• Revenue Operations Sales Execution

5 Data-Driven Methods for Inspecting Sales Pipeline

Kyle Coleman

Kyle Coleman
VP of Growth and Enablement

5 Data-Driven Methods for Inspecting Sales Pipeline

In the previous installment, we reviewed a few ways to think about building and measuring sales pipeline, in pursuit of predicting your revenue outcomes. But we only scratched the surface. Today, we’re sharing how to probe several layers deeper to develop a true understanding of the quality of your pipeline — and the potential action plans you can pursue as a result.

What is the balance of your ‘Quarter-to-Date’ pipeline created?

In the view above, we’re bucketing pipeline created by deal size (y axis) and stage progression (colors. Gray refers to opportunities in contract negotiation, for example). This is a very useful way to assess sales pipeline risk that may exist in your pipeline.

Imagine a scenario where most of your pipeline was in the >$1m bucket. If you can easily visualize that, then you know if you lose or slip a handful of those deals your whole quarter will be compromised.

A more balanced mix, like the graph shown above, helps drive predictability because the higher quantity of smaller deals can help smooth out any irregularities that might happen with one of the larger deals.

This view helps me prioritize which deals to inspect with sales leaders and helps us decide which deals should get additional focus from the marketing or SDR teams. The earlier in the opportunity lifecycle you have this conversation with your sales teams, the more effective you can be with deal acceleration and account-based marketing programs.

How much pipeline is coming from account-based marketing (ABM) programs?

Your account-based marketing (ABM) program will include accounts that have been pre-vetted by sales and marketing and represent your ideal customer profile (ICP).

In the view above, you can see a major discrepancy in the performance of the West region’s key accounts compared to other territories. Assuming the same number of accounts were selected in each region, we can see that something isn’t working as expected with those West accounts. I can take this analysis to our growth marketing team to dive into the ABM tactics and discover what’s not working.

We ask questions like:

  • What’s the click through rate on digital ads?
  • What’s the attendance rate for bespoke virtual events?
  • What’s the engagement rate with various nurture streams?

I can also speak to the sales and SDR team to understand:

  • Is messaging falling flat?
  • Can we get some exec or BOD intros to accounts?
  • Would additional budget for direct mail tactics be warranted?

The key takeaway is that we can very easily see what’s working and what isn’t.

Account-based marketing is a company-wide effort, so using a metric that the entire company cares about is essential to optimizing the program for the right outcomes.

Sidenote: There are operational underpinnings in the CRM that support this type of analysis. Each account you’re targeting with ABM efforts should be marked as such in your CRM. You can then pull that tag into Clari for analysis. We created a field called “ABM Target Quarter” to easily analyze the results of quarterly ABM efforts.

Measuring the movement of opportunities created this quarter

An incredible way to visualize pipeline quality is to see in real-time how the pipeline created this quarter is flowing through the sales cycle. I can drill into any of the categories above and get an instant understanding of whether these deals are closing, slipping or being lost.

I can then work with the sales AVPs and individual reps to get a qualitative understanding of each segment, as well as work with the SDR and marketing teams to explore the source of these opportunities and get insights about which campaigns and programs are leading to the highest quality pipeline that has the right kind of velocity.

If we can pinpoint a certain industry or company size or region that has the right average sales price (ASP) and in-quarter velocity, we can double down on those efforts.

This analysis also informs conversations with finance. Since our pipeline goals are heavily influenced by deal velocity we can test assumptions in real-time, and make adjustments as needed to keep the top of the funnel full.

We always know exactly what’s going on with the pipeline inventory we have, which allows for a remarkable degree of agility in our inbound and outbound programs, as well as our marketing spend.

In the image above, I’ve highlighted the “Slipped” deals. These are defined by deals that had a close date in the current quarter and have now been pushed out to a future quarter. Let’s drill into these slipped deals to get a sense of what’s going on, and what we can do about it.

Drilling into ‘Slipped’ opportunities

When we click on “Slipped”, we can drill down to the deal level. These were in the “Commit” forecast category before, so what happened?

Without ever leaving this view, I can inspect these deals to review the sales team’s notes, the deal health score Clari’s AI assigns (called “CRM Score”), and all other key factors that are influencing the deals.

With this information, I can sit down with the sales teams to get to the root of why these deals are slipping. From there, we can determine which deals we may be able to reinvigorate and pull back into the quarter — and how. We design cross-functional plays to run with the marketing, SDR, sales, and executive team. Everyone knows their role, what’s being asked of them, and why it’s important.

Revenue truly is a team sport and this methodology ensures we’re always functioning as a team.

How did opportunities closing next quarter move through the pipeline this quarter?

As we evaluate pipeline quality, we’re not just looking at QTD (quarter-to-date) creation. We’re also looking at next quarter coverage to ensure that we’re putting ourselves in a position to hit our revenue targets. Our sales cycle can span a few quarters, so we always need to keep an eye on the out-quarter flow.

The view above is monitoring the pipeline that is set to close next quarter, and tracking how it’s moved throughout the current quarter. Similar to the view above, we’re able to explore the same consideration set across our marketing, SDR, sales, and executive team in order to run the right plays that keep deals warm and increase the likelihood of them closing as scheduled.

This is just one way we think about ‘next quarter pipeline’. The next post in this series will be a deep dive into next quarter forecasting, pipeline coverage, and revenue team actions.

Interested in reading more about pipeline management? We have you covered:

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