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Achieving consistent and reliable sales forecasts depends heavily on the sales manager’s competencies in conducting 1:1 sales pipeline reviews with their team.

Pipeline management and forecasting are different, yet many firms focus most of their attention on the forecast at the expense of pipeline management.

A lack of focus on pipeline management often accompanies inadequate sales pipeline reports and a lack of understanding and adoption of sales stages.

Here’s a straightforward way to think about the difference between pipeline management and forecasting:

Sales Stages should reflect where the customer is in the buying process (it’s always objective). The Forecast Category should reflect the salesperson’s assessment (subjective) of the likelihood of winning. The two are not interchangeable, and you can’t correlate a forecast category (subjective) to a sales stage (objective).

Organizations all too often elect to conduct weekly forecast calls instead of monthly in hopes of improving forecast consistency and accuracy. We liken this approach to navigating New York City’s streets with a City of Chicago map. No matter how many hours you spend trying to navigate, you will only make progress with the correct map. The output of good pipeline management is the proper map for the forecast process.

When sales managers conduct regular 1:1 pipeline reviews with their direct reports, pipeline health, quality, and hygiene improve.

Shifting an organization’s focus to a disciplined, more transparent, and more effective pipeline management process can be incredibly difficult. However, without a shift, improving the consistency and accuracy of the forecast will be practically impossible.

In summary, sales pipeline management is a critical competency for sales managers because it enables them to develop consistent and reliable sales forecasts. The heart of pipeline management is the 1:1 pipeline reviews between the sales manager and the salesperson.

If your organization struggles with forecast accuracy, emphasize a 1:1 pipeline review discipline. Sales forecast improvements will soon follow.

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