For me, the first sign of a healthy business is a solid stream of new business; this means there is a continual flow of new leads and contacts connecting with your sales team and being managed and actioned via the CRM.  If this process is working well for your company, its probably due to the well organised sales strategy which lays out how a lead is nurtured and engaged with; it probably looks like this. 1) execute nurture tasks, 2) set up a first meeting to establish rapport and showcase capabilities, 3) book a second meeting to dive deeper into the issues and build knowledge, 4) schedule a third meeting to collaborate on the findings and then finally 5) a fourth meeting to present a proposal. At some point in the cycle, an opportunity is opened to track the potential income.

My thoughts are that when companies focus on designing their CRM, they focus on the wrong “pipeline” which renders most tools within the CRM ineffective or underutilised. Conventional wisdom states that your opportunity pipeline (potential income) defines the organisations sales focus but for me, the focus should be on the activity pipeline which offers a better understanding of where in the process (and relationship) you are with your leads.

The activity pipeline and understanding it is the breakpoint within any CRM platform.  This is the key indicator to your future success because it allows you a view of where your sales teams are within the salecycle on any day. It’s a leading indicator. So much knowledge is available in this activity pipeline and yet I very rarely see it implemented or managed properly.

When focus is on the opportunity pipeline and not on the activity pipeline, by definition you only pick up ‘insight’ when an opportunity or proposal is submitted (enters the system) – it is a variable.  The deficiency is that it actually offers minimal insight for management, because it is a single dimension number. My professor at university said during a sales management course “…good or bad sales number (opportunity pipeline) are only a sign, the story is in the reps activity”.

There is no doubt that the opportunity pipeline is important, but it’s a supporting data point, not the primary data point. The leg work to nurture a relationship and the empathy to understand your client is the key in turning that lead into a customer.  Performance insight is found by following a methodology, repeatedly executing against its prescribed action points, comparing these action points over time, and measuring them against the opportunity pipeline from period to period. Without the solid data points recording activity, true performance cannot be measured effectively.

Every member of the sales team should know their activity numbers as well as their team numbers at any point in time.  If we live and die by the numbers, then at least let’s make them be the right numbers. Let’s face it chasing a money number period after period is binary and yet we as living breathing people are multidimensional.  By focusing on the science, I’m sure we can improve the art of sales.

If your sales strategy needs innovation call @Fraser Morrison.  If your CRM Data Points need to be aligned better with your sales strategy, I would welcome the opportunity to share my passion and success with you.