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Partnering Out, Sales, Sales Funel

Creating a sales funnel structure can certainly feel like the hardest part of managing your opportunity pipeline process – but managing its health frequently and making sure it’s performing well can sometimes be a lot harder.

In this latest entry, we discuss the concept of “Sales Funnel Health”. How do you measure it, and how do you know if the results are good or bad?

What do you consider “healthy”?

Sara Smith, VP of Sales at Acme Medical Solutions, has been given a revenue goal of $10 Million – a 25% growth compared to last year’s results. Requiring an additional $2 Million in sales, Sara is forecasting her existing base of business will grow $1.2 Million, leaving $800K still unaccounted for. Thus, Sara needs her funnel to produce and close opportunities that have sales this fiscal year worth at least $800K.

This basic exercise should be Step #1 of all health measurements – a funnel value by itself with no context is worthless. To truly understand your funnel health, you first need to have an understanding of how you need it to perform – and measure its health accordingly.

Measuring Quality, Not Just Quantity

Let’s start off by saying the obvious: the health of your sales funnel is not dictated just by how much dollar value is in your funnel, but how much dollar value is likely to be realized (and when).

Therefore, it’s important to have an idea of how much “falls out” of your funnel – i.e. your close rate/funnel factor. Some organizations manage this at a very high level – saying that only “X%” of all opportunities make it through to “Closed Won” – regardless of the type of opportunity or activity.

Others manage this in much more minute detail – basing it on a combination of closing history, or using selling/buying stages to assign a level of risk for each individual opportunity.

Regardless of what system you use (we’ll discuss various approaches in greater detail in our  upcoming “Forecasting Risk” blog entry), make sure it accurately reflects your selling cycle and customer buying process.

In our example above, Sara is using a general assumption that only 25% of all opportunities will close and produce revenue (conversion rate).

Are you Top-Heavy?

Another important aspect of knowing how your funnel is positioned for success is by knowing where your opportunities are positioned vs. where they need to be.

In our example with Sara, she’s applying a 25% conversion factor no matter the opportunity or where it’s at in terms of funnel progression. So this covers risk, but it doesn’t account for selling cycle time.

Here’s a (very) simple example: Let’s assume your selling cycle is 12 months – and you classify your opportunities by where they are in your selling cycle: Sampling (Takes 4 months), Testing (Takes 6 Months), Evaluating/Deciding (Takes 2 Months), Closed Won/Closed Lost.

If you’re 6 months into your year, and all your opportunities for this fiscal year are at the “Sampling” stage, then it’s likely that at the very least they’ll take 8 more months to close – time you don’t have.

Not to mention, just because they CLOSE at a certain date doesn’t mean you’ll get all the revenue from them in the time you need it. If your fiscal year ends Dec 31, and they sign an agreement on Dec 30th – unless you can get product out the door and recognize that revenue in time, that signed agreement doesn’t do much good if you’re behind on your sales number.

Therefore it’s important to note not only just the value of your opportunities and when they’re closing, but making sure you’ve got the right proportion of opportunities spread throughout your funnel stages to hit your numbers.

The Doctor Will See You Now

Like going to the doctor or a dentist, you maintain your own health (and catch things early) when you go in for regularly scheduled check-ups. The same holds true for your sales pipeline/funnel.

Back at Acme Medical Solutions, and halfway through her fiscal year, Sara has finished her monthly review with her sales team and their funnel opportunities. After the data has been crunched, here’s what she found: She has opportunities scheduled to close in this fiscal year, based on her selling cycle/stages, worth $2.5M in realized revenue – not adjusted for risk. So is this good or bad?

Well, using her assumption that only 25% of her opportunities will make it to the “Closed Won” stage, her funnel is NOT performing where she needs it to be.

In order to hit her goal of $800K in new business this fiscal year, she needs her funnel value to equal at least $3.2M to hit her goal (Remember her conversion rate assumes 75% of her all her opportunities will not come to fruition).

So her funnel value is short by $700K this fiscal year. Time to start hunting!

What About Next Year?

It’s important to remember that funnel health is not just determined by how much, but also by when.

Let’s assume Sara’s funnel was doing well for this fiscal year and the opportunities she had would most likely enable her to hit her $10 Million revenue goal.

What about next year? And the year after that?

If it takes Sara’s business, on average, 12 months to find, qualify, and nurture/close a new opportunity, finding out that her funnel is short with 6 months left in the year can be disastrous.

Making sure to frequently manage both short-term and long-term funnel health is key. It can give you a head-start on outlining and executing the activities your sales team needs in order to hit your numbers for this year, and all the years to come.

Key Takeaways

  1. Know how much of your sales number needs to come from new business – and make sure your funnel meets that requirement.
  2. How do you forecast risk? Make sure the approach is aligned with the nature of your customers and selling cycle.
  3. Don’t be top heavy in your funnel – make sure your opportunity mix matches where you need them to be in the corresponding funnel stages.
  4. Make sure all the timing information you have in your funnel is linked to revenue realization, and not just contract/agreement signing dates.
  5. Using regularly scheduled session with your sales team can help you pressure-test your assumptions and uncover the “real” health of your sales pipeline!
  6. Manage short and long-term in your funnel – this year’s success may be completely separate from how your funnel is meeting future revenue target needs.



