10 Things You Need To Show On Your Pipeline Report

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At the end of the day, a customer relationship management (CRM) system is nothing more than a good database with good information about your customers, prospects, partners and community. One of the most effective ways to promote the adoption of your CRM system is to use it to generate reports.  

Like any database it will provide important information to help you run your business. If you're getting a few good reports out of your CRM system on a consistent basis then you will find yourself relying on the system more and more - and demanding better and more relevant information from your team.

Of all the reports used by my client base, the Pipeline Report is by far the most important. The senior managers at the companies of my best clients rely on this report to tell them where every potential opportunity stands so they can look towards the future and better understand what's coming...well…down the pipe. It should be the very first report you use as part of your CRM system and you should be looking at this information frequently - weekly, if not daily. 

So, what kind of information is important to have on your Pipeline Report? You must include these ten things:

Contact info.  This is straight forward.  The name and company of your prospect is usually sufficient. Also helpful is the city and state in case you want to sort or only show by region.

Who's Responsible.  This is the internal person at your company that owns the opportunity. It's your sales rep. It could also include that person's sales manager.  You may be generating your report for all opportunities or just for certain people.

Date Created.  This is the date that the opportunity made it on your Pipeline Report. What's your criteria for adding?  For me, it's when a formal quote has been sent. But some of my clients have different triggers, like after the first face to face.

Date Expected to Close.  Self-explanatory.  My only advice though is to stress the accuracy of this.  This date drives projected cash flow.

Probability/Stage. This is a critical number. It's a percentage.  Some of my clients get very complicated with this, creating many percentages that are related to the stage of the opportunity.  I've found that simpler works better.  For example, my company has 3 probability/stages:  50% for when a quote is first issued, 80 percent for when a prospect says "yes, we're moving forward" (because nothing is 100 percent until the check's in the bank) and 20% if a prospect is losing interest.

Value. This is the total value of the deal.

Weighted Value. This is the total value of the deal multiplied by the probability percentage. The idea here is that when you add up all the weighted values of all the opportunities for a period you'll have a working average potential sales for that period.  As you get better at doing this you'll see how important the probability percentage is.

Notes.  Self-explanatory. Anything that's particular to the deal or the prospect that the team should know about.

Last Action.  This (and next action below) oftentimes left off of these reports and yet my smartest clients know that that it's probably the two most important things to include. Why? Because what's the first and next question you ask when looking at a potential deal.  Isn't it "what happened last with this prospect?' and then "what's next?"  All potentials should have a detailed history of communications so a manager can feel comfortable that the prospect is fully on everyone's radar and all should have some type of a next action scheduled because you don't want anything falling through the cracks.

Next Action.  See Last Action above.

So this is your Pipeline Report.  My advice if you're thinking of a CRM system is to make this your #1 deliverable in the first thirty days.  Get rid of your spreadsheets, tell your people to do their data entry in the system and make it clear that you're going to be using the data from the system to manage your group - or company.  If you've already got a CRM system and you're still running your deals from a spreadsheet then you're making a mistake.  A good CRM system will do any calculation that a spreadsheet can - and then provide a ton more information that no spreadsheet can match.  

Watch what happens after you're using a great Pipeline Report.  You'll be thrilled.

Gene Marks is a columnist, author, and small business owner. He writes daily for The Washington Post newspaper and weekly for Forbes magazine, The Huffington Post website, Inc. magazine, Entrepreneur.com, Fox Business and Philadelphia Magazine.

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