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Best Practices for B2B Sales Pipeline and Forecast Management

Authored by Ric Ratkowski on January 21, 2020

New year, new blog series!  

The new blog series will focus on “Best Practices for B2B Sales Pipeline and Forecast Management”.   This covers a big area so this series could take most of 2020 to complete and its frequency will be more often than once a month.   

The reason for this blog series is companies continue to rely on human intuition and instinct to produce sales forecasts.  They continue to spend significant time managing, manually reviewing and updating the sales forecast despite advances in sales technology.

Focus of the Best Practices

The best practices to be covered will not be lofty, “boil the ocean water” best practices.  They will focus on tactical areas, and fixing specific bottlenecks and problems many companies face in B2B Sales Forecasting.  These best practices are based on our customer’s experiences.

To support the implementation of these best practice implementation These best practices will be written up in a “baseline”, “good”, “better”, “best”, progressive format.  This may feel like an oxymoron because “good” and “better” are obviously not “best practices”, but the purpose is to provide a migration path from baseline to “best” and help companies evolve their sales organization.

The best practices will be organized along the following five categories:

  • Data Access
  • Sales Process
  • Opportunity Management
  • Sales Pipeline Analytics
  • Sales Forecast

Organizing the best practices will be a bit of a challenge because these categories are tightly related.  The following diagram helps visualize the interrelationship.  

Best Practice in B2B Sales Pipeline Management and Forecasting Model

The core of the diagram is the sales process, opportunity [pipeline] management and the sales forecast but to have a data driven process you need both access to data and the related analytics they drive.  The basis for the sales forecast is the current sales pipeline, along with all the past history of close-won and close-lost opportunities and their related drivers and attributes. The sales process drives opportunity management as a basis for the sales forecast.  Accuracy and efficient execution of the sales forecast also drives opportunity management.

The evolution to best practices needs to be worked across all of these areas in parallel.  Incremental enhancements in one area creates positive impact in the other categories. Likewise, striving for perfection in one area while ignoring the other areas will experience diminishing returns.

A Perspective on an Accurate Sales Forecast

The ultimate outcome of best practices in B2B Sales Pipeline and Forecast Management is an accurate sales forecast.  Sales forecasting is a foundational process and an accurate sales forecast is an indicator that goes beyond the ability to predict the future.   A consistent accurate sales forecast is the result of a well managed/well defined sales process that supports and works in harmony with the customer buying process.   An accurate sales forecast reflects a good sales process. An additional outcome of an accurate sales forecast and a good sales process is sales growth.

Summary

I hope this was enough of a definition of “Best Practices in Sales Forecasting and Pipeline Management” to get you interested! 

My next blog will dig into the best practices related to data and data collection and access.

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