Marketing, Partnering Out, Sales

The age old debate. Is a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool nice-to have, or need-to-have? What is it about a spreadsheet that seems so bad when it comes to managing your opportunities? And are we asking ourselves the right questions about how to achieve maximum effectiveness?

Small businesses everywhere can struggle with managing costs while looking for the tools that can help them bring in those extra leads, close opportunities, and GROW. Here we take a look at how maybe it’s not just about the right tool for managing opportunities, but WHO is doing it as well.

CRM vs. Spreadsheets

If you haven’t looked at some of the newest CRMs out there, do yourself a favor and take a gander. There are lots of companies that have platforms that can be easy and effective to use, based on what you need. And the costs can be lower than you expected too. A CRM tool is a great investment if it meets your needs and you don’t spend weeks trying to figure out how to use it. 

BUT – if you don’t have the luxury of spending more money (and you’ve got some spare data entry time on your hands), spreadsheets can be a “good enough” temporary option. 

We feel your pain. When AIDO first started, we perfected our own  “sales funnel spreadsheet” and it met our needs – up to a point. 

Define Your Needs

What was that point, you ask?

 came when we really thought about what were the key pieces of information we needed to hit our growth goals. In other words, what were the blind spots in our lead and opportunity management that were causing us to mismanage that portion of our business?

To test our blind spots and assumptions, we began to ask ourselves a few questions:

– What was our “true” ROI when it came to our individual marketing activities – and which provided the highest return?
– What were the highest time-consuming opportunities in our funnel that yielded the lowest revenue potential? 
– What key new markets and trends should we devote more resources to based on our leads?
– How could we coach our sales team to help them, and the business, improve?

That was just the first 10 minutes. The list grew and grew – and our blind spots soon became much more apparent.

Define Your Methodology

After putting our list together, we had to sit down and determine what our “methodology” was going to be – not only with how we captured data, but what set of rules did we want to apply to it that turned reams of data into insights that really helped us manage our business. 

This was a much longer and very interesting discussion. It touched on what we defined as “good” and “bad” metrics – and everyone had different ideas on both.

But by constantly measuring it against where we needed the business to be in one, three, or five years and beyond, this discussion helped guide us to an agreement about what our methodology was going to be.

What are some of your potential blind spots and methodology? Ask yourself the following basic questions:

– What’s your ROI on each of your marketing activities? Is it good or bad – and why?
– What’s your philosophy on applying levels of risk to opportunities in your sales funnel – and what are your rules governing that?
– Whats are the key new market segments for your business indicated by your leads and opportunities this year – and why are they drawn to you?

The Missing Ingredient

Let’s assume you’ve figured out your blind spots – and you know what methodology and software (CRM or otherwise) you’re going to use to fix it. But who on your team is going to manage this thing and give you the key insights you need to grow? All the software in the world isn’t going to help if you’re not giving this the attention it deserves.

Do you have a dedicated CRM headcount on your team that’s responsible for administering,  analyzing, and reporting the status of all your leads and opportunities?

Yes? Congratulations – you’re ahead of the game. By the way, hoping your sales team is entering in their data correctly and updating it promptly doesn’t count.

If you answered “No”, welcome to the club. Like many small businesses, everyone wears lots of hats and workloads are heavy.

So now you’re stuck with the traditional options – hire someone else full-time to do it or try and do it yourself, on a part-time basis, and hope that’s enough (spoiler alert: it’s probably not).

Thankfully, there’s a third option.

High Talent & Low Commitment – BPO

Some companies are recognizing this predicament and provide solutions to bridge the gap between full-time expertise and part-time costing.

Rather than being temp agencies or head hunters, these companies maintain a full-time staff with expert qualifications that work with small to medium size businesses to “lend” you out their Directors, Managers, or Analysts on a part-time basis based on your needs.

This is known as “business process outsourcing” or BPO.

Ideally, you want a partner that is local to you, and has the expert resources to help you conduct high-level goal and strategy discussions – while also being able to help in the day-to-day tactical execution of that strategy. 

“What’s the catch?” you may be asking. Usually the limitation is time – in other words you get these resources for a fixed amount of hours per month with a set of deliverables agreed-upon beforehand. So instead of a variable cost every month – you know exactly what you’re getting, and for how much.

Done correctly, you’re getting high-quality “full headcount” results at part-time cost. 

BPO In Action

Based on our discussion above, here’s an example of how the right BPO partner could plug into your business:

Needs/Blind Spot Discussion: BPO Partner helps you identify your goals and outline your growth strategies – then uses this to determine blind spots.

Methodology: BPO Partner helps you define your methodology based on how your business works and your growth targets.

Software Solution: BPO Partner helps you review software solutions based on your Needs and Methodology – and then help you select one and customize it to meet all your needs from Day 1.

Execution: BPO Partner acts as your dedicated Solution Administrator – they run the data to make sure it’s correct, they report to you on it frequently and provide you conclusions and key insights on your business while you’re freed up to manage all the other movings parts of your business.


So there you have it. There are solutions to help your small business access the very latest in Sales and Marketing strategy, using the latest tools, to grow your business – all while freeing up both your time and resources. 

Business Process Outsourcing can be the ace in the hole for businesses of all sizes – but especially so for small size businesses looking to achieve significant growth quickly.

Sound interesting? Reach out to us if you’d like to know more.