Sales Pipeline Done Right – “Focus” a great tool for bootstrappers

Posted by on July 24, 2008 in Business Start Up Advice, Business Technology, Sales 2.0, Web 2.0 [ 0 Comments ]

Sales are the life blood of any company. Especially in the early stages, a startup business must sell in order to survive. The primary responsibility of its founders is to deliver growth and increased revenues in order to reach profitability.

Some companies succeed even with slower growth, while others struggle while making faster revenue gains. The reason for this is predictability – the founders achieve what they say they are going to achieve.

When predictability is so highly valued, making more money than forecast may be perceived as being as bad as not reaching stated targets. Companies often increase their forecasts if they are having a better year than expected because they don’t want their year-end figures to be higher than predicted. Conversely, organizations also downgrade their forecasts if things are not going as well as expected. Basically, the executives of the company need to demonstrate that they are in control. This is no different to sales people: they must also demonstrate control over their forecasts.

Each month and, more importantly, towards the end of the quarter, the sales professional puts forward his or her best guess as to where he or she will be in relation to their target when the quarter ends. As part of this prediction they may well also name one or two deals that they believe are crucial to them. These are often, if not always, the largest deals they have.

The data is then taken from the corporate pipeline and fed to the sales manager, who will manipulate it and feed it to the sales director or VP of sales. In turn, the head of sales will manipulate it further and feed the data, as a forecast, to the CFO and CEO. If it is going to be a bad quarter, they’ll be told so.

However, thanks to a chain of manipulation and wishful thinking, the figures at this stage will appear less grim than they really are. This allows the VP of sales to explain that with a fair wind they should just be able to turn it around and make the number.

The psychology of what’s happening is simple. People want to keep their jobs and believe that admitting that they’ll miss their quarterly target is not the best way to do that.

Sales professionals need tools to help them to do their job. Unfortunately, the tools supplied by a company are often for the benefit of the company itself and not to the individual’s advantage. Even then, the tools are rarely fit for purpose and most will not be able to adapt to taking a checks & balance approach.

For instance, the pipeline is used as a management tool to make sure there are enough deals in the right places to meet target. In other words it becomes a reporting tool. These reporting tools are often misguided in their approach to the problem.

A pipeline’s primary purpose is to show you are in control. It gives you the ability to predict the outcome, even if that outcome actually falls short of your sales target. Prediction is only successful when it’s accurate. If you say you’re going to come out at 100% and you come out at 110% that’s not good. It may be good in revenue terms but it’s not an accurate prediction.

Introducing Focus from First Border! Focus is a visual opportunity manager that’s easy to use and even quicker to set up. In a matter of minutes you can input the deals you’re working on now and see how closing them will affect your sales commission. It was made for all for us bootstrappers with limited resources; a copy of Focus is about $200.

Better still, it’s built to let you drag and drop deals within the application to show you how winning or losing any specific deal will affect your target and the resulting commission. With a series of grids that show you immediately the status of each opportunity, you know at a glance which deals are the important ones to work on to make your number and which deals you don’t have a chance of winning. Now you can save valuable time and put more energy into winning those deals that really matter.

The result? More accurate forecasting and maximized sales.

Focus is for those in sales who maintain a portfolio of sales prospects and who would like to simplify the challenge of managing the different priorities presented by the complexity of opportunities.

Focus is a personal sales productivity tool that provides a simple, quick and easy way to help focus on and manage the right opportunities at the right time in order to maximise sales and earnings.

Unlike the traditional corporate tools that are designed to provide benefit to the company, Focus delivers benefit directly to the sales professional.

The simplicity of Focus is the visual way in which the opportunities are managed through the buying process. You can see at a glance the status of your business.

Focus: Dashboard – Visual Performance Indicator

The Dashboard changes when deals are moved. This provides immediate visual and numeric status of performance against target and commission for both the current and potential outcome. If you drag a deal into or out of the forecast you will immediately see the impact it has on achieving target and commission earnings. Scenario planning couldn’t be easier.

Focus has minimum data requirements! Quick and easy updates

The only information required to enter a deal is the customer name and the date the deal is likely to close. All other information is optional. Typically, most people can input all their leads and opportunities in less than 10 minutes. New opportunities can be added in seconds.

If you enter the value of the deal you can use the Dashboard to immediately see the impact that deal has on the outcome of your sales period. Also, further information can be added at any time, but only add further information to those deals that are important. Therefore, maintaining Focus is quick and easy.

Drag & Drop for quick and easy updates

Once a deal is in it is moved between grids by Drag & Drop… making it very quick and easy to move deals around.
Deal Information and Plans – For total control

Focus allows you to maintain full Deal Information and Plans for all your important deals. Qualification questions are built in and work on a traffic-light system for quick visual representation of qualification risk.

Deal Plans help you think through the opportunity by developing a series of questions that need answering. These questions help you progress the deal by highlighting your risk of losing due to lack of knowledge of the deal. By finding answers to the questions you make the deal more robust and increase your chance of winning. Deal plans also make it easy to communicate the status of the deal to others.

Reports – for easy sharing

Focus provides a series of standard reports for sharing of information. The reports can be saved in various formats allowing further changes to be made or adding the information to other documents very easy.

Filters – for easy review & sharing

Focus allows you to filter all opportunities across various criteria. You can filter by Customer, Private or Public deals, Partners, Co-Workers, Teams, Sectors, Close Dates and Sales Periods.

You can also see all the opportunities and with their corresponding deal plans. You may also wish to set up lead generation labels as Teams. You can then view your opportunities by lead generation source and share the progress of these leads.

This is just is just a starting point of all of the things Focus can do. For more go to and read more under products.

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