In this time of economic uncertainty, a critical recover strategy is getting a tighter handle on your engagement opportunities. By reigning in your firm’s sales process, you can apply the right resources, at the right time, to the right opportunities, and close more new business.

Set up a sales pipeline report to track each engagement opportunity in the firm, keeping track of the prospective client organization name as well as the contact name, telephone number, and e-mail address. In addition, you’ll want to track a brief description of each service and/or product that’s of interest and the source of each lead for tracking the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and for determining which marketing activities to favor.  If you don’t already have a contact management or CRM system in place, we have a great Excel template for you to start with – access it by clicking here.

As you’re setting up each opportunity, you will need to assign a probability that each engagement will close - we use a simple A, B, or C probability rating in our firm.

  • An A opportunity is one that needs services we can fulfill, their budget is within our range, we’re talking to the decision maker and their timing to close is within the next 60 days.
  • B opportunities are 61-90 days out in terms of close date, or ones where we are still qualifying the need to ensure we’re a fit.
  • We rate opportunities a C if their timing is 91 days or more away or if we may not be a fit on service need or budget.

By rating your prospects, you’ll be able to prioritize and focus energies on those most likely to close in the near term.

Each opportunity should also be assigned a single owner within your firm that is responsible for driving the engagement through the sales process and for updating the pipeline with the last date of contact, and the next follow-up action and date. These dates provide firm leadership with the exact status of each opportunity and can help identify any technical or leadership resources needed to support the sales process and help project future service and/or product demand, to assist in capacity projections, too.

In this time where most firms have more resources than they have work, it’s critical to be able to project out the future capacity needs of the firm and the pipeline is a rare leading indicator of your firm’s upcoming performance. Using it strategically can help you apply more marketing and sales resources to avert over-staffing issues and/or take necessary steps to reduce headcount if opportunities simply are not materializing or maturing as needed.

There has never been a more critical time to have solid information about your firm’s potential pipeline of new work – please start gathering this data in a sales pipeline report today!

If you’re already using a sales pipeline report, we’d love to hear from you on what solution you’re using to track and manage it, how often you produce the report, who reviews it and any other wisdom you have to share with our readers. And, if you are thinking about tracking your firm’s pipeline, we welcome your questions, too. Post away!