Zombies, Zeros and Icebergs: 5 Counter-Intuitive Forces That Will Help You Hit Your Sales Numbers

By Matthew Menard

Whether it’s day 1 of the quarter or a week from close, we all fret about hitting our sales targets. If you dare to look at your CRM’s forecast, the picture can sometimes feel like a gut punch: you may be millions of dollars away from your target, with no hail-mary prospects in the pipeline to come to the rescue.


Stop right there! We have good news to share: 5 counter-intuitive, real phenomenon that are hidden in your CRM’s own data—and will help you hit target. How did we discover them? By using artificial intelligence to analyze trillion of data points within our customers’ CRMs, from (collectively) hundreds of quarters of real sales results. So you can say these saving graces are “based on science.”


1) The Unborn — Deals not yet in your pipeline—yet will close this quarter

Take a guess on Day 1 of your quarter: how many new deals will enter your pipeline in the next 90 days and close? What % of revenue will these deals represent? 5 percent? 10 percent? The real answer is 20-40 percent. These, friends, are known as “The Unborn” — deals not yet on your radar that will make up a meaningful percentage of total sales. Surveys from sales ops and sales reps show that “unborn” opportunities are generally underestimated—but deals that begin and close in the same quarter can sometimes account for almost half of your results. So perhaps the takeaway here is, “do count your (unborn) chickens before they hatch?” Or at least, don’t let sweat stains get the better of you on Day 1—up to 40 percent of this quarter’s revenue isn’t even in the picture yet.

2) The Pull-Ins — Deals that are listed in a future quarter, but close this quarter

We’ve all done it: listed an opportunity estimated close date as next quarter in our CRM, knowing full well we’re hustling our buns off to make it close this quarter. When those future-dated deals close, it’s called a “Pull-In”: deals that are listed in a future quarter but close this quarter, and therefore don’t register on this quarter’s sales forecast. Pull-ins account for 10-20% of quarterly sales revenue, according to our analysis. In fact, much to the chagrin of sales ops leaders and forecasters, this little data-entry technique is becoming more and more common, as it gives sales reps more control over their projected pipeline and the chance to score an unexpected win when their pull-in comes home to roost. Understanding your true estimated pull-in rate can be a game-changer in generating a more accurate forecast.

3) The Zeros — Deals marked as $0 until they win

What is a pull-in’s best friend? A zero! “Zeros” are deals marked as $0 until they win, so they don’t count towards the forecast or pipeline. Sometimes a zero is due to a data-entry error in the CRM, and sometimes it’s intentional to hide the opportunity (for a spell) from the powers-that-be. If you’re pulling your hair out late in the quarter looking for any good news you can find, scan your CRM for any zeros and chase down the sales reps associated with the deal. It may be like finding a whole lot of spare change in your couch cushions. Or said more bluntly—there could be a lot of money just sitting in your quarter’s pipeline—and you didn’t even know about it! Time to start counting those zeros.

4) The Zombies — Deals that come back from the dead!

We’re not talking about The Walking Dead, World War Z or Z Nation: we’re talking about actual, real world Zombies: deals that come back from the dead! In our data, between 1 and 3 percent of opportunities marked “dead” in a sales CRM eventually end up closing—some within the current quarter. Why does this happen? Some sales reps continue nurturing an opportunity even though it’s been labeled DOA—making it hard to estimate the total number of potential zombies in your pipeline. Or sometimes an unforeseen circumstance on the prospect’s end simply transforms the deal from dead to “must sign now!” It sounds like a miracle, but we’ll take it. In our book, a deal back from the dead is always a great thing (assuming it doesn’t eat you!).

5) The Icebergs — Deals that are much bigger than they are listed as in the CRM

As the captain of the Titanic learned (the hard way), under-estimating the size of icebergs is foolish — but there’s a reason why sales reps under-report the potential size of a large (say, iceberg-sized) opportunity in their sales CRM data. Maybe they don’t want a large potential deal to cross the radar of higher-ups quite yet (maybe to avoid the daily, unending questions about how the opportunity is going). Maybe the conversation with the prospect started out small, but it’s evolved into a much bigger potential deal—and the CRM hasn’t been updated to reflect it. For many reasons, your CRM could be littered with Icebergs: deals that are much bigger than they are listed as in the CRM, and when they close, your sales forecast is going to look a lot prettier (unlike the Titanic’s outlook).


At Aviso, we love peering deep into the dark, seemingly-bottomless data of CRMs to find all the hidden opportunities that our customers might not be seeing. We use artificial intelligence to uncover real upside that human forecasting simply can’t predict. We turn these insights into actionable directives that can help your sales team close 20 percent more deals, help sales ops predict the next quarter with 97 percent accuracy, and most awesomely—your Aviso intelligence only gets smarter (aka more precise) the longer you use it.


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