Research from Vantage Point Performance found that 63% of sales managers say their companies do a poor job at managing their sales pipeline.
If you sell products or services that involve a multi-step / multi-stakeholder sales process, strategically managing your sales pipeline is critical for your success. A structured approach with sales stages, accurate notes, next steps, trigger points, and dependencies give you a clear radar screen to guide you properly through each stage.
Here are 5 ways to improve your sales pipeline management and boost your revenue.
1) Keep Your CRM Accurate
The foundation of successful sales pipeline management is an updated CRM. Without current information on your prospects, it’s almost impossible to have an accurate view of where each one is in the funnel and when / how they’re likely to close. Every deal is unique, with its own lifecycle, organizational dynamics, objections, and related issues that need to be managed. There’s no better way to capture and record all this information than through a CRM. The old adage is true: “good data in, useful data out.”
Don’t have time to add all of your contact info to your CRM or run reports? Consider hiring a virtual sales assistant. My assistant has taken the heavy-lifting out of using Salesforce by:
- Logging all of my interactions with prospects
- Filling in missing information for contacts
- Updating fields
- Running reports
- Updating sales stages
- Taking call notes to add to profiles
- Adding ad hoc contacts
- Creating dashboards
When I log into my CRM, I get to immediately access data-driven insights about my sales pipeline which enables me to manage it as effectively as I can.
2) Have a Clearly Defined Sales Process
Studies show that B2B companies who have a clearly defined sales process achieve 18% higher revenue growth compared to those who don’t. This is because it offers two critical benefits:
- It boosts sales reps productivity since they don’t waste time wondering what to do next.
- Since your process is based on successful strategies, it helps ensure that your sales team is following best practices.
Clearly defined processes and stages are the foundation for scaling, efficiency, and building out a sales organization, and effective prospect management. Keep in mind that your sales process should evolve as you discover new trends regarding what is and isn’t successful.
3) Create a Persistent Follow-Up Cadence
One of the most wasteful mistakes that salespeople make when managing their pipeline is focusing nearly all of their time on adding people to the top of their funnel and closing deals that are in the bottom. By doing this, they neglect to nurture prospects that are in the consideration phase. Not following up with prospects who are slower to purchase leads to a loss of sales.
Research shows that it takes an average of five follow-ups to reengage prospects after your initial meeting. You must understand that decision-makers are busy and buying your product is not their top priority - but their slow response time does not mean they don’t want your product. If you left your introductory conversation with the consensus that they are a good fit, they’re likely to buy if you keep following up with them.
I use dashboard in my CRM that keeps track of all the key information for each prospect throughout the sales funnel: the indicators, stages, triggers, next dates, action items, and records of every interaction – are all indispensable in helping me keep a close pulse on my pipeline.
4) Deliver Value at Every Stage of the Sales Cycle
To keep prospects engaged throughout the sales cycle, you must deliver value every step of the way. One of the easiest ways to do that is to have content ready for every stage of your sales pipeline.
Here’s what you should curate:
Top of Funnel
During your first interactions with prospects, give them content that educates them about who your company is, what you offer, and why it’s valuable. Your goal at this phase is not to sell - it’s to make them want to learn more.
Here are the types of content you should use:
- Educational videos
Middle of Funnel
Once prospects are interested, you need to convince them to choose you over your competitors. Win them over with:
- Case Studies
- Fact sheets about your offering
- Demo and/or case study videos
Bottom of Funnel
By this stage of the pipeline, your prospects have enough information to decide. Now, you just need to give them one last incentive to purchase. Here are some options:
- Live demo
- Free Trial
- Consultation where you explain how you’ll meet their unique needs
- Cost estimate for custom solutions or discount on your published prices
Work with your marketing team to continuously improve your content library.
5) Systematically Evaluate Trends in Your Pipeline
When your CRM is properly structured, with accurate and updated information, it becomes a reliable management tool. At that point, it will be incumbent on you to regularly interact with the information to analyze patterns, trends, and any relevant signals that can help you make the right decisions on actions that need to be taken with prospects.
Ask questions including the following to identify key trends:
- What stage are prospects taking the longest in?
- Where do most prospects drop off?
- What’s your overall conversion rate between lead to close? What’s the conversion rate between individual stages?
- Where are the majority of your leads coming from?
As you evaluate each of those questions, watch out for both your weakest areas and changes over time. In both cases, try to understand what caused each piece of data and how you can improve it.
A structured approach to sales pipeline management is really as important as a dashboard to a racecar driver or a pilot. How else will you have the right information needed for critical decisions on how and where to spend your time?
About the Author: Andrew Miller has more than 20 years of experience in enterprise sales and currently leads Prialto’s business development. He spends much of his time helping individual executives and their teams understand how to leverage Prialto’s assistance.