This is the third in a three-post series focused on forecasting and pipeline. Part I examined triangulation forecasts to improve forecast accuracy and enable better conversations about the forecast. After a review of pipeline management fundamentals, part II discussed the use of to-go pipeline coverage to provide clarity on how your pipeline is evolving across the weeks of the quarter. In this, part III, we’ll introduce what I call this/next/all-quarter pipeline analysis as a way of looking at the entire pipeline that is superior to annual or rolling four-quarter pipeline analysis.
Let’s start by unveiling the last block on the sheet we’ve been using the previous two posts. Here’s the whole thing:
You’ll see two new sections added: next-quarter pipeline and all-quarters  pipeline. Here’s what we can do when we see all three of them, taken together:
- We can see slips. For example, in week 3 while this-quarter pipeline dropped by $3,275K, next-quarter pipeline increased by $2,000K and all-quarters only dropped by $500K. While there are many moving parts , this says to me that pipeline is likely sloshing around between quarters and not being lost.
- We can see losses. Similarly, when this-quarter drops, next-quarter is flat, and all-quarters drop, we are probably looking at deals lost from the pipeline .
- We can see wins. When you add a row at the bottom with quarter-to-date booked new ARR, if that increases, this-quarter pipeline decreases, next-quarter pipeline stays flat, and all-quarters pipeline decreases, we are likely looking at the best way of reducing pipeline: by winning deals!
- We can see how we’re building next-quarter’s pipeline. This keeps us focused on what matters . If you start every quarter with 3.0x coverage you will be fine in the long run without the risk of a tantalizing four-quarter rolling pipeline where overall coverage looks sufficient, but all the closeable deals are always two to four quarters out .
- We can develop a sense how next-quarter pipeline coverage develops over time and get better at forecasting day-1 next-quarter pipeline coverage, which I believe marketing should habitually do .
- We can look at whether we have enough total pipeline to keep our salesreps busy by not just looking at the total dollar volume, but the total count of oppties. I think this is the simplest and most intuitive way to answer that question. Typically 15 to 20 all-quarters oppties is the maximum any salesrep can possibly juggle.
- Finally, there’s nowhere to hide. Companies that only examine annual or rolling four-quarter pipeline inadvertently turn their 5+ quarter pipeline into a dumping ground full of fake deals, losses positioned as slips, long-term rolling hairballs , and oppties used for account squatting.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this three-part series on forecasting and pipeline. The spreadsheet used in the examples is available here.
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 Apologies for inconsistences in calling this all-quarter vs. all-quarters pipeline. I may fix it at some point, but first things first. Ditto for the inconsistency on this-quarter vs. current-quarter.
 You can and should have your salesops leader do the deeper analysis of inflows (including new pipegen) and outflows, but I love the first-order simplicity of saying, “this-quarter dropped by $800K, next-quarter increased by $800K and all-quarters was flat, ergo we are probably sloshing” or “this-quarter dropped by $1M, next-quarter was flat, and all-quarters dropped by $1M, so we probably lost $1M worth of deals.”
 Lost here in the broad sense meaning deal lost or no decision (aka, derail). In the former case, someone else wins the deal; in the latter case, no one does.
 How do you make 32 quarters in row? One at a time.
 Tantalus was a figure in Greek mythology, famous for his punishment: standing for eternity in a pool of water below a fruit tree where each time he ducked to drink the water it would recede and each time he reached for a fruit it was just beyond his grasp.
 Even though most companies have four different pipeline sources (marketing/inbound, SDR/outbound, sales/outbound, and partners), marketing should, by default, consider themselves the quarterback of the pipeline as they are usually the majority pipeline source and the most able to take corrective actions.
 By my definition a normal rolling hairball always sits in this quarter’s pipeline and slips one quarter every quarter. A long-term rolling hairball is thus one that sits just beyond your pipeline opportunity scrutiny window (e.g., 5 quarters out) and slips one quarter every quarter.