Friday, February 22, 2008

16) The dreaded opportunities pipeline

If your company is currently using an opportunities pipeline, you are likely using it for one or both of the following reasons:

  1. To understand how many units you will have to manufacture or order to fill the orders in progress

  2. To put pressure on your sales force through activity controls

If you are using your pipeline for purpose number one, the system is probably working for you. Because it is used to fulfill sales rep orders, such a system is considered "High Card" by your sales reps (providing it is the only method by which the information is communicated), the reps will regard it as a tool to their advantage.

If you are using it for purpose number two, or both one and two, I am sure the pipeline is a major source of tension between managers and sales reps. The "CRM Dilemma" is epitomized by the opportunities pipeline by being the ultimate in activities control for your sales force. I would also bet that the following is occuring:

  • Your highest performing sales reps use (and are required to use) the pipeline, far less than lower performing reps. This is because the pipeline is not a tool, but an accountability. Your best reps require less accountability because "We already know they are doing the right things."

  • Sales reps that use the pipeline the most (If you have any) will not represent your highest performers. This is because the pipeline does not truly provide guidance to your reps - They already know how they are doing in sales by knowing their outcomes.

If your reps don't see personal value in the pipeline, they aren't using it anyway so kill it, kill it dead!

The really important pipeline

While opportunities management in CRM is the antithesis of PACT, PACT can be used as your greatest indicator about the effectiveness of your current strategies. Going back to the new product launch in Post #8, which would be the greatest indicator of the acceptance of your new product by sales reps and customers?:

  1. A "hit and miss"report from CRM on which reps have said they would do the presentation, and to whom. Combined with:
  2. A report on those reps that have completed the presentation. Combined with:
  3. A drop-down report from reps in CRM as to why they did not make the sale after the presentation. Combined with:
  4. An ERP report on orders received


  1. A report from PACT on those reps that have scheduled appointments with customers during the sell-in period. Combined with:
  2. A report on those reps that have requested the new product sell-in package for those customers. Combined with:
  3. Feedback from sales reps and customers regarding what they said about the new product line and the presentation tools. Combined with:
  4. An ERP report on orders received.

The key difference is that PACT offers a level of safety tin the minds of sales reps because it focuses on planning and communication that they consider meaningful.

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