Utilizing the Sales Pipeline Funnel

Written By: Robert Stephan of Integrated Business Group

from June 7, 2012

Sales is the lifeblood of an organization, so every sales manager and business owner wants an easy way to view at a glance how sales are stacking up in the pipeline. That requires a fast, easy, and consistent way for salespeople to track the opportunities being worked on.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 has incorporated a powerful visual tool to give an instantaneous and real-time view into sales activity by incorporating a Sales Pipeline funnel onto the default dashboard. While the dashboard and corresponding reports are ready out-of-the-box, the organization has to perform one crucial step to utilize them: Define the specific meaning of the Pipeline Phase for that organization’s particular sales process.

The Pipeline Phase on the Opportunity record needs to be set to match the business requirements. Notice that the Pipeline Phase field only appears in the record footer and is read-only. In order for the sales person to utilize it, the sections of the funnel must first be named consistently in order to reflect the sales process. It is necessary for the organization to configure the Pipeline Phase field to be protected from direct edit and to use other criteria to determine the phase. Since the criteria can vary by sales process, a Best Practice is to use a workflow process to utilize the data on the Opportunity record (and even utilize data on a related record such as the Account) to determine and set the Pipeline Phase.

A Practical Example

Here is an example of a basic, multi-stage sales process with the following opportunity-level stages: 1-Prospect➞ 2-Qualify➞ 3-Proof of Concept➞ 4-Close.

An option set (pull-down) was created and each stage was prefixed with a numeric identifier for sorting purposes. Then a Sales Stage field was created (using the option set) and placed the field onto the Opportunity record so that the salesperson could select the appropriate value.

Now the key is to have the system set the Pipeline Phase to correspond to the Sales Stage. To do this, a workflow process is needed. Follow these steps:

  • Create a new workflow process by going to Settings, choose Processes and click New. Give the process a name such as Set Pipeline Phase. Select the Opportunity entity and set the Category to Workflow.
  • When the Workflow Designer Window appears, change the Scope to Organization so that it will work for all the people in the sales department. In the Start when: section, leave Record is created checked, but also check Record fields change and select the field Sales Stage from the list. That will cause this workflow to run whenever the salesperson creates a new Opportunity or changes the Sales Stage on an existing one.
  • In the Add Step section, add a Check Condition. For the Check Condition, select the Opportunity entity and Sales Stage field with a value of 1-Prospect. Then for the related action, select Add Step and choose Update Record and add the desired corresponding text of 1-Prospect into the Pipeline Phase field. This creates a one-to-one mapping of Sales Stage to Pipeline Phase.
  • For each additional Sales Stage, click Add Step and choose Conditional Branch and perform the corresponding mapping as in Step #3.
  • Select Save, Activate, and Close. The workflow is ready to use.

Once the workflow is activated, every time a new Opportunity is created or updated, the Pipeline Phase will be set automatically and consistently based on the sales processes stage. Since the Pipeline Phase field is utilized as designed out-of-the-box, the dashboards and related reports will work without modification.

The Sales Pipeline funnel is a powerful and easy way to monitor and gauge at a glance the sales activity within the organization. With a few tweaks to the custom workflow that was created, the specific sales process utilized by the organization can be reflected.