Pipeline Management Series (Part 1): Four Ways to Excel in Data-Driven Pipeline Management

Pipeline Management Series (Part 1): Four Ways to Excel in Data-Driven Pipeline Management

pipeline management

3. Identify and Manage Optimal Sales Representative Utilization (Number of Opportunities Handled per Rep)

People predominantly focus on question one in the initial paragraph, namely how to just grow pipeline size. However, it is one of the most widely held misconceptions that “bigger is automatically better.” In fact, there is plenty of evidence that shows the degrading effects on a sales reps’ ability to convert when there are too many deals open. It is about capacity.

For sales reps to spend their most valuable resource –time– on low-quality leads and prospects automatically incur an opportunity cost of allocating enough time to really important deals. Knowing which deals to walk away from, or at least when to put them on the back burner, is a vital skill.

There is an optimal number of how many opportunities a sales rep should handle at any given time – and great sales managers keep a close eye on that number.

Unfortunately, there is no magic one-size-fits-all answer to what that figure is. If you are a low-volume, but high-value business with non-standard products/services (such as most consulting companies) sales reps should handle fewer open opportunities as the sales process is more complex and requires time and diligence. Or sales reps who are predominantly “producers,” drumming up new opportunities should handle more deals concurrently than “closers,” who carry out often lengthy contract negotiations.

Here is a great framework to identify and manage the optimal sales rep utilization for your sales organization:

  1. Look at the average number of open opportunities your most effective sales reps had in the last 6 and 12 months.
  2. Optionally: Do this for each of the different relevant sales rep categories your business has, e.g. “producers” (for mass generation of new business) vs. “Account Managers” (dedicated to a set of large-scale accounts).
  3. Establish an upper and lower bound around that number.
  4. If you already have evidence (even if just anecdotal) that your sales reps are over- or under- utilized, then decrease/increase that number and the bounds, 15% is usually a good start.
  5. That gives you a final range of the number of open opportunities by category of sales reps.
  6. Monitor your sales rep utilization against this target range on a regular basis, and make adjustments whenever necessary.

4. Automatically Classify Opportunities by Relevance

Adhering to a standardized sales process has another benefit: it provides a treasure trove of historical data from which patterns can be observed. Opportunities showing no movement for more than x days, pushed close dates, a sales rep with a history of hitting the wall at a certain stage of the sales process, a client’s purchase history are all factors influencing the closing probability of a deal. Use modern machine learning techniques to identify and flag deals that exhibit a “high-risk of losing” pattern as early as possible and take appropriate action.

With that information, you can easily build scenarios: What if I lose all / 80% / 50% of my “high risk” opportunities? How does that affect my forecast and my ability to hit the target?


Vortini provides this functionality out-of-the-box and constantly updates its models as more data flows.

Organizations can actively improve and focus on data-driven pipeline management. Ask yourself the three questions at the beginning, and use these four tips to take your pipeline management to the next level.

Take a moment to sign up for a no-obligation demo, and get the discussion started to use Vortini on a free trial basis.

Check out the next post in our Pipeline Management Series: Three Tips to Improve Sales Cycle Conversion Rate.


Ingo is a Solution Architect at Vortini. He has been designing and implementing sales analytics solutions for more than ten years.


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