• Revenue Operations

Sales Pipeline Reviews: Your Secret Weapon to Identifying Risk and Driving Predictable Revenue

Michael Lowe

Michael Lowe
Director of Content Marketing, Clari

Sales Pipeline Reviews: Your Secret Weapon to Identifying Risk and Driving Predictable Revenue

One of the most important elements of an effective sales pipeline management process is a regular sales pipeline review process, and that includes dedicated sales pipeline meetings. That’s because consistent pipeline generation is critical to predictable revenue, and the way to achieve that predictable revenue is for the entire revenue team to constantly inspect and analyze the sales pipeline.

The goal of the pipeline review is to regularly assess the health of open opportunities for your revenue team, and then either update current quarter sales forecasts or out-quarter pipeline coverage to accurately reflect the pipeline status, as well as come away with actionable insights for improving outcomes. This ensures deals are moving through the sales process efficiently and provides a natural moment to pressure-test the forecast.

But what is a sales pipeline review meeting? And how do you conduct a sales pipeline review?

What is a sales pipeline review meeting?

The purpose of a sales pipeline review meeting is to assess the status of opportunities in the pipeline across the business, down to each individual rep. The sales pipeline review can be both used as a forward-looking process to align on out-quarter goals, or in conjunction with a forecast call, which focuses on the deals likely to close within the current quarter, or the quarterly business review (QBR)

The goal is to help all deals move through the organization’s sales process as quickly and efficiently as possible, identifying potential sales pipeline risk or opportunity for acceleration. 

As Patrick Nguyen, Senior Solutions Consultant at Clari, notes, “according to Forbes, myopically focusing on the current quarter neglects the early pipeline stages, their progress, and their future value. This type of short-term thinking puts the health of the company’s revenue stream at risk.” 

That’s because focusing on the short-term shifts the priorities of the revenue operations team away from a strategic long-term mindset to a quest for current-quarter results, which ultimately causes leaders to sacrifice investment in tomorrow’s growth, he explains.

Who should attend a sales pipeline review?

Sales pipeline review meetings can involve a manager and a rep, or ladder up to the executive level. Generally speaking, they should include the entire revenue operations team members: sales, marketing and customer success, since each can make a valuable contribution to the pipeline management process. For example:

  • Sales can alert marketing and customer success teams to weak or slipped deals and follow up with them on targeted marketing campaigns or customer outreach to save these deals.
  • Marketing can reassign resources to double down in regions that might be short on pipeline.
  • Customer success can offer customer intros to companies with similar business motions when appropriate.

However, for managers, reps, and anyone else on the revenue team, sales pipeline reviews don't need to be reserved for organized meetings alone. In fact, sales pipeline reviews are actually most effective when all parties have inspected their pipeline and can come to the table with a point of view on how to take action. 

Reviewing your pipeline should become a regular habit. We share why below.

Why review the sales pipeline?

Why do you need a sales pipeline review meeting? Regular inspection of the sales pipeline (whether in meeting format or independently) is critical to the success of the organization as a whole. That’s because active analysis can ensure that the pipeline is healthy—reliable and accurate—and will allow the business to grow and invest confidently. Inaccuracies and discrepancies in the pipeline can lead to a missed forecast, which has major implications for the entire business.

Without an effective sales pipeline review, the organization:

  • Can’t assess the overall health of the sales pipeline 
  • Can’t identify upcoming pipeline risks and opportunities, resulting in poor visibility and an inability to plan for the future
  • Won’t have insight into reps’ sales performance and miss prime opportunities for coaching
  • Suffer from inaccurate sales forecasts

How to conduct a sales pipeline review meeting

At Clari, we focus on keeping sales pipeline review meetings productive and strategic by:

