I remember well from my various roles in sales the pressure of weekly forecast meetings, having to answer the simple yet ever so hard question: How much revenue will come in this month? Truly a moment of truth.

Business leaders need accurate sales pipelines for reliable forecasting.  However, almost every leader I work with faces challenges when it comes to reliable revenue forecasting. It is frustrating and stressful for all stakeholders. At the end of the day, how can you grow a business without reasonable revenue flow certainty?

If we want the sales pipeline to be a more realistic representation of revenue forecast, the answer lies in the way sales pipeline reviews are conducted.

What I typically see is that both manager and sales person look at a CRM report on a weekly basis and go line by line through the opportunities. Some numbers are updated, it is debated why a deal has been lost, and celebrated that a deal has been won. Close dates are adjusted, and this month’s forecast moved into next month. Most of the time is spent on story telling about the deal and bouncing ideas about what the next best step might be.

This approach is a recipe for inaccuracy and frustration.

How to run a Sales Pipeline review meeting – Getting to the truth:

To start, introduce a new meeting etiquette and enforce it. No storytelling, no discussion, no judgement, just facts. Only focus on what changed from one week to the next. Make changes to the CRM during the meeting.

The three indicators that matter most in a pipeline review:

  1. MOVEMENT: The movement along the sales pipeline is the most important indicator. If deals don’t move in line with expected sales cycles and are stuck, they need attention or should get qualified out.
  2. SIZE: The right coverage in terms of sales value at every sales stage in line with conversion ratios. If you have coverage in terms of value but everything is resting on two big deals, you have a risk. If you have too many small deals, it will be hard to manage.
  3. MIX: The right shape in term of deal mix. Does the pipeline support your business objectives? Is the spread across your portfolio, right? Are opportunities in the right target market? Will the mix deliver the profit you need?

If you structure your weekly meeting agenda around these three factors, you will soon see very different results. It will save you a lot of time, give you more accuracy and tell you what to focus on.

5 questions for an effective 1:1 weekly meeting agenda:

There are five core questions that need to be included in every pipeline review agenda:

Question 1:  Which deals have been won or lost  

Start with wins, then look at the losses. Then look at what was in the forecast and didn’t close, park them and schedule a separate review time. Don’t ask “why”, reserve that for a deep dive session. Have a look at the lost deals and schedule loss-reviews where you are not clear why the competitor won to distill what can be done better next time.

Question 2: Which opportunities have moved from one stage to another?

This will get your focus on movement along the sales process, which is the most important information to capture and review. You will also see which opportunities are not moving on and you can schedule time to look at this in more detail. The sales pipeline is bi-directional, deals can advance or go backwards, and you really want to know both to lift accuracy.

Question 3: How many more qualified opportunities have been added to the pipeline?

Pay attention to both the number, type and the value of opportunities and sense check if the conversion ratios work so you know about risks early. Just capture the facts and schedule additional time on this point if the pipeline doesn’t look right.

Question 4: Which deals will close this month and WHY?

There is a difference between deals that “could” close and deals you “know” will close. Accept only deals into a realistic forecast where you have evidence that a decision in your favour will be made. Review the deals in the forecast in depth in a follow-up deal review meeting to test all assumptions and risks which will  assure that all actions are taken to close them.

One of the best qualifying question is: “What will happen if they don’t sign this month?”  If customers don’t have a so-called compelling event that drives a timeline, anything can happen which means the forecast is softer.

Question 5: What is your focus for next week to add opportunities and/or to move opportunities on?

Look at the overall shape of the sales person’s pipeline to get the right focus. If pipeline coverage is too low, agree on specific activities to fill it. If the pipeline is looking too thin later in the sales cycle, focus on moving qualified opportunities on. Try not to ask for both – it dilutes the focus. Focus on what’s most important, achievable and get the commitment that it will be actioned.

At the end of the meeting agree which opportunities you want to review in more depth and schedule appropriate time.

Pipeline review and deal planning need separate meetings

The pipeline review meeting does not replace the need for in depth deal reviews or account planning where the qualitative part of the review comes into play.  One is for status and facts; the other is for analysis and creative problem solving. Reference your documented sales process to understand where you are at and what to do next.

A word of warning

When you decide to give this approach a shot and introduce it to your team, it is likely that the following will happen:

  • Your Sales People may feel micro-managed. Explain that this is not about their performance, but about the simple business imperative to increase the certainty of forecast.
  • You will struggle keeping the meeting etiquette, but you really need to enforce it. We all love the story telling but this is not the time to do it.
  • Avoid the temptation to judge and create a safe environment where deals progress and go backwards, are qualified out or lost. If you allow negativity, it will destroy the honesty and trust that is required for this process to deliver a realistic pipeline status.
  • If you want to give this approach a go, you need to stick with it for at least 2-3 months to see a difference.


About Business Backstage: Ursula Dauenhauer, Founder of Business Backstage, is passionate about helping medium sized B2B companies who are great at what they do to achieve their sales aspirations. For over 15 years now, Ursula has been working hand-in-hand with business leaders to gain confidence in their sales pipelines and build a scalable sales structure & process. Call Ursula on 0401 147 493 or email ursula@gotomarketconsulting.com.au for a chat.