“How to” guide: Pipeline Efficiency – Time to gain insight

KPI – How to measure Pipeline efficiency


Here you find some ideas on how to consider and calculate your pipeline efficiency. More important than to get the exact right formula, is that you consistently apply the same formula month after month, to compare progress.


You may want to have a look at this previous article for the discussion of Pipeline Efficiency and why it is so important. In short, what we are looking for is a way to measure the effort we have spent on all deals that were lost, and that we could have avoided if we had done a better qualification in the first call with the prospect.


First examine the typical successful sales cycle, look at the deals that were actually closed, look for patterns and try to establish what “it takes”, try to quantify the effort. This will be the yellow rectangle in our picture on the left side.


Then compare it to the total time your team spends on sales, prospecting, qualification, value demonstration and negotiation, your own “curve” in the diagram. Remember that you need to include all the calls and mails done to prospects that did not become customers as well, your total time employed, and remember to include time spent from people in other parts of your company, technical sales, admin, development, support team etc.


If you do good and reliable activity tracking in your CRM system, then you are only a simple query away from an automated report, otherwise you could do this as a team exercise on your next sales kickoff perhaps. (do have a look at our article on CRM adoption in your company “selecting a CRM that rolls itself out”)


The two effort “meters”

There are basically two pieces of data that you need.

  • Effort you spend in successful deals only,
  • Effort you spend in total – (i.e. worked hours)

As simple as that..



1.    Effort in successful deals


First of all, take the deals you and your team closed during the last month, and do a “post mortem” on each. You should have at least 10-15 deals, otherwise select a larger timespan, two months, a quarter, whatever makes sense for you.


How much effort went into each of these deals? Who were involved? Were techsales, development resources, support personnel, admin or any other part of the company involved? Did you need to meet physically? Phonecalls and videoconferences? Try to quantify.


Now map out the average successful sales cycle, and look for patterns.



Don’t jump to conclusions on what to improve just yet, just try to state the facts, and establish your current sales cycle and sales stages as it looks today. How many hours of work, from which resources, were needed? Which were the obvious stages that you seem to need every time?


Effort per Succesful deal = hours/€ spent on average in your succesful deals


And … While you are at it, try to register some other interesting metrics to compare over time:

  • Sales cycle length = average time from first contact (lead) to closed deal
  • Sales cycle complexity = average number of touches/activities you needed to perform with/for a customer in order to close a deal




2.    Total sales effort


Then, look at the same month, (the same period during which you made the deals in the first exercise), but now you look at the total resources employed during that period, try to limit yourself strictly to sales and directly related activities. Try to estimate in the best way you can, how many hours you needed. This will give you your total cost of sale, or sales effort.


Whatever concepts and hours you choose to include in your calculation, and the period you examine, that is fine, just remember to include the exact same items month after month, to give you a base for comparison. After all, it is the improvements you are after, rather than an absolute number.


Sales Pipeline Efficiency


Sales pipeline efficiency = effort spent on deals won during the period / total sales effort during the same period.


The ratio between these two numbers, will give you a notion on your pipeline efficiency. If every lead turned into a deal, this would be close to 1, and the more time your team spends on prospects that do not convert, the lower will the number be.


Once you have this overall measure controlled, and with data you feel you can trust, there are lots of exciting insights you can get playing around with the sales stages in more detail. Is there any particular stage that takes more time, why? Where do you normally lose a deal? Why? Do you see different behaviour between sellers? Why, who?


We hope you found this article useful. Best of luck with your pipeline work, happy selling!!