  • Showing up informed. Sales leaders, managers, and reps come to meetings with a point of view already formed by reviewing the most up-to-date deal data and preparing questions on key details in advance. As a sales manager, you can inspect deals from anywhere without having to grill the rep. You can access Clari and review on your own, in your own time, so when you show up to the pipeline review meeting, you have a point of view on what needs to be done and how to take action. 
  • Prioritizing. All our sales leaders, from the chief revenue officer to sales managers, come to pipeline reviews with priorities already outlined. They know which deals need strategic attention, which are in good shape, and which may need to be pushed out. In Clari, sales leaders can sort committed deals by AI-generated scores, allowing them to target at-risk opportunities for the meeting and assess whether it still makes sense to categorize these deals as committed based on the data science.
  • Inviting the entire Revenue Operations teams to the table. Marketing can see and review the deals for opportunities to accelerate with account-based marketing, while Customer Success might offer customer introductions to companies with similar business goals.
  • Looking ahead. Every two weeks, we focus on out-quarter pipeline inspection, a practice Okta used to support their growth goals pre-IPO. This conversation is led by the Marketing team.
  • Leveraging AI insights for pipeline coverage. With a tool like Clari, we can analyze years’ worth of historical data to predict the pipeline coverage required in each stage to hit our out-quarter revenue targets. The visibility at this level leads to better sales linearity and faster pipeline velocity. 

At Clari, we also continually follow the four-point deal inspection process to ensure that each deal in the pipeline is healthy and to know where to focus our time. The process involves asking:

    1. What changed in this deal? Deals are dynamic and shift every day. Clari automatically alerts you to changes within specific fields—like deal size, rep forecast, and close date—by color coding them so you know exactly what is happening. That way you’re working from the most up-to-date information and can jump in early to fix problems.
    2. How likely is this deal to close? Rather than relying on reps’ gut feelings, Clari leverages the power of AI to produce opportunity scores that indicate the likelihood of deals closing based on historical data and other factors in past closed-won and closed-lost deals.
    3. How much activity do we have on this deal? Another important component in assessing the progression of a deal is how much engagement of the prospect there is. Clari automatically pulls in data from outside CRM such as meetings, emails, phone calls, and Marketo campaigns related to clients to provide a much fuller picture of how active an opportunity really is. 
    4. Is this deal following our sales process? Clari’s Details Panel is customizable, so you can include the fields your team uses to ensure a deal is in the right place to close, such as sales methodologies. This way managers can review all of these details in one place so they can quickly and more accurately identify which deals are actually going to close.

Sample agenda for an effective sales pipeline review meeting

Now that you know what information to bring, and where to find that information, the next step to running a strategic pipeline review involves a targeted agenda. The following steps can ensure a smooth and effective pipeline review.

Assign homework. Prior to the meeting, make sure your reps and managers have done their own work to assess the health of each deal. Again, the four-point deal inspection makes this quick and easy.

Ask the sales rep or manager to summarize each deal. Dive into each of their deals and Use the data as your guide to avoid finger-pointing and keep the focus on teamwork and closing the deal. Ask pertinent questions such as:

  • What are the risks for this deal?
  • How might we accelerate this opportunity? 
  • How can we increase urgency if the opportunity has stalled?
  • What is the competition?

Create actionable next steps. After you’ve discussed the status of deals and devised solutions for moving them forward, create an action plan that you share in Clari and the CRM, so it is documented for accountability and referencing.

Generating one-off sales reports for pipeline review meetings can result in using outdated or incomplete data for important strategic decisions. Instead, consider running your meetings through Clari, where data is updated in real time so you can take action and make decisions based on reality.

After the pipeline review

Pipeline review meetings should result in clear takeaways. These might include:

  • Because the meeting time has been spent strategizing, rather than rehashing the news, the sales team will walk away better able to address issues proactively, as well as ensure the sales process is being followed for all deals.
  • The entire revenue operations team can determine whether deals are transitioning across teams at the right times, and whether opportunities are moving through the sales process and sales cycle at the right velocity. Ultimately this allows the RevOps team to make course-corrections as necessary and support the shared revenue targets.
  • Marketing can reorient its strategies to accelerate promising deals and save at-risk opportunities.

If you’re ready to take your sales pipeline reviews to the next level, see how Okta created a pipeline management process to support their aggressive growth and impending IPO—and learn how Clari can help make your pipeline inspection easier and more accurate. 

 

 

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