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A better sales pipeline

The problem with sales pipelines in professional services agencies.

Tim Copeland



A better sales pipeline

For most of my professional life, I headed the sales team for the digital agency I co-founded. As anyone who’s worn those shoes knows, there is one question you need to be able to answer above all others, which is this:

“What’s billing going to be next month?”

If you can’t answer that question, you’re leading the company with a blindfold on — and yet, despite its importance, it’s a deceptively hard question to answer accurately with few tools out there even trying to help.

Like most professional sales teams, we’d used a range of CRMs. Over the past few years these have become increasingly more powerful as communications and information discovery tools, but when it came to reporting on the financials I always found them stopping short of actually being useful as they answer a different question, “what’s our sales pipeline looking like” and “what work have we won”. A pipeline forecast chart might look pretty, but it’s a poor proxy for company billing or more importantly the performance of the business.

For example:

  • Consider a project that spans two years at $5k per month vs a project that spans two months at $60k per month. Both are worth $120k, yet they are fundamentally different. A pipeline report won’t differentiate the two.
  • Or consider two $100k projects. One starts next month, another in 12 months. A pipeline report won't differentiate between the two, but your cashflow sure will.

At the core of the problem is this: Services companies sell time — even for fixed price projects, there is a strong correlation between the work to be done, the people who can do it, and the time available. CRM Sales pipelines count the total value of the work, and where they are in the sales cycle. They don't consider timing of delivery, and therein lies their biggest weakness.

We built Runn to solve this problem. We let you take you sales pipeline and map it to a delivery schedule, giving you accurate billing forecasts.

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Article category
Sales and growth
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