rep level. Does on
rep have many opportunities in early stages?
Is that rep on target to hit their goals? The
pipeline analysis by rep can tell you.
Time kills all deals.
Knowing this, you should regularly check
open opportunities that are falling outside
your normal range for won deals. Compare
your won deals to your lost deals by sales
cycle. Tracking age in stage for won and lost
opportunities is a great way to evaluate the
open opportunities in your pipeline and their
likelihood of converting into deals.
A lengthy or increasing sales cycle is often
the byproduct of an unhealthy sales
Regularly measure your sales cycle to
ensure you’re closing opportunities quickly,
and no single stage is holding up deals.
Identify problematic stages and coach your
reps to improve their skills and move
opportunities through that specific stage.
You shouldn’t only look at your average
sales cycle in aggregate – you should also
analyze it by employee.
This gives you a much more detailed view
into why your sales cycle is changing and
what you can do to correct the problem. Is
one rep closing deals faster than others?
Learn what this rep is doing and use that
information to coach the rest of your team.
Maintaining a healthy pipeline means having
an accurate and up-to-the-minute picture.
To achieve this, you must closely monitor
changes to open opportunities, especially for
deals past Stage 2. If an opportunity has
changed its expected value or close date
multiple times, it may be less likely to
convert. Check in with reps regularly to see
how opportunities are changing.
You can’t base your forecast on guesses
about when opportunities will close.
Instead, multiply the value of opportunities in
each stage by the historical conversion rate
from that stage to Closed-Won. No
forecasting model is perfect, but we found
this provides a reliable figure and a simple
way to understand your sales process.
Want more sales pipeline
Check out the
full guide